Fiction and Drama

This Pitiless Choreography

This Pitiless Choreography

The thing is even heavier than the thought of hauling it

Bodies, dozens of them, flailing and caving in convulsion rhythms, their limbed forms flaming as if harrowed by fears erupting from cellular levels. One body turns and turns in place, immobilized by movement. One dives to the earth as his shirt lifts off and floats inflated before covering him like a shroud. A ragged silhouette arms semaphores no one can understand.

Horse Soup

Horse Soup

“This is na-a-a-a-o!”

It was 1982. Brezhnev died. Ready also died, after eating rat poison. Olya started her senior year at the Institute and bought herself a violin made by the German master Schneider for 1,600 rubles, telling her poor parents that a girlfriend who’d dropped out of school and married a Georgian had given it to her. She continued to meet Burmistrov at the same apartment. She was so used to Horse Soup’s screaming that she no longer paid any attention to it, focusing only on the food in front of her. 

Compensation

Compensation

Your emotional income report

Or perhaps the joy lay in the way they loosened the world, suggesting that nothing was really so important. Lions and bears were insulting each other on the playground — and still, she was carrying this weight? The weight of the husband? Of the shag carpet?

The Groups

The Groups

Name one way you have resisted youth-culture hegemony?

Other groups went in for home arts but in more artisanal directions than the folk crafts women, with steampunk-looking excursions in beakers, copper stills, and bell jars, making hand-cultured vinegars and ciders but also shrubs, wassails, tonics, and bitters, which could be used to cure colds and doubled as craft cocktail ingredients. A further subset of these had a religious bent, albeit Wiccan and New Agey, with bespoke homespun potions, poultices, and other herbal remediations for illnesses, as well as plasters and pastes made from grinding seeds and oils by hand with a mortar.

The Boat

The Boat

When you come in all excited about putting on your short shorts, that’s new to me

On our sides, the flood flowed through gutters into lawns and lapped at the bases of driveways. The occasional house’s garage was open and a generator ran. A few people stood outside smoking or watching the water. Aubrey began pushing again and yelled hello to someone, who yelled hello back. What did we look like to them? A black boy and a white girl on a boat in the flood, a case of water between them, the boy sitting at the front as though being ferried, the girl standing in the back as though in control.

English Is Mine

English Is Mine

Dutch people, in live-action Dutchness

This is our English. Brought to us by Playmobil, Intertoys, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Superman and Batman, Michael Jackson, Rocky Balboa, the internet, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, advertisements, clothing labels, Coca-Cola, Big Macs, Nike Air Max, cars, hotel signs, warnings, et cetera, et cetera. Clear and without the secret in-crowd nuances. Every controversial word we use has been pointed out—called out? You should try it: speaking world-English. No hidden or fuzzy meanings. Democratic. Accessible to all. Eat it or starve behind your own bastions, you dialect-speakers. But hé, I don’t care.

An American Historian

An American Historian

Cover pages curling like scrolls around the name Ben-Zion Netanyahu

My books still in print include A General History of Taxation; Taxation Without Representation: A History of America in Ten Taxes; Import Quotas, Export Subsidies: A Journey through Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade; Embargo: A History; Blood Money: The Taxation of Slavery, and George Sewall Boutwell: Abolitionist, Suffragist, and Father of the IRS.

The Easiest Job in the World

The Easiest Job in the World

We felt perfectly enclosed

Ethan and Esther had slept together the night before. All of us knew about it, but no one had talked about it. Including Ethan and Esther. That had kind of ruined the trip for Ethan, who had found himself watching Esther for outward sign of an inner flame, one that if it flickered did so very gently and very delicately, pale but nonetheless warm. Esther, in contrast, had spent most of the trip worried about her nausea, which had just now abated. She leaned back into her seat and gave an undirected sigh. She thought of the hot tub at the Airbnb and of how the clouds had boiled overhead on the beach.

Girl Janitor and the Knot

Girl Janitor and the Knot

I don’t even like wall mounts

At nine, the girl janitor got picked up by her girlfriend, who had a car. It was a nice hybrid car, half-gas and half-organic. The girlfriend stayed home all day and did home projects. Or she went to the hardware store to get things for her home projects. The home projects were expensive and never-ending. This week she was trying to install a wall-mount for the TV. The TV had legs and it sat nicely on the girlfriend’s vintage credenza but the girlfriend wanted the TV to hang on the wall. The janitor didn’t ask why.

The Sexual Translator

The Sexual Translator

“I want to borrow your embodiment.”

Most books, he discovered, were about sex, whether or not the author knew it. The translator’s job was to uncover what the original author could not divine. I befriended the translator late in his life, approximately ten years before his death. His funeral I didn’t attend, because I took pleasure in inverting the social rules—just as I had violated the rules by befriending this august personage in the first place.