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Good on Paper 300dpiPronto! Pronto! Hello!

A man with a Hollywood pizza-guy accent introduced himself.

It was Romei, or so he said in a passable imitation of Romei’s voice, known to me and everyone in America from his cameo on Seinfeld, where he played a poet who may or may not have stolen Jerry’s cigar (allowing Romei to say,Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).

Do you know what time it is? I asked blearily, though in fact it was only seven.

You are Shira Greene, yes? The translator? This is Romei!

I swear he said it with a flourish.

Your joke isn’t funny, whoever you are. Go away, I said, and hung up the phone.

He called again.

Amado OrigOf all people, Mercy Amado (nació Fuerte) should know that happiness is a decision. You simply cast aside that which you are tired of looking at, weary of battling, unable to accept, and focus on that which remains. She had to have learned something during the span of her lifetime, with its marital therapy, grief counseling, past life-regression, born-again Christianity, flirtation with Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism and atheism. Sixty years. When did you figure it all out? When did you understand the world? When did God take you by the hand and explain it all to you, elaborating that you were indeed His child—special, gifted, divine—and apologize for the mess along the way?

9781501116100Hannah

It is certainly strange, to live the first few weeks in my new body. Perhaps the strangest part is how inconsequential the change feels sometimes. Not dying, no longer being in pain, these differences are so startling and so complete that it’s easy to forget that I was ever sick to begin with. There is no scarring, no residual damage, no daily reminder of the months I spent being mutilated by tubes and wires and needles. I have a full, thick head of hair. And I’m no longer as frail as I was in the beginning; slender stretches of muscle begin to form under the skin of my arms and legs. I look like I’m closer to running a marathon than dying of anything.

There are other things, too. Little things. My hearing is pin sharp, instead of muted by my years of rock concerts and riding on Jake Mariano’s motorcycle as a teenager and the clattering din of taking the Red Line. The little aches and pains I used to carry with me—waking up with a stiff neck, cracking the ankle I sprained playing soccer as a kid, the enduring tightness in my hips and the backs of my thighs from painting for hours on end—are gone. They are removed so thoroughly that I can’t remember exactly what they felt like. Any and all excess fat has been spirited from under my skin, leaving a thin, supple sort of body it its wake. The dimpling in my thighs and the small crevices of stretch marks in my sides, the handful of scars I’d amassed in my twenty-seven years, all have been replaced by tight, flat skin. It’s a body so perfect it is difficult to inhabit sometimes, because it’s difficult to imagine it’s really mine.

the children's home3.inddThe children began to arrive soon after Engel came to the house. It was Engel who found the first one, an infant girl, in a basket, with a bundle of neatly folded, freshly washed clothes. The basket had been left on the steps leading up from the kitchen into the garden. Whoever had put it there must have known the way the house worked, because days might have passed before any of the other doors were opened; left anywhere else, the child would probably have died. As it was, no more than an hour or two had gone by but already the creature was blue with cold. Engel picked her up and held her, the small soft body pressed to her bosom, the small wrinkled face in the warm crook of her neck, for she didn’t know how long; a living daylight was how she described it to Morgan when she brought the baby up to him in his study. Looking across from his reading with amusement, Morgan explained that the living daylights were always plural and that they were supposed to be the part of the human soul most susceptible to fear. She nodded, fervently, that’s exactly right, it just goes on and on. That’s exactly how it was, she said, with the child’s small heart barely beating and the breath like a short hot knife blade on the skin of Engel’s neck. Engel lifted the baby away from her body and held her out to Morgan, who shook his head. She said they should tell someone perhaps, someone would know what to do with her, but Morgan disagreed. Left to himself he might have been tempted, what use did he have for a child, after all? But he could hear that Engel’s heart wasn’t in it. Just look at you both, he said. What could be better than this? Don’t you know how to deal with her as well as anyone? Let her stay here with us, where she will be clothed and fed, and kept out of this wicked weather. At least for a while. Perhaps, he thought, the child’s presence would encourage Engel not to go.

51FkAVmIKtL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_And I’m telling you, she was about to slip. She was gonna blurt everything, I could feel it. I was sitting just like I am now. You know, legs crossed at the ankle, not too much, medium smirk. I was drinking coffee, just watching her. I was holding back, that’s what I’m saying. And that’s the part that kills me. I know that bitch! She’s dying to tell me! She just can’t bring herself to spit it out! Actually that’s the part that excites me. I can admit it. Like everywhere else, the women here are inveterate liars. But here it’s like they won’t let up! No matter what, the charade must go on!

goose new coverKelly Hui, twenty-four-year-old daughter of Papa Hui (founder of Bashful Goose Snack Company and China’s richest man), strode through the Jiangsu government building’s entrance, gave her name to the teenage security guard, and plopped herself down on a rickety chair. The meeting she was waiting for, certain to be a snore-fest, was tragically the most exciting work-related thing she’d done since her father had made her the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility—a department in which she was the sole employee—two years before. To be fair, this was also the first work-related thing she’d done in that time.

She rummaged through her Hermes bag, found her iPod, stuck her earbuds in her ears, and put on a Radiohead song. She tapped her foot in rhythm on the floor. She listened to another song, and then another, and then another. Swatted at a fly that buzzed around her head. Glanced down at the time—ten past—and sighed loudly. The guard, a scrawny kid who couldn’t have been more than seventeen and who, Kelly thought, probably spent most of his day secretly masturbating under his little podium, looked up. That’s right, she thought, flipping her hair over her shoulder, store this one away for later.

