Categories: Fiction, NER Classics
Ira Sadoff’s story, “In the House of the Child,” appeared in NER 22.1:
I. Now the marriage bed is a nightmare: a king-size bed with a little prince in it. That’s how it feels: dark, even with the night light on in Randy’s private bedroom. Such a big house, with four bedrooms and a big deck opening out onto a field and a garden his wife had planted with flowers and herbs. He’s made a vow that no other woman will live there, live in their house. Just like that, his mind fills with dark thoughts. There are not enough magazines in the world to stop it. Not enough old movies. There are not enough bridge hands, there’s not enough golf to fill in the gulf when Randy’s sun Leo is at Quin’s apartment. Sleeping, except for dozing on and off somewhere between two and three in the morning, is out of the question. Quiet is his enemy. Even when Randy was a child, he couldn’t have enough noise in the house. Sometimes he did his homework listening to the radio with the TV on, and often he talked on the phone to whichever friend was sufficiently inert to listen. It worked. Why fix what’s not broken? Because now it was broken.
Malditos | Mario J. Gonzales
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Before Cabezon’s mom OD’d there, me and my cousins Tug and Tweety would go to the hill and hang with Manny, an older guy from the Projects. Long time ago, the hill was where the mojados lived in small houses built by farmers to keep their illegals near work. Now the place is torn up, the rooms tagged, walls falling down. Piss-stained mattresses and bent cooking spoons litter the place. I mean, bums and junkies have hustled their way through, no doubt. In fact, some tweakers had a lab here and it blew up in their faces. You could see the smoke for miles. One dude, Palo, burned himself good and wore a mask like that Phantom of the Opera guy for a while.
But that’s not why they say the hill is haunted or cursed. It’s really cause some farmer, Gandangi or Gandansky, shot himself here, when all the wets were getting off work. Tug and Tweety’s stepmom, who was the farmer’s maid, said she heard he had went gay for a mojado. Who knows? Maybe the Mexican laughed or fucked him up when the farmer tried to put the moves on. But for sure he died bloody on the hill.
Haunted or not, the hill was the place to kick it. It was where I’d smoke a bowl and watch the sun burn down without no one bugging. Things got crazy, though. It started with this game Manny made up: seeing who could hold a lit M-16 firecracker the longest. Tweety always won, until one day Manny offered Cabezon twenty bucks to hold the cuete until it exploded. Cabezon did and ended up shredding his middle finger.
Mario J. Gonzales currently lives and works in Santa Fe. He was raised in Parlier, California, a farm-worker community outside of Fresno. His short fiction has appeared in Drunken Boat, Cossack Review, Rio Grande Review, and other literary publications. He has finished a collection of short stories entitled The Importance of Being Elsewhere, which he hopes to be published soon.
Forty-Two | Lisa Taddeo
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Joan had to look beautiful.
Tonight there was a wedding in goddamned Brooklyn, farm-to-table animals talking about steel cut oatmeal as though they invented the steel that cut it. In New York the things you hate are the things you do.
She worked out at least two hours a day. On Mondays and Tuesdays, which are the kindest days for older single women, she worked out as many as four. At six in the morning she ran to her barre class in leg warmers and black Lululemons size four. The class was a bunch of women squatting on a powder blue rug. You know the type, until you become one.
Lisa Taddeo is a contributor to Esquire and New York, among others. Her pieces have been anthologized in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Political Writing. She is currently at work on her debut nonfiction book for Simon & Schuster about desire and sexuality in America, and has just completed her first novel.
Squirrel Trouble at Uplands | Castle Freeman Jr.
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. . . In a sitting room, she found a couch with a heavy blanket folded on its back. She took off her shoes, she took off her dress, she lay down on the couch with her head on her arms. She would call Helen in an hour. She turned onto her side under the warm blanket.
