FICTION

SEEING ME OFF, A short story

Listen to me, boy. Sit down and listen to me carefully. I have something important to say to you. Do you remember that forest ranger everybody used to call the Indian? He was no Indian, had never even seen an Indian, but he used to say the only book he had ever read in his entire life was Winnetou, so everybody called him the Indian. Make sure you read the right books, my boy, because you never know what name people may decide to give you…

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SEEING ME OFF, A short story

 

Listen to me, boy. Sit down and listen to me carefully. I have something important to say to you. Do you remember that forest ranger everybody used to call the Indian? He was no Indian, had never even seen an Indian, but he used to say the only book he had ever read in his entire life was Winnetou, so everybody called him the Indian. Make sure you read the right books, my boy, because you never know what name people may decide to give you…

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SEVEN BEDTIMES FOR SEVEN BONZOS, An excerpt from a short story originally published in Yeti magazine

According to their testimony, the three co-defendants had met while flipping ollies in the drained swimming pools of suburban southern California and a decade later had gone on to serve as graphic designers and principal investors in Abacus 5, their own product line of extreme sports clothing. Without seeking prior permission from myself or my former employer, Black Star Photo Agency, Abacus 5 had printed a series of T-shirts that used elements of eight photographs spanning several phases of my career, albeit significantly altered from their original form.

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THE EMPTY CAVE, An excerpt from a novel

Prologue

"Have you been to the border?" he asked. His question – quiet, husky, and forbidden – got absorbed into the darkness and the echo of the other people's voices, and definitely convinced her that coming here had been a mistake. She should have stayed home tonight. Alone. By herself. On her own with her dreams.

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INITIATION, An excerpt from a novel in progress

Prophecies work in reverse. I see them only now. How the heat lightning flashed across my bedroom through the night, cutting my dreams short and sending me spinning in place, face squashed every which way into the mattress though the light persisted blue-electric on the insides of my eyelids. How I woke to my mother reciting my full name, Katherine Leland Katherine Leland Katherine Leland you've done it again, her anger so loud I heard it all the way from the basement, where I found her clutching a t-shirt splotched with ink, the washing machine's mouth gaping open and smelling of burning.

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WAITING FOR THE ELECTRICITY, An excerpt from a novel

In the beginning, when God was distributing the land to all the nations, we Georgians missed the meeting. The next morning we looked around and realized we were homeless. "Hey!" we shouted to God. "What about our land?"

"Where were you last night?" He asked. "You missed the meeting. I already gave away all the land."

"We were drinking!" we cried out. "We were toasting Your name!"

God was so pleased with us that He gave us the land He was saving for Himself. That’s why we are supposed to relax and enjoy the beauty of God’s earth.

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YEAR OF WOMEN, An excerpt from a novel

There's a minibus going everywhere, I swear. Even in the shittiest little towns, six to eight people get dropped off every two hours. I couldn't imagine what anyone else wanted in Stefan Voda, unless they somehow had jobs and still wanted to live there.

It was picturesque, like Grigorievca, with tin-cutout wells and weathered gingerbread on the houses and gates. Some fluffy yellow dogs with curly tails were scuffling around by someone's fence. I remembered how no young people stayed in the village and wondered if they all – the girls, anyway – ended up like Cristina.

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THE INHERITANCE OF HOPE, An excerpt from a short story

Some folks like to warn that money can’t buy happiness, but I figure it’s hope that holds real worth. Twelve days before emigrating from Będzin, Poland, to the hilled landscape of Oregon in 1943, my great-grandpa Alistair made a single, significant purchase. With the last of his savings he bought a ring for his wife, Kazia. It was forged by a goldsmith who claimed he could weave the couple’s aspirations right into the metal, preserving their visions for the future as neatly as life sealed in amber. Sometimes, that’s all you can do with misery such as theirs – manipulate it, melt it down.

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NOT TONIGHT, An excerpt from a work in progress

Tonight, there are no lovers walking down the park alleys. There are no kings in the castles, and the princesses die alone – they have no frogs or peas. Tonight, the inkpots are empty, and the words are uncountable. Tonight, all shouts are muffled by unbearable silence. Tonight, the barefoot do not find shoes, and the anthills are too few, too small, and too far away to save lost wanderers. Tonight, children sob softly, mothers behave unreasonably, and fathers – they remain unknown.

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THE INSTRUMENTARIUM MODEL OF THE CITY, An excerpt from a short story

I used to think that I was Leno's main passion, then that I could be Leno's main passion, displacing the City from his heart and mind, and even from the pages he wrote. But that was "before" and it was short-lived. Rather quickly, I realized that it was the exits, these invisible, unattainable points, that inspired his desire. None of them could be found on my body or person. We both realized this early on. But Leno held on to me: he wanted me by his side, nevertheless. I did not spend much time pouring over the letter.

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THE ARTIFICIAL ALBATROSS, An excerpt from a short story

The year we became minimalists was the same year we gave up meat. You decided these things were for one another, and so this is what we did. Some years previous, when we had decided to be two women in love, we were incredible disasters. I had sloppily painted the walls a burnt orange and draped silk scarves atop the lamps, rather than replacing their spent bulbs.

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RAPUNZEL'S TOWERS, A short story

Every morning, between six and seven thirty, thousands of gray-haired Rapunzels rise, gently toss their blankets aside and make their way to the kitchen. Some make breakfast for their grandchildren. Others leave bread crumbs for the pigeons on the balcony. They put coffee-makers or teapots on the stove. Some even turn on the radio. Inside, there's a slight draft. So they wrap their cardigans more tightly around their bodies, and clasp the cup of coffee or tea with lots of sugar with both hands. They feel chilly, they always do, but what else could they close in order to stop the draft?

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THE PLACE, An excerpt from a work in progress

You can enter by the road from the south, the north, the east or even the west, although the west road, unfortunately, is not very good. Actually, even then it was quite bad and annoying to drive on, with lots of potholes; there would often be fallen trees. There is no reason to think that the road is better now. You cannot be sure what to expect, once you manage to get into the city. Even back then, the buildings had almost entirely lost their magnificence and charm, which was reminiscent of a decent past, and suggested a relatively prosperous future.

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GREEN AND GOLD

To my father

 

She has no idea if the time she has left is enough. But the desire is stronger than common sense and she starts piling up pillows to hem in the corner of the huge bed where she can sink fully into her thoughts and find peace at last. In the house time has its own clock, slow and different. She hopes nobody is going to look for her.

She falls asleep before she knows it, carried away by shouts and voices distant as the world outside this room. Everything starts from the beginning like the breaking day.

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