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family

Illustration by Michelle Thompson

My Father’s Toe

My father recently lost a toe. The second one on his right foot, lopped off in an outpatient procedure, quick and painless. Such a funny thing to lose, everybody thought—my mother, sisters, brother, the grandkids all finding much levity in the situation. They call him “Nine-toed Joe” now, and for his birthday his granddaughters gave him customized white tube socks, the ghoulish gap of his little amputation rendered with a red Sharpie. My father found the gift hilarious, and wore the socks proudly with his new sandals right through to Halloween. I laughed, too, pretending not to find it disturbing and macabre. His toes had become grotesque with old age, as toes do when you approach eighty, after decades of punishing footwear: Army boots, oxfords, wingtips, Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars on the basketball court, running shoes in which my father pounded the pavement, training for marathons he never ran. Now he’s barely able to get any shoes onto his feet in order to make it to church.

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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Illustration by Sergio Garcia Sanchez

The Moving of the Water

Mrs. Anwen Bevan, retired administrative assistant to a vice president in the Utica Mutual Insurance Co., devoted a portion of each day to strategizing about her yard. It was rectangular, fifty feet wide and eighty feet long, hemmed in by the yards of three neighbors. To the left and right, chain-link fences ran the length of her property. Between these at the far end was a ramshackle low stone wall, remnant of an early era of wall- and fence-making in this neighborhood. Mrs. Bevan did not want her yard to be overrun with trees, flowers, and vegetables, or serve as a haven for birds, insects, bees, or squirrels, as was the case with the Cavallo family on her left.


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Illustration by Anders Nilsen

The Boys

It happens. A close relative dies. One who lives elsewhere. And then some time has to be set aside, even if no such thing is possible. Because of work, because of a lack of funds when it comes to traveling.

Art by Anna Schuleit Haber

Yams

Just then they were all eating yams, candied and still hot from the stove. Golden-brown pieces glistening with sauce that dripped from the serving spoon as it moved between the bowl and the plates. Heavy sweet pieces that clung to their forks, sank and settled on their tongues and then dissolved in a swirl of rich textures.

The girl’s uncle Todd pushed back his chair and reached for the bowl and a second helping. His broad hands pressed across the table, past his water glass and the ladle of gravy, the tea lights and decorative poinsettia, up and over the enormous ham. 

“Why can’t you just ask?” 

Illustration by Melody Newcomb

High Pursuit

Blood pulls up in a near-new new Caddy, heaven white, with flesh-colored guts and the white walls on his tires thick as rulers side by side.

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