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wealth

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?

Illustration by Melody Newcomb

Annihilation

It was the winter that I had spent bleeding, attuned to no particular rhythm. Sometimes my period would come on twice in one month, or last for four weeks instead of one. Or, in between spells of bleeding, I would find rust-colored specks in my underwear, or else what seemed like rivers of blood, dark and sticky as blackberry jam. Mostly, it hurt only a little, a pain I could store in the back of my mind and ignore. Sometimes when I was on my feet all day I would feel woozy and cold, and when I went home at night I’d lie awake for a long time, wondering as I turned from my back to my stomach whether there was some position that might keep me from waking up with blood staining my sheets, like a marriage bed visited by an incubus. I took iron supplements. Eventually, I went to a doctor.

Illustration by Anders Nilsen

Learning

It’s hard to know which of us began to wear our shoes in the apartment, but one of us did—one of us, then the other. First it was just in the kitchen, but soon there were tracks in the bedroom, bathroom, living room, everywhere. Old receipts and leaves crept in. The floor grew filthy. We got out-of-season colds. Ellen let clumps of her hair tumbleweed around, clogging the carpet, the drains, and I was no longer careful with the dishes, dropping plates and glasses so often we learned not to flinch at the smash, and though we still recycled, we did so poorly, never rinsing, never sorting, curbing them on the wrong night. We both knew the baking soda had been in the freezer a very long time, many years, a lifetime, but neither of us made a move to dispose of or replace it.

Illustration by Anna Sudit

The News From the World of Beauty

In late summer of 2017 I was at an artists’ colony in rural Virginia. A hot topic of conversation among the artists there was how we were reading the news, and how often. Some of the artists at the colony were reading the news obsessively every morning, either because they were addicted to it or because they felt it was their social responsibility to stay informed about the invariably breathtaking choices of our current president and those who surround and respond to him. Some artists were ignoring the news altogether—every headline, every scandal, every tweet—choosing to entirely suppress the outside world during the span of the residency. The rest of the artists stayed lightly informed, but consciously attempted to prevent the news of the world from gaining much purchase on their inner lives.

Erich Hartmann / Magnum Photos

The Debt

The plane landed in Fort Lauderdale and Dick and Royce (Royal) were picked up by a pretty young woman wearing a tank top, shorts, and silver antlers and driven to Hertz. Royal’s brother Brandt arranged such things—or his secretary Jacki did (“Bag claim F. Laud surprise,” she’d texted.) When things like the Lexus Reindeer unexpectedly appeared, the secretary knew it made Royal’s day. It took his friends—it took him—a while to sort it out: Jacki’s kindness, perfectly paired with her taste for the absurd.

The Death of the American Dream

We confused the American Dream with simple accumulation. We spent vastly beyond our means in an attempt to give off a false impression of achievement, and that wild spending of borrowed money drove the current crash.