“More or Less” by Caleb Crain | n+1, November 15, 2019
She walked ahead of him into the shadows. Two beds stood draped with thin coverlets, like two coffins on a tarmac. The man felt on the wall behind him for a light switch but before he could find it, the door swung to, and for a few seconds they were in the dark, their eyes unadjusted, immobilized by their blindness.
“Gah Men” by Rachel Heng | Guernica, November 20, 2019
The island is forty-two kilometers across and thirty kilometers wide, fringed by waxy green jungle leaking into muddy sea. Between land and water is a rich brown swamp, a thick strip of burping soil. The swamp is filled with mangroves, their roots growing upwards, poking through the dense squelching mud like hundreds of tiny arms reaching towards the sky. A foreigner might compare this scene to that of the rivers of Hell. But to those who live on the island, they are mangrove roots and nothing more, a necessity in wet oxygen-poor earth.
“The Ground is Wet and I am Light” by Leah Newsom | PANK, Fall/Winter 2019
The yard is seeping and the dog is panting. Birds fly down from wherever they usually hide and pick at the puddles, all the little bugs that live in the ground. Everything flooding up. Sweet oils from the creosote fill the air. You used to pick creosote twigs and hide them in the sun visor of my car. So it will always smell like rain, you told me. Then, when the sun glared into my eyes, I’d pull the visor down and be showered with dried, cracking leaves.
“Waiting for Jubilee” by Laura Steadham Smith | Beloit Fiction Journal, November 29, 2019
But Monday morning I drive to Bayou la Batre anyway, maybe because I am a good son, or maybe because my wife is pregnant, or maybe because I own a seafood market and I don’t know what else to do. I wake early, leave Molly bunched under the covers, her knees pulled up as close as her belly will allow. She is six months along, her stomach firm and large. I kiss her cheek, and she stirs but doesn’t wake. Her blonde hair lies in ropes across the pillow. She has left tiny lists all over her bedside table. Post-It notes about job applications, grocery lists, cleaning chores. I grab a handful, think about throwing them away, but then I place them back on the table, by an old cup rimmed from red tea. It’s how she relaxes, by getting clutter outside her head. I go to my truck, parked behind our rental house, and I cross the bay. The water is calm and glassy. The sun is yellow and hot in my rearview mirror, close above the dark trees shrinking on the eastern shore. Ahead, Mobile’s office buildings stand tall and clean.
“In Residence” by Catherine Wong | Shenandoah, Fall 2019
On Fridays, sometimes my parents call while I am still outside general surgery. The halls are lined with unused machines, and I take all their calls by the same empty bedside, leaned up on the rail and absently smoothing the sheets. Occasionally I have thought about changing my number, but in the end I always answer, our conversations leaden and awkward. Rebecca, they say, we went to church today, or we bought more tomatoes, or we cooked pasta and defrosted meatballs for dinner and deep-cleaned the carpet under the bed. That’s nice, I say sometimes, or really?, and then before the silence weighs too heavily, I hang up.
Curated by Nicole VanderLinden