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Fiction

Recent Issue

Illustration by Ryan Floyd Johnson

Tiger Ghost [private]

Bridget is on her way to Mong Kok to buy a goldfish. She’s been told that they bring good luck. They aren’t allowed pets in her building, but she can’t imagine this would apply to a fish. She’s taking the metro to Kowloon, something she hasn’t done alone before. In the subway there is a store selling fine combs, brushes, hair clips made of jade and tortoise shell. A sign in the window reads that the comb can provide a smooth journey in the fortune-seeking course. Also loving care and health. At a nearby temple, people pray to win money at the races. Money is god. 

She moves down Nathan Road. Above a Crocs shop is a duty-free medicinal store, where you can buy dried sea cucumbers to cure the heart. At the goldfish market, customers kneel before plastic bags filled with fish and wonder which fish will bring the most luck. They spend hours examining the bags. Some have only one black or gold fish. Others have several. In one bag there are dozens of tiny pink frogs, perched one on top of the other. Their tiny pink feet press against the bag as they all peer out in the same direction.

At first Bridget thought she’d just go and photograph the fish for her blog; instead she has decided to buy one. She could use a little luck, and the kids might like having a fish to take care of. There’s one that seems to be looking at her with its dark, beady eyes as if it wants something but isn’t sure what. Its mouth is pressed against the plastic bag as if sucking at a mother’s breast. She snaps some pictures of it. The little pink frogs, too. Then she takes the bag off the rack and tells the salesman that she’ll buy this fish. She gives him a few Hong Kong dollars and then, not knowing what else to do, puts the fish inside her purse. 


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Illustration by Ryan Floyd Johnson

Stray Fragments

Think about losing things when you are a child, and how losing things thrusts you into a state of absolute despair, even if what you lost is relatively unimportant: toothbrush, sweater, homework folder.

Adults. We are like balloons inflated to their largest capacity and then thrown into the air, unknotted: darting, hissing, flying, farting through the room to the delight of children who will step on them when they finally fall—deflated, useless.

If time in our lives could be shuffled—if it were sectioned into discrete events and recombined—would the story add up? Or does there need to be some kind of order, even if it’s not chronological, for the pieces to form a narrative?

Nuestros hijos llevan todo el día rascándose tan fervorosamente la cabeza que uno de ellos se había sacado ya sangre y ahora daba alaridos de pavor al ver que en su dedo índice titilaba una gotita rosa.

Nos sentamos en una banca y me dispuse a espulgarle la cabellera. Me entretuve aniquilando colonias enteras de piojos y liendres.

 

The light of the desert, where we are headed—I imagine it very different from this one. I imagine it a brutal, empty, future light.

Where is the heart of the United States?

It’s somewhere in the border.

Illustration by Ryan Floyd Johnson

Hill of Hell

I had traveled up the Hudson Line at my friend’s invitation to deliver a lecture to his literature students at the college where he taught. There had been three people in attendance and one had fallen asleep halfway through. My friend had treated me to lunch before the talk and to a drink afterward, so that by the time we hit the train back into the city, where we both lived, we had sailed through the small talk and were ready for the blood and guts. 

After we opened the second bottle of wine, which he’d been keeping in his satchel, I told him about the worst thing that had happened to me in the last three years, as this was the period of time that had elapsed since we last saw each other. We sat at a table in the café car, the panoramic windows looking out on the vast sweep of the Hudson. At first, I was surprised that we could drink openly on the train, but my friend assured me that we could eat and drink whatever we wanted because the café car was closed on this route—and besides, he had been taking this train three days a week for a decade and he knew every conductor on it and could get away with anything. 

“It was around this time last year when everything came apart,” I said, turning my plastic cup on the table. 

Last September, I was pregnant. My husband had been the one wracked with longing for a child and I had allowed myself to be carried along by the tide of his enthusiasm, but once it was underway I felt like I had been conned into a heist for which, as the plans came into focus, I was woefully unprepared. You’re talking about robbing the Louvre and I’m just a common criminal! In those early weeks, I willed my body to show up with the getaway car and then four months later, after I had forgotten all about getaway cars, I was standing in Ikea, of all the undignified places, waving a spatula and lecturing my husband about how our dairy products were teeming with opiates, when my shorts filled with blood and I fainted. While I was unconscious, I had a dream that men in white coats were elbow-deep in me and then I awoke in a hospital bed to find a doctor elbow-deep in me, working on my body with the grave air of an executioner. The baby had ten fingers and ten toes, the only thing that many a stranger had told me I should care about. Eyelids as thin as organza. 


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