fiction: results 25–48 of 133
The first time I had intercourse with a boy I was twelve and he was sixteen and our union was consummated atop a station wagon, pulling out of a dirt road, accelerating down a paved highway, reaching a reported speed of 96 miles per hour.
Paul Verlaine gave a hoarse grunt as he woke, rose wearily from his bed, and fell into the Thames. I was walking to my flat, having just returned to London on the early train from Oxford after delivering a lecture entitled "Tropological Monism and the Crumpet," and the sight of this venerated leader of the symbolist movement plunging in to our fine river filled me with dread. Luckily, I remained calm and flung my attaché case into the river, urging Verlaine to "Grab on, old boy!"
All my life, as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer, but I'll be the first to admit I've never exactly been a literary flame. Improper use of dependent clauses, run-ons. Sentence fragments. In school I had this professor who would say that in order to be a great author, you've got to have a passion for something other than writing. She did not mention that this passion had to be in addition to a passion for writing, something which I was also conspicuously lacking. I didn't really have strong feelings for anything, but I did enjoy smoking pot and playing video games, just not the cheesy ones where the guys sprayed sweat instead of blood when you punched them out. I received a C+ in Creative Fiction 105. I dropped out of school a few days before the end of my sophomore year.
Jimbo still met up with a couple of guys from his last stint, a warehouse packing job he'd ditched in January, at McCabe's Bar down near the tracks. He could see them drifting away, their conversations gritted with the names of new asshole clients and sons-of-bitches managers who didn't know shit about running a loading dock operation. Names he didn't recognize though he nodded and drank his beer and listened to them rant. Crandall was the smart one. Sure as hell smarter than those lame-ass managers, he could do any figure in his head faster than someone could punch it into a calculator, only he was cross-eyed and would never get beyond running the forklift. Hood wasn't so bright, but he was big. Like the boy, he'd be a good prop. He told them his idea. Maybe it would stall the drift. Crandall laughed.
There was order to the world under my father's microscope. Order that could be plated, identified, and named in 24 hours. Examination, diagnoses, positive verification. Truth alive and well in a Petri dish. I believed it. I followed my father through the hospital, his extra lab coat to my ankles. It was his world—sterile, orderly, familiar.
In my world, I am cleaning my house. The air is pungent with ammonia and Mr. Clean. It reminds me of Mr. Foster at Riverview Medical, his floor buffer spinning back and forth across the tile floors, orange cones dropped behind him, trail of orange cone breadcrumbs. He spread his hands out for me, purple half-moons sunken into his fingertips where he had been treated for a staph infection.
I'd been sent to Florida by my brother and my mother with a wad of cash and a mission to set my dad back on the straight and narrow. He met me at the airport like he'd promised, but he hadn't even taken me to his house yet, and already I felt like we were neck deep in his new life.
We were driving along the road from Treguier to Kervanda. We passed at a smart trot between the hedges topping an earth wall on each side of the road; then at the foot of the steep ascent before Ploumar the horse dropped into a walk, and the driver jumped down heavily from the box. He flicked his whip and climbed the incline, stepping clumsily uphill by the side of the carriage, one hand on the footboard, his eyes on the ground. After a while he lifted his head, pointed up the road with the end of the whip, and said—
Pointer lay on the couch, fifty-eight pounds of eleven-year-old black lab mix with curly hair. She lay with her chin between her paws just like when she was sleeping, but I knew right away she wasn't sleeping.
"Hey, Pointer, kiddo," I said anyway. "Too hot to get up this morning?"
Pointer weighed seventy pounds just a couple of months earlier, but pancreatic cancer pared her down pretty fast. I hadn't really thought she'd be gone this soon, though. I picked her up off the couch and she didn't feel like Pointer, just like a big heavy sack of cooked oatmeal. I laid her down on the rag rug next to the coffee table.
This story takes place years ago when every person was born with geographical destiny printed onto their skin—usually the bottom of the foot, sometimes a thigh or the back of the calf. If the words weren't clear—too faint, improperly formed, or with crucial letters missing—a family waited with great eagerness, checking the bottom of the foot (or the thigh or the back of the calf) every day to see what had emerged, the way one might peer into the murky bloom of a Polaroid. And although some believed a newborn's geographical destiny shouldn't matter, since it might be years before the child went off to meet it, in fact, to many people it did matter; so that parents whose geographical destiny was, for instance, Kansas City found it difficult to love without reproach a child born with the word Albuquerque across its knee.
When you go off to Albuquerque, they'd say, then you can have a skateboard. Or, Your father and I want a house, but we've got to save our money for phone bills and airfares. Oh, what do you care, soon you'll be running off to Albuquerque.
Jo wants to find her mother, and there are very few clues. She placed the daily ad in the Post knowing full-well that this woman could have moved; her own mother could have died without her knowledge. She thought, only, I've got to try. On her way out of the apartment, the orphaned adult looks over her shoulder. She knows the studio is just six hundred square feet of dry, warping wood floors and chipping plaster. It's not a home; she would never bring the dancer to her home. It's simply an art studio, and there's a bed because often art calls in the middle of the night like a newborn, or a call-girl. Jo is content scrubbing these floors and bleaching her kitchen when a painting or woman calls. When the buckets are empty, or her sheets are cool, Jo feels as though the damp space is adequate for a woman finding herself.
There was once upon a time a poor mason, or brick-layer, in Granada, who kept all the saints' days and holidays, and yet, with all his devotion, he grew poorer and poorer, and could scarcely earn bread for his numerous family. One night he was roused from his first sleep by a knocking at his door. He opened it, and beheld before him a tall, meagre, cadaverous-looking person.
