Introducing our new series, New Writing on the Net, which will shine a light on new writing—fiction and non—published online. Every third Friday of the month, we will celebrate a few new works published in the previous month which we believe stand out among the rest. Today, we’re highlighting new fiction from Xuan Juliana Wang, Tobias Carroll, and Daniel DiFranco, new flash fiction from Sabrina Helen Li and Meg Pokrass, and a new personal essay from Colm Tóibín. Check them out!
Stories of generational (mis)fortune, of disease, disappearance and detritus below
“Mott Street in July” by Xuan Juliana Wang | Gulf Coast, March 12
“It got so hot that summer someone mercifully broke open the fire hydrant in front of their window on Mott Street. Water drenched the neighborhood until shivering children ran home to sleep, as the asphalt washed itself into the drain. The water hitting the sheet-metal roof of the makeshift store below didn’t wake them, nor did they stir with the passing of garbage trucks at dawn. In her sleep, Lucy heard nothing but the rhythm of her brothers’ breaths, their comfortable shifting bodies. She must have imagined her mother kissing them on their foreheads before leaving because somehow she already knew it would happen. Just the way Mom always threatened she would. She thought they all did.”
“Somewhere A Well” by Daniel DiFranco | jmww, April 10
“Outside the wind blew. The sides of the tent shuddered, flapping like wings of a tethered bird. She turned on her camera and reviewed the photos from last night, from this morning. The moon was beautiful. It was the only thing in the sky. She had felt alone, adrift. She scrolled through desert and sky, darkness and moon. The picture she snapped of Jack looking up. He was tired. Irritated. He didn’t take to flying well and trains made him seasick.”
“Freedom Night” by Meg Pokrass | Five2One Magazine, April 11
“What we do is we sit down at the table across from each other. We sit there and we wait for our noodles to cool. Soon, we’ll devour the long, curly threads, which gives us something to focus on. It’s been a year since our boy’s disappearance. His hair was long and curly just like that, and it gave me a lot to do—to care for.”
“Origami” by Sabrina Helen Li | Tin House Online, April 12
“My mother hated her breasts, because that was the one part of her that she couldn’t sharpen. Before she vanished, she made sure that her body was as small as it could be. Once she disappeared, the first thing I folded her into was a star. I folded slowly and dragged my nail until the edges were as sharp as I could make them. I held the star up to the light and saw the five points, flat and glistening. I touched each point with the tip of my finger, and I pretended I was Sleeping Beauty pricking my finger over and over until I fell into a deep sleep, and the rest of my kingdom slept with me. And we would sleep and sleep until someone came and woke us up.”
“An Oblation” by Tobias Carroll | Big Other, April 12
“The lighthouse was on a small island. The lighthouse was the small island. There was a living space, a miniscule kitchen, and an alcove that comfortably fit a small bed. There was a dock for her boat. There were radios and a phone. Isolated but visible. Remote but unremoved. All she needed.
Once a fortnight or so, she’d boat the distance to the closest town: New Felton, a once prosperous fishing town whittled down by time. Gulls flocking over the docks, she tied the boat to her rented slip, walked down the docks’ long boards and onto the mainland. It was a short walk from the docks to the local post office, where she maintained a box. It was a shorter walk to a deli. You could get far on a diet of eggs and bread, and gourmet beans, the one luxury she afforded herself. An even shorter walk to the bar where she’d sometimes have a drink to remind the locals she was still alive.”
“Instead of shaking all over, I read the newspapers. I listened to the radio. I had my lunch.” by Colm Tóibín | London Review of Books, April 18
“I lay on the sofa in the house in Dublin and thought about things. I read a bit, but not much. I found that I had no interest in listening to music. For the next three months, I would not need to shave. My eyebrows would thin out but not disappear. The hair on my head would more or less go. The hair on the rest of my body remained in place until towards the end of the chemo, when it faded away. It took a long time to grow back. In that first week after chemo I lost any desire to eat or drink, and I lost all sense of taste. Instead, my sense of smell became acute. For the next few months, on the street, I could smell everyone’s perfume or aftershave or deodorant. It became confusing and surprising. In the house, when I was upstairs, I could smell any food in the kitchen even when there was nothing cooking. I could smell the soot in the chimney.”