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Fiction and Drama

Mammals

Mammals

Just clench that pelvic floor

She called all the local doulas and hired me because I was cheapest. I still wasn’t sure whether this was a pastime or calling or business or what, but I was leaning toward pastime/calling, as I had neither the desire nor the bandwidth to hustle in this realm. So I asked for the tiniest of honorariums. 

My fellow doulas got wind of this and read me the riot act, because I was undermining the whole community. We all had to charge within the same ballpark. No one cared whether this was my calling or pastime or what; just please charge the standard goddamn rate. I apologized. I hadn’t wanted money to be a thing, but money is always a thing.

Elham’s Suitor

Elham’s Suitor

He’s sobbing again

I open my eyes. The Colonel stares back at me like a buck’s head mounted on the wall. An abstract painting, blood streams from the old man’s throat down onto Parvin’s Che Guevara poster and over the star on Che’s forehead, where it gets lost in the black shadows on his face to reemerge out of Che’s left nostril.

Vale

Vale

What he’d like is to not be a burden

The worst thing about being alone is that you have to talk to strangers, and that’s awkward. He was bullied as a boy for saying funny things at the wrong time. Even his sisters used to say he had an odd manner of speaking, but there’s nothing he can do about that. What’s he supposed to do, not speak?

Two Stories

Two Stories

People have thrown money at me my whole life, he said, and it never sticks

But all the manager said was, I don’t believe I’d date a girl who said she wanted to roll around on my bed in fifty thousand dollars in cash. I’d find a nice regular girl who likes hamburgers.

Ewa’s Story

Ewa’s Story

The details of our parting were mundane. I attempted prolongation

Alanna wasn’t a natural storyteller. It took me a good ten minutes to realize the narrative was set in the present tense, that it was a problem tonight, whether she would return to the three-bedroom apartment in FiDi (as she called it) owned by her friend Victor. Or maybe it was managed by him; or maybe he knew the guy who managed it; or maybe he knew a guy who knew that guy; or maybe none of those things at all, it was never really made clear. This was all very like Victor, a 22-year-old of unclear origins who worked in cryptocurrency, no further detail.

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?