She woke with a start, her heart galloping. Overhead, thumps and bumps and a kind of pattering and scrabbling. Immediately she thought: Blake. No. Impossible. (Or was what she thought: not yet?) She sat up. Yellow sunlight streamed through the windows, and in the bright day all the lights were on. Elsie listened to the noises above. Mice. An old, closed-up house far out in the country would of course be full of mice. She stood, wrapped the blanket around herself, and went to the stairs. As she began to mount, the noises stopped. On the second floor she found four bedrooms and a bath. All were empty, all were silent. Elsie turned to go back downstairs. As she reached the foot of the stairs, the telephone in the kitchen rang. Elsie went to it. She looked at it. She touched it. She picked it up.
Castle Freeman Jr., the author of four novels and many stories and essays, is a longtime contributor of short fiction to NER, most recently with “Who’s Stopping You” (NER 34.3-4). He lives in southeastern Vermont.
Categories: Audio, Fiction
Charles Baxter is the author of, most recently, Gryphon: New and Selected Stories (Pantheon, 2011), and the forthcoming There’s Something I Want You to Do: a Decalogue, from which this audio is excerpted.
Baxter’s third novel, The Feast of Love (Pantheon, 2000), was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award and has been made into a film starring Morgan Freeman. He has also published essays on fiction collected in Burning Down the House (Graywolf Press, 2008) and The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot (Graywolf Press, 2007), and has edited several books of essays. Baxter’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Review of Books, and Harper’s, among other journals and magazines. His fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories seven times, eleven times in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and translated into many languages.
All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.
Mascots | Lenore Myka
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. . . Once, a Swede—a baby—declared that he loved Papua New Guinea.
We sniggered. It had been his first post after graduate school; he’d only ever been there and here; it was too soon in his short career for him to realize that he was lying, most especially to himself. The rest of us understood that saying you loved Papua New Guinea was like saying you loved it here, in this country with its clay roads naked children ran about and shat in, its miles of tin shanties you averted your eyes from whenever you took an air-conditioned car to or from the airport. Saying you loved Papua New Guinea was like saying you loved this place where you couldn’t buy a decent loaf of bread much less a bottle of Bordeaux; where you lived and worked behind high walls and locked yourself behind bars, fastening them over the windows and doors of your home at night, and found yourself eyeing the guard at the gate, the gardener and housekeeper and cook, wondering if one of them hadn’t been responsible for the disappearance of the opal pendant you’d inherited from your grandmother or the fifty euros you’d sworn you left in your trousers last Saturday night when you’d come home from the disco drunk and reeking of other expatriates’ sweat.
[Read the complete story here]
Lenore Myka‘s short story collection, King of the Gypsies, was the winner of the 2014 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction (BkMk Press, 2015). Her fiction has been selected as a notable short story by Best American Short Stories and Best American Non-Required Reading. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Iowa Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, West Branch, and Massachusetts Review, among others.
Fairytale | Kristien Hemmerechts
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Once upon a time a man and a woman had a child who lived. Then they had another child and it died, and then another child and that child also died. The first child was a little girl, the second and third were boys. The children were named Katherine, Benjamin, and Robert, but their names were mostly shortened to Kathy, Ben, and Rob. After the death of the third child, the man and the woman chose not to have another child but instead to have a dog that their young daughter christened Lady. The man took pictures of his wife, his daughter, and his dog and then asked his wife to take a picture of himself. The photos were developed and put in the photo album. “Finally, we are four!” the woman wrote beside it, but barely three years later, she left the man and thus, indirectly, her daughter and dog as well. . .
—translated from the Dutch by Margie Franzen and Sandra Boersma
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Shared Room On Union | Steven Heighton
They were parked on Union, in front of her place, their knees locked in conference around the stick shift, Janna and Justin talking, necking a little, the windows just beginning to steam. We’d better stop, she said. I should go now. It was 1:00 a.m., a Thursday night turned Friday morning. Squads of drunken students were on the town. So far nobody had passed the car. Hey, take it to a Travelodge, man! Nights like this, that sort of thing could happen—one time a rigid hand had rammed the hood, another time someone had smacked the passenger window a foot from her ear, Justin’s fingers in her hair stopping dead.
I won’t miss this part, he told her.
I really should go, Jus.