Michael X. Wang

Further News of Defeat

New Fiction from NER 36.2 

[View as PDF]

forrest_german_expressionism_revisted_lyonel_feiningerA runner arrived at Xinchun Village two days after the fall of Taiyuan. Out of breath, his Kuomintang uniform soaked in sweat, the soldier collapsed into a fly-infested ditch on the edge of a sorghum field. That evening, San saw him on her way back from tending her family’s two goats, the man lying there snoring, and when she told her parents about him, they didn’t believe her. San, nine years old, often lied to her parents. One week she’d say the Japanese were here, the Russians the next. Her parents knew San hated shepherding and dismissed her pleas to save the young man from becoming pig fodder. After putting her to bed, San’s father slung a hoe over his shoulder and walked across his fields under moonlight to the place his daughter had mentioned. He couldn’t lift the man out of the mud by himself, even after taking off his own shoes and using his bare feet for traction. He ran to the village chief, who sent a neighbor to help him. Together with one man lifting the head and another the legs, they carried him to the granary and dropped him beside sacks of recently harvested sorghum.

The man remained unconscious the entire time. The villagers, observing the soldier clearly in the light, saw that he was only a boy: a scrawny, malnourished teen in a faded uniform and an oversized cap.

“I can’t believe how heavy that kid was,” Bu Dan said, wiping muddy sweat from his brow. Bu Dan’s family farmed the land to the very west of Xinchun and he was his parents’ only son. The strongest man in the village, he was often called upon to perform tasks that others couldn’t: push a stubborn mule, transport tub-sized jugs of rice wine, carry replacement limestones for those worn away at the ancestral shrine.

“The mud weighed him down,” said the village chief. He pointed to the canisters that rattled on the boy’s belt. “We should’ve undressed him first.”

Bu Dan slapped the boy a few times and still he would not wake. The village herbalist was called in and only after inserting slices of ginger into his nose did the boy finally start to shudder. He coughed out thick, brown water. San’s father brought a bowl of rice porridge up to the boy’s mouth and the boy extended his thin neck to drink it.

After thanking the villagers squatting in the darkness in front of him, he broke into tears. “It’s over,” he said. “The Japanese flooded the Yellow River. Taiyuan was sacked.”

The villagers glanced at each other. “What do you want us to do?” the village chief asked.

“I don’t know,” the boy said. He wiped his nose with his sleeve and sank his head below his shoulders. “My lieutenant never tells me anything. I think the Chinese army wants you to stay where you are.”

“That’s a strange message,” San’s father said.

“Useless,” Bu Dan added, running his fingers over his scalp. “So we shouldn’t flee?”

[read more]

Michael X. Wang was born in Fenyang, China. He received his MFA from Purdue, has a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University, and won a 2010 AWP Intro Award in fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Prick of the Spindle, Day One, Driftwood Press, and Juked, among others. His chapbook, A Minor Revolution, is available from Amazon. He will begin teaching at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, in the fall.

Image by Allen Forrest, German Expressionism Revisted Lyonel Feininger 2


New Fiction from Mario J. Gonzales | NER 36.1

Malditos | Mario J. Gonzales

[view as PDF]

http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/578044Before 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.

[read more]

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.

New Fiction from Lisa Taddeo | NER 36.1

Forty-Two | Lisa Taddeo

[view as PDF]

http://www.berceau-des-sens.ch/restaurant/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Hendricks-photo1.jpgJoan 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.

[Read more]

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.

New Fiction from Castle Freeman Jr. in NER 35.4

Squirrel Trouble at Uplands | Castle Freeman Jr.

[View as PDF]       

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 2.27.40 PM. . . 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.

[Read more]

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.

New Fiction From Lenore Myka in NER 35.3

Mascots | Lenore Myka

[Read the complete story here]

. . . 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.

New fiction from Kristien Hemmerechts in NER 35.3

Fairytale | Kristien Hemmerechts

[view as PDF]

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

Read the complete story here [view as PDF]



Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others | Lou Mathews


No man knows his apotheosis. Carl Jung said that. No man knows his apotheosis, but I know mine. That particular deal went down in the scrubby jungle outside of Rivas. This was in Nicaragua, in 1987. I can tell you the day and even the hour. April 22, 1:00 p.m., the high point of my life. At noon that day, the producers fired Alec Litwer-Bowen as director. Alec had recommended a two-million-dollar line of credit, to be spent in-country, which made sense. The US Embargo made the usual studio transactions impossible. When Alec arrived in Nicaragua, he handed a million dollars over to the Sandinista government. It would have been a bargain; government support in the form of reliable cars, trucks, gasoline, construction equipment, soldiers, helicopters, boats, soldiers, extras, and rare goods like plywood and other necessities for sets would be worth well beyond that sum. The bonding company, which should never have known about this transaction, got squeezed by the Reagan administration and demanded that the producers shut the movie or fire Alec. They fired Alec, at least that is what we assumed. Alec had disappeared and the studio publicists began cranking up the creative-differences-agree-to-disagree machine. It was quite a concert back in LA; the rumor machine began a bass murmur of overdoses and breakdowns while contracts and legal whistled moral turpitude. Meantime, the studio tried to recruit an A, B, or even C-list director. No one would touch it; the bad juju taint was out on this one. I was right place, right time. I was the writer, I was second-unit assistant director, I’d made a short, I spoke Spanish. Mostly, I was there. They handed me the swagger stick, the metaphorical pith helmet and megaphone. Traditionally, a transition like this would be noted by a newly stenciled parking space and a folding chair with my name on the back: Dale Davis, Director.

[read more]

New Fiction from Sands Hall in NER 35.2

Theim’s Wingéd Chariot | Sands Hall


Just as Dafne finished her rousing—if she said so herself—lecture about the limited choices for women in nineteenth-century America, much less Britain, and had called on the dependable Serena for a response, the door to her classroom nudged open. And there, peering around the doorjamb, was Edward! Dafne’s heart lurched like an old car. The whole of Friday night tumbled at her, an Atlantic wave full of force and silt guaranteed to knock her over the fence and into the moon. “Professor Hartman!” she said. That horrid betraying flush was, she knew, making her face look as if she’d been in a boiler room shoveling coal. Edward nodded, pushed open the door the rest of the way, and tiptoed, elaborately, to the nearest available chair.[read more]

New Steven Heighton Fiction From the New NER—Vol. 35, No 1

Shared Room On Union | Steven Heighton


keys-707275-mThey 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.

Read more

Studies in Composition | Leslie Bazzett

A first look at NER Vol. 34 Nos. 3–4

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1355569The chapel bells had begun, calling the boys to dinner. From the kitchen veranda Davis watched them shambling through late-summer heat, khaki shorts slung low, loafers mashed at the heels, laughing or occasionally tossing overgrown bangs to the side. In a few minutes the day seemed to have swollen. There was a heavy smell of frying. In the distance the rolling pastures greened and damped, grown dark as moss. The farthest was dotted with horses—the boarding school a working farm also, these hundred years since its founding. Unseen was a river; a dappled wood where on weekends the boys were allowed to hunt, its leafy harbor suggesting other things to Davis. He was an imaginative boy. Handsome and mildly disdainful. When headmaster Givens passed, Davis merely nodded, refraining from the “sir” other boys would have offered.

[Read more]