9781625579379

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A hum comes over the wires, a message from the meteorologists who are miles away watching color patterns swirl and break apart on the Pulse-Doppler radar. Yellow, green, red, blue, black—pixels in all colors of the rainbow. It is beautiful, they think. Kaleidoscopic. Majestic. Aloud, one will begin the alert sequence: rapid air movement, supercell gathering into a wall, affected counties. The alert becomes an all-out warning because science makes it so.

Emails, text messages, faxes, phone calls; printers spit out paper with bold captions. An intern hands a radioman a piece of paper and points to a message blinking on the computer screen in front of him; he pulls his chair closer to the microphone and prepares to read. One county on the list is more familiar to him than the others, but Ted Waite is a professional and does not pause.

Jacket Artwork - THE HEART YOU CARRY HOMEThere were few streetlights in town, and the army duffle, crammed with Becca’s clothes, kept sliding from the handlebars of her bicycle. Still, she knew these roads well enough to take them blind. Here were the doublewides, flimsy as Monopoly pieces; the gardens dotted with plaster birdbaths; and the harried-looking lawns scattered with dirt bikes and abandoned Barbies. This was her beloved, unbeautiful Dry Hills, Tennessee. She pushed past the town limits and pedaled on. Damn Ben for taking her old Cadillac. Only a month after their wedding and he had turned into someone else, like any other man around here — gotten drunk, disappeared, forced her to flee into the night. The foggy August air grew thick with droplets of moisture large enough to catch on the tongue. Becca stopped and looked around. Where was she? Out in the alfalfa fields, a glittering barn wavered like a mirage. And there was Ben, a distant apparition, playing the fiddle tune he’d written for her. “It’s a loooove song,” he’d crooned the night before his deployment. “I’m going to play it at the wedding and embarrass the hell out of you.” It was one of the few promises he’d kept, and Becca’s cheeks flushed again at the memory. Since then, there had been no love songs. Nothing except fighting and silence.

the-staked-plains-coverThen said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.

She was a bad psychic when she arrived in Querosa, New Mexico, not because she didn’t possess the powers, but she couldn’t control them. Her husband moved them to the small town to teach at the college and she didn’t have anything to persuade him not to. “We’ll make it fun,” he promised, and after thirty days on the High Plains, the Great Drought began. People seemed friendly.

TheStrangest_2015_07_27_CVF (1)One morning was different. It proved to be different enough. I was at the bars, but when one of the officers started getting close, I went to the far end of the cell. There’s a part of the cell that remains shadowed even during what I figure is high noon. It is my idea that they don’t see me there.

If they don’t see me, maybe I don’t exist.

I don’t exist, and they don’t so much as bother me.

They don’t feed my fears.

They had been doing that a lot the past couple days.

Questioning, always questioning. I came to the conclusion that I was guilty. But that wasn’t enough for them. Officers and prisoners and the occasional person that doesn’t look like they belong in a prison, only stopping by, they question. With their gaze, they question.

Charmed Particles—FINAL CoverNote from the author: This chapter comes from the middle of Charmed Particles. The novel’s about a town whose residents are in conflict over plans to build the Superconducting Super Collider (a tool for studying particle physics) under their homes, schools, and farmland. The book follows two unconventional families—the Mitals and the Winchesters—as the controversy affects them all in different ways.

This chapter is about the two daughters of these families, Meena and Lily, whose friendship connects the two families. Meena’s family comes from Bombay. She was born in the U.S., but her parents immigrated to the States as adults because of her father’s job at a facility in town called the National Accelerator Research Lab. The excerpt is set in the 1987 in the fictional Chicago suburb of Nicolet, where Meena is one of only a few students of color in her school.

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You hit 40. You quite literally hit it, when your knee gives out and you lunge across the kitchen—flinging a handful of Ikea cutlery and then placing your hand squarely into the green frosting numbers on your birthday cake.

Marilyn, your best friend, appears in the doorway. “What was that?” She’s the one who bought the cake, one of those perfectly rectangular jobbies from the supermarket—Marilyn never bakes, or cooks at all, actually, as it would ruin her nails. This particular cake had had an image of a semi-nude man on a bear skin rug.

unnamedA trail of fencing rode up and down the hills, cutting through the farmland. Small hand-lettered signs surrounded by black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace advertised tomatoes, squash, honey, apple cider, and peach wine. Al wasn’t slowing down, so Lum realized she’d have to ask. “Al, you mind stopping at Smiley’s a bit?”

“Sure thing. It’ll have to be quick. I could spend hours looking at his stuff.” Al pulled off the highway and Smiley strode toward the truck. Large freckles sprinkled his broad nose, spilling across caramel-colored cheeks.

“Howdy, folks.” He opened the door for Lum.

“Hello, Smiley.” Lum had known Smiley for most of her life. Five years younger than Lum, he’d accompanied his mother, the washer-woman, to their farm. “How’s your aunt and uncle?”

AG-FrontTwo yellow streamers formed an equals sign in the dean’s door frame. No one told me it was his birthday. The news might have been in one of the e-mails I deleted without opening. With the constant threat of staff eliminations, it seemed like a good idea to check the door for a card and add my signature. I got a few inches from his door. My eyesight is bad. Legally blind is one way to put it. It’s not how I like to put it.

the-suicide-of-claire-bishop-coverThe Escape

1959

 

They drove north in midday traffic, Freddie snotting on the steering wheel and Claire resting her forehead on the cool glass of the passenger window. Central Park. Then the Bronx and the Bronx zoo, the children standing on street corners in thin coats, their fists hidden inside sleeves, sleeves holding radios. She caught pieces of songs. At a stop sign she heard Ray Charles, his bent-branch moan. She nodded her head to it, and they drove on.