On a not-yet-hot morning in revolutionary Managua, as other ex-pats and sandalistas woke in hospedajes around the city and blinked at the new light coming in through the cracks in the walls, smelled the musty mattress smells, the earth and leaves in the courtyards, the faint reek of garbage and uncovered sewer, Laurie Atkins woke, too, listening to the increasing traffic in the street, the muffler-less roars—the bombs? Explosions every minute or so. Had the Contras come by night and nobody told her? No. That was yesterday, Sunday, and the bombs were for the Virgin—Virgin bombs—and today it was a Monday, a workday, and the sounds were the sounds of a truck backfiring. The movie bus? She stretched and rubbed her eyes and put her long thin arm around the young man next to her, who stirred only long enough to say in a voice so sad and thin and dear she could hardly stand it, “Off now, luv?”
Fiction from NER 41.1
What was she thinking?
That depends. When she stepped onto the tarmac in Irkutsk, the sky crisp and glittering, she was wondering why it had taken her so long to come to Siberia. But earlier, when she boarded the stale plane in Beijing, she was trying not to think about the world’s first marathoner. (You know: the one who died.) And when her husband dropped her at the airport curb in Minneapolis, she was wondering if he’d miss her.
Fiction from NER 40.4 (2019)
So when Hannah’s mother appears to be present and listening Hannah says, “So I wanted to tell you that I’m non-binary.”
Hannah has read it’s a myth that sharks will die if they stop moving forward but chooses to believe in it anyway. If it was allowed, Hannah’s driver’s license would say: Clark, Hannah—Height: 5′5″, Hair: Blond, Eyes: Blue—A Shark.
HANNAH IS FASTER THAN YOU
This morning, every morning, Hannah wakes up at 5:50 to run. Through four municipalities, from the unsightly traffic of Medford, Massachusetts, along the Mystic River into north Cambridge, onto the bike path through Arlington to Lexington. Not up to usual pace today. No clear reason, except maybe an odd pain in the sole of the right foot. Hannah starts to feel something like resentment or anxiety, which brings up anxiety about talking to Mom later today, which settles into a general high, weird pall over the day’s
Around mile seven a man passes from behind, and the feeling hardens into hatred and points right at him. Hardly anyone passes Hannah anymore, but those who do are always men. Hannah hates his basketball shorts and his crew socks pulled all the way up, hates his earbuds and the phone he holds in his hand. Hannah wants to stop him and say, I just wanted you to know that you’ve done nothing to deserve your body and I’m actually faster than you. Hannah watches his shoes bobbing slowly away on the pavement ahead and wants to say, You piece of shit asshole motherfucker. Still running, Hannah wants to push him to the ground and spew abuse too vile for words onto his face, to vomit black acid from deep in the gut at him, acid to burn the skin.
Fiction from NER 40.3
Shalini is about to leave the office when her editor, Reza, who is nine years younger than she is, slaps a slim book with a black cover down on her desk and grins at her.
“I need this reviewed by the end of the week. It’s short and shitty but I’m curious what you think,” he says.
Shalini is a fiction writer working as a columnist for the literary supplement of a young newspaper called the Dhaka Chronicle in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After a divorce, installing her son in college, and three decades abroad, she moved here from New York to watch her alcoholic father die slowly, whittling away her mother’s spirit in the process.