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JimWould you like to play a game?

Sure, I love games.

 

You can be a writer, sailor, punk rocker, or rat. Which character would you like to play?

Writer, please.

FoF-Cover-SmallAsk a shitload of questions. That was Pemberton’s strategy for job interviews. Start with questions, end with questions, and cram more questions in between. Only the last time he’d used this approach it had worked a bit too well.

Pemberton had responded to an ad for a freelance-editing gig placed by a woman named Kiki. He hadn’t done any editing since You Had to Be There—theonline humor zine he cofounded in college, which had peaked at forty discrete visitors per week. Through an exchange of e-mails, he was able to ascertain that Kiki intended to write a book about her Korean boyfriend Ricky, who had a super-secret story to tell. Crime was involved. Money was no object. Would Pemberton like to meet at a coffee shop to discuss the details?

Song of the ShankShe comes out of the house and sees fresh shapes in the grass, a geometrical warning she does not understand. Blades mashed down under a foot, half-digested clots of earth where shoe heels have bitten in, mutilated worms spiking up through regurgitated blackness—piecemeal configurations, suggesting a man’s shoe, two, large, like Tom’s but not Tom’s since Tom never wears shoes in the country. A clear track, left foot and right, running the circumference of the house, evidence that someone has been spying through the windows, trespassing at the doors.

Us-ConductorsSnow was falling in streamers on West Fifty-Ninth Street. The studio was nearly silent.

I stood at the window, looking into the flurries. Head- lights flashed and went away, distant gestures of civilization. Heat lifted from the radiator. All my students had stayed home. There is weather all around us and then sometimes it interrupts our lives, as though a temporary new law has been passed.

There was a bell from downstairs.

I picked up my watch and went to the door to wait.

K99_coverIt wasn’t long after I’d broken up with Alex, a few short months into my service, a year and a half before the earthquake. Some girlfriends from my training group talked me into a weekend at the beach. Four of us rented two rooms in La Posada’s cheap wing—which was the first time I ever saw the place. Once our backpacks were shoved inside, we all went to a shorefront restaurant for midday drinks.

I’d not surfed in years, and never outside of Hawai‘i. It hadn’t occurred to me that there might be waves in El Salvador. Straight away, I could tell a swell was running. The rocky point—which began at the restaurant—stretched far out to sea. It was longer than any wave I’d seen on Oahu, and had no closed-out sections. I studied it while the other girls smoked and chatted.

Soon, I saw a bearded gringo, prone on his surfboard, riding white water into shore.

9781938103803Report from the Committee on Town Happiness

We have been thinking about the trees. The trees, we have decided, know what they’re doing. We have decided (6–3, with one abstention) that there will be trees in the Afterlife.

Our thinking about trees has led us to fence Maxwin’s Park and to prohibit all pedestrian traffic therein. As an elected policy-making body, we believe that the trees need a place of repose. As we all do.

Gay, An Untamed State jacket art 9780802122513Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

They held me captive for thirteen days. They wanted to break me.

It was not personal. I was not broken.

This is what I tell myself.

Chronicle of Secret Riven Final CoverChapter I - The Babe Born Evensong Riven

Moments after her birth, three birds swept into the room through an open window. The pigeon, the dove, and the sparrow circled the newborn three times, widdershins, lit upon the wooden sill, and settled their feathers. They turned to one another in conference, or so it seemed to the baby’s father, who saw their heads bob and heard them coo and chirp. He had respect for the uncanny and, believing the birds’ council to be that indeed, watched them come to their enigmatic conclusion.

NotForNothing_StephenJones1She’ll be waiting for you when you walk back from the water station next door. And of course you’ll have the tip of your thumb in your mouth, will only realize it after you’ve stopped walking, when you’re standing there like some animated character trying to blow his flattened hand back up. All that’s left to do then is waggle your fingers before your face in “Hello,” your eyes kind of squinted. Not so much against the glare coming off the storage units, but in apology. For being who you are.

It’s an apology you make more often than you’d care to admit.

Cutting TeethTiffany had just finished scrubbing the cutting board and started on the teetering pile of dirty dishes, when the kitchen door swung open, sending a blast of little children noise into the kitchen.

“Hey, Tiff,” Rip said softly. He touched her elbow. As if he were consoling her, she thought. “Do I have to apologize for Grace?”

“What do you mean?” Tiffany said, staring down at the pinwheel of apples, making sure there was a quiver of hurt in her voice. Whatever Grace had told him, or whatever Rip had deduced, Tiffany knew that in a conflict, it was always best to act like the wounded party.

Cover - Five Hundred Sirens - Jay ShearerUnwarranted

You could hear them pretty often now, going at it in the mid-afternoon. Nearly every day, around three or three thirty—unfailingly then, as the Monarch napped—and there I’d be, a slave to it. Standing rock still under the vent, often on a chair or stepstool, listening intently, my heart gone tight, as Adam and his face-free partner in excess pounded it out across the way.

You could hear them, I swear, like the two were in the room, which never failed to amaze me. They lived across the hall, not above or below us, off to the side—a good twenty feet of hallspace dividing us—oak, plaster, beams, air—and the effect, due to the odd proximity, was less like innocent overhearing and more like we’d bugged their apartment.

red cover 07In this condensed excerpt (the last part of a long story called “I Don’t Kill People Anymore”) the leader Mesiamo talks about violence with Elliot, who has just had news of the My Lai massacre, and is upset. Elliot tells Mesiamo about it. Mesiamo’s been meaning to put a little fear into Elliot, because he’s not certain that Elliot isn’t connected with the miners up in the mountains. He wants Elliot to believe that if Elliot betrays the Nagovisi, Mesiamo will kill him – something Mesiamo has no intention of doing. He’s already told the reader, “These days, you can’t kill somebody just because it seems a good idea.” But as Mesiamo begins to understand more about My Lai, and why Elliot’s so upset, he sees a different strategy: to compare the American large-scale atrocity with Nagovisi small-scale killings. Mesiamo’s narrating. He likes to call Elliot “White Man.”

cut Shrunk1 – Terminal

You find your seat in the tail section, jam your bag in the foot space, buckle tight and pull some hair out of your arm, then a few strands from your eyebrow.

You don’t do this because it hurts.

You do this because you’re nervous and afraid of dying.

Map-Cover-Color-small51. Antimony (Metalloid; Primordial; Solid)

Take June to the tanning salon where you work and give her a free tanning session. You will have to help her undress. Feel the tension that comes with regarding her scarred nakedness. It lifts your shoulders and hardens your abdomen. Help to maneuver her into the coffin-like bed of glass. Once she’s secure, go to the front desk and offer to cover things while the other girl working there goes on a break. As soon as she walks out, find the pill bottle in the drawer. Take one of the red pills—it’s the mildest of them.You have to drive June back home, after all.

WE 3D v2A           

Al•ice /a-lEs/ n : a girl transformed by reflection

On a cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary. And not only from the big, glass building on Broadway where its offices were housed. On that night, my father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, Chief Editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, slipped from the actual artifact he’d helped compose.

That was before the Dictionary died, letters expiring on the page. Before the virus. Before our language dissolved like so much melting snow. It was before I nearly lost everything I love.