Sunday, September 22, 2013

#98: "I Tell You Something" by Jessica McCaughey

~This essay was previously published in Adanna (2011).

            I misunderstand when Ming says, “This is difficult for me.” When I arrive each Monday at seven, she has been studying all weekend with only the help of her pocket-sized, electronic Chinese-English translator. By then, everything is difficult.
            I pull her Child Psychology and Development textbook toward me, noting the chapter heading: Abuse.
            “Yeah, this is sad stuff,” I say, tired from teaching all day, hoping our tutoring will end early as it sometimes does.
            “No. It’s more.” She sucks her lips into her mouth. “I tell you something. I had three children.”
            As I try to sort out the sentence in my head—I’ve met her kids, both of them, right?—she begins, so purposefully that it feels like a monologue. Practiced, although it couldn’t be. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

#97: from Bombyonder by Reb Livingston

~This piece previously appeared in Eleven Eleven (2012)

from Bombyonder

Naked, upset, nobody came for me, ever, myself naked, wept in a bathroom, naked commercial, characters like me are almost always naked, topless and mostly naked, didn’t seem to be much about a wolf, she must have been the wolf, completely naked, distracted and driving wrong, she didn’t look naked when driving, partially naked, naked with wet hair, naked with regret, naked with a hulu hoop balanced on a staircase, naked sunbath, hanging out, naked exchange, deleted pictures from my camera,

parts of this party I wouldn’t attend,

somebody dressed in dragon, the wolf sniffed the dragon, dragon confronted wolf, slapped my father because I want to slap her, intended to slap her, the trouble will start when her werewolf boyfriend shows up,

still hooked up to the machine,

playing a machine, machine spitting bills, searching for the ticket machine, a machine with more features, machine figuring enemies, machine of the impenetrable prison, downstairs with more machines, there was machine under the bed washing things, noisy, like a slot machine, we could have been trapped there, like pinball, like building a machine to wake the devil, the statue of the satanic attic, Mother murdered Rauan, he drank fruity, girly drinks and that was a good enough reason, the devil-baby was a powerful baby, wishing we killed that devil while he manifested in the fire hose, there was a dog in this house who worked for the devil and plotted against this meeting of faiths, one sneaky dog, married to the devil’s advocate, temptation, passion, frisson, we were served broiled Rauanelk and Rauan didn’t know he ate himself, the phone rang, it was the devil, the fate of rescue, the rest of the film proceeded as normal,

now you possess the information that our hero was once naked, slapping paternal figures,


Monday, September 9, 2013

#96: "Holland Breaks the Law" by Emily Jeanne Miller

~This story originally appeared in The Portland Review (2005).

John Holland isn’t sleeping well. Alone in the big white Victorian on Brooks Street, he lies awake in his wide bed, listening to the late crickets, the heat kicking on and off, the old house settling. Often, he’ll get up before sunrise and walk his dog, Zeus, up and down the tree-lined streets of the University neighborhood. In dawn’s quiet blue chill, he’ll pause as kitchen lights pop on, and catch glimpses of neighbors going about their morning routines, cooking eggs in skillets or drinking coffee by the TV.
He’s been asked to stay home from work. There’s a situation with a student at Our Lady of Victory, the girls’ school where he’s taught for over a decade. The student, a sixteen-year-old, is claiming Holland behaved inappropriately during a tutoring session in his office. And while everyone—Lyle McKnight, the principal, Howard Frackas, the Superintendent—says they’re behind Holland, one-hundred percent, they have told him he should keep his distance from the school. McKnight suggested a mile. 
It’s Friday, early. Holland is in the kitchen washing his hands and listening to the ch-ch-ch of the McNulty’s sprinklers next door, when the phone rings. He cuts off the water and reaches for a towel. It’ll be McKnight, he’s almost sure—probably wanting to go over the “facts” for what must be the fiftieth time. McKnight or maybe Holland’s wife, Carol. He pauses by the French doors: another gray day outside with storm clouds looming low in the East, over the Rattlesnake. He has nothing new to tell McKnight, and no idea where to even begin with Carol, so he lets the phone ring.
On an eggplant-colored rag rug by the stove, Zeus lies curled in a loose C. Holland squats and runs his palm over the dog’s warm belly, avoiding looking at his head. Zeus is sick—there’s a tumor the size of a gumball over his eye, and though you can’t see them, “trouble spots” on his skull and spine. This is according to Dr. Woo, the vet, who Holland knows through his weekend softball league. After games, some of the players stick around drinking beer, and one Sunday, Woo noticed Zeus’s eye didn’t look right and asked Holland to bring him in for a visit. That was two months ago. Now the tumor protrudes noticeably from the dog’s head, and his whole face, which used to cheer Holland beyond reason, has become misshapen, and frankly, scary.