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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.

More Fire

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.”

Illustration by Julien Pacaud

Long Way Home

The Circumnavigations of Henk De Velde

When I first wrote the Dutchman, ten years ago, he was sailing around the world alone for the sixth and final time. His plan, he said, was to keep on sailing, continuing this last circumnavigation until the day he died, or until he found some unknown place “behind the horizon.” At the time, Henk De Velde was somewhere in the Atlantic, slightly closer to South America than any other continent, but not very close to anywhere at all.

Place Like Home

I was asked to show up with a side dish. I made
A slaw of my longing. I had to keep it crisp. Nothing goes

Bad in a backyard, if you catch my drift. In a
Backyard everything is available like a catalog

Against Vanity

Away from the cruel magnification
            of a shaving mirror, I clean up well.
I am content with orange teeth and salty
            skin, with having borrowed my beauty 

            from the ocean. See my kelpy eyes, the pearl
on my tongue? Flatter me, flatterer! I still care 
            about dignity, like a blindfolded duke
being led to the gallows. It’s hard not to smile 

The New World

Do I have to talk about fear? 
So much has already been said 
about hidden spiders, compass needles
lodged in the soft of an eye. 

Good for You

My wife and I, both in our late thirties, have a friend named Patricia who lives by herself in a very small apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her taste is Japanese. Patricia is the mother of another good friend, a woman more or less our age [...]

Illustrations by Jen Renninger

Total Loss

Fire does not abide by reason. In its destructive trail, there are empty bank accounts, unreturned voice mails, FedExed checks, hours upon hours of smooth-jazz hold music, fine print written in inscrutable jargon, and the summary Laurie learned to say for expediency’s sake: “My house exploded in a catastrophic fire. Can you please help me?”

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