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Illustration by Nicole Rifkin

The Ash Swimming Pool

It had been nearly fifteen years, and no one Ali knew looked much like the way they had when they were younger. She wrote Grace’s name on a piece of paper in red felt tip and held it at arm’s length in front of her. In the rush of bodies, the automatic doors that led to the baggage carousel barely had time to close before opening again. There had been some kind of strife—though not a bomb—and there were police, a couple of soldiers moving with intent back and forth through the building. The glass walls were stained with cigarette smoke. In the food shops there were near fights at the discount sections: half-price carrot sticks with hummus, blood-colored smoothies, pita bread. She was so afraid of planes that sometimes, at night, she thought she could hear their seizing rattle, the doomed click of an engine shutting off 36,000 feet above her house. In the e-mail, Grace wrote: I’ve got nothing but air miles, I’d love to come and stay for a bit.

Illustration by Nicole Rifkin

Merge

Thundering down, a cataract from a high plateau, raising billows of dust, manes, tails, whinnies rippling like banners, a glamorous species, captive yes, but not entirely subdued, they—oh, no, a fellow in that ridiculous getup pops up from behind a rock and pulls out a—bink! That’s enough, goodbye stupid old show, time for a cup of tea. Pulls out—bang, bang, bang. Yes, sensible Cordis decides, not a drink, time for a nice cup of tea.

The dog, a parting so-called gift from unfortunate Mrs. Munderson, peers at the blank screen, baffled, then paws at Cordis. Moppet is not glamorous, except in the most trivial sense; Moppet is cute. What does Moppet want? A treat? A tickle? A furlough?

More Fire [private]

Kwasi woke up somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. What time was it? He looked out the window for a sign of land but there was only blackness and wisps of gray. The boy in the aisle seat who had fallen asleep on his shoulder woke up and looked blankly at him. He looked like he could have been Kwasi’s son. They had the same high cheekbones, the same sleepy, almond-shaped eyes. The boy’s head weighed on him like a great stone, but in the moment, Kwasi felt thankful for it. “It’s okay,” he said. “Go back to sleep.”

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