'Hark ye, honest friend!' said the stranger; 'I have observed that you are a good Christian, and one to be trusted; will you undertake a job this very night?'
He flicks on the light in the bedroom and squints against its glare. His eyes are going too, have been for some time now. But he knows—he can remember this much—where the lighter might be and he goes to the bedside table and grabs it, knocking the ashtray aside and spilling ash and stained butts that roll onto the floor. Severo starts to bend over to pick them up but instead he turns around and, walking out of the room, curses life again.
Although his memory has faded with his physical strength, one thing Severo can never forget is the hunger. It's no longer a sensation or even an excuse for overeating or berating his wife. After all, she didn't starve the way he did. She grew up in a village, on the Castilian plane, where life was bearable. But in Madrid there was no animal more miserable than the orphaned son of a Republican hero.
young man, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his studies at the University of Padua. Giovanni, who had but a scanty supply of gold ducats in his pocket, took lodgings in a high and gloomy chamber of an old edifice, which looked not unworthy to have been the palace of a Paduan noble, and which, in fact, exhibited over its entrance the armorial bearings of a family long since extinct. The young stranger, who was not unstudied in the great poem of his country, recollected that one of the ancestors of this family, and perhaps an occupant of this very mansion, had been pictured by Dante as a partaker of the immortal agonies of his Inferno. These reminiscences and associations, together with the tendency to heart-break natural to a young man for the first time out of his native sphere, caused Giovanni to sigh heavily, as he looked around the desolate and ill-furnished apartment.
Being acquainted with a newspaper reporter who had a couple of free passes, I got to see the performance a few nights ago at one of the popular vaudeville houses.
One of the numbers was a violin solo by a striking-looking man not much past forty, but with very gray thick hair. Not being afflicted with a taste for music, I let the system of noises drift past my ears while I regarded the man.
Aisha is thirty-one years old and seventeen weeks along. She has brought a copy of Crime and Punishment to the Laundromat with her, but she cannot concentrate on the story, keeps getting lost in the long, unfamiliar names. She sits, watching her clothes spin, the silk arm of her favorite, fading blouse cascading down over a tangle of jeans and underwear. She has just this week had to retire most of her regular pants, which she had long been tugging down to her pelvic bone, for maternity wear. And watching her old clothes in the dryer gives her an overwhelming sense of futility. She thinks she would like to go into labor now. She would like to push the little pink thing out of her body and into the world, even if it were to be born a helpless pound and a half. Moments like these, she thinks it is more likely that the baby could survive in a fluorescent NICU than in her agonized and frustrated body. She feels as if the baby has stretched her, made her skin literally too thin.
People were telling one another that a newcomer had been seen on the promenade—a lady with a dog. Dmitri Dmitrich Gurov had been a fortnight in Yalta, and was accustomed to its ways, and he, too, had begun to take an interest in fresh arrivals. From his seat in Vernet's outdoor café, he caught sight of a young woman in a toque, passing along the promenade; she was fair and not very tall; after her trotted a white Pomeranian.
Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o'clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.
It had been raining in the valley of the Sacramento. The North Fork had overflowed its banks and Rattlesnake Creek was impassable. The few boulders that had marked the summer ford at Simpson's Crossing were obliterated by a vast sheet of water stretching to the foothills. The up stage was stopped at Grangers; the last mail had been abandoned in the tules, the rider swimming for his life. "An area," remarked the "Sierra Avalanche," with pensive local pride, "as large as the State of Massachusetts is now under water."
The west-bound train stopped at San Rosario on time at 8:20 A.M. A man with a thick black-leather wallet under his arm left the train and walked rapidly up the main street of the town. There were other passengers who also got off at San Rosario, but they either slouched limberly over to the railroad eating-house or the Silver Dollar saloon, or joined the groups of idlers about the station.
He held the wheel with his knee and reached behind his seat for another beer. The can was cold but the beer was warm. He swished it in his mouth until it was flat and flavorless. Swallowed, swigged, swallowed, swigged. He was getting there. He barely remembered the cat now. The feel of it under the front, then the back tire, like something already dead but not quite flat enough, and when they'd stopped and turned back, it was still breathing. "It's just a barn cat," she'd said. But she saw the collar just like he did, the heart-shaped tag.
Miss Lemon, as she was known in the classroom, at the age of thirty-nine had the unfortunate experience of overhearing a whispered conversation between two of her sixth-grade boys, insolent, dirty-necked devils that they were, one with pustular spots emphasizing a nose grown too large for its face and the other with astounded eyes. She distinctly heard the taller one say to the other, "She has a Coke bottle stuck up inside her. You ever notice the funny way she stands holding on to the back of her chair."
Sir, I remain faithful that you will still grant this request to charge. My men and I are still waiting for the enemy's attack on this promontory in Batangas, but it seems they, too, have lost their strength. Every night, we keep watch over that part of Manila, Cavite, and Laguna that is engulfed in flames. We know, as the fire gets closer, your arrival also nears.
Now you must know Mrs. Veal was a maiden gentlewoman of about thirty years of age, and for some years past had been troubled with fits, which were perceived coming on her by her going off from her discourse very abruptly to some impertinence. She was maintained by an only brother, and kept his house in Dover. She was a very pious woman, and her brother a very sober man to all appearance; but now he does all he can to null and quash the story.
Lisa followed Mitchie through row after row of listing tin shacks. Puff-bellied children tugged at her hands and clothes. They stroked her white skin and made darting swipes at her yellow hair. They giggled and covered their broken teeth with dirty fingers. She emptied her pockets into their hands. She undid the clasp on her thin silver chain and dropped it in a boy's open hand. He ran off shouting, waving the necklace like a flag.