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Melissa Duclos: “Expats,” an adaptation from the novel Besotted


Love didn’t run around Shanghai at night, searching the faces reflected in plate glass for someone she used to know. Love didn’t let her feet get dusty, couldn’t tolerate the creep of grime up her shins, the slick of puddles on her soles. When Love stood quite still, as she so often did, she could feel the pull of mountains and rivers and half-constructed skyscrapers and eight lane highways and movie theaters and the quiet parks with their untouched grass circling around her bowed head.

I wasn’t scared of Love; we’d just never met. I hadn’t spent the past ten years wondering why Love had shunned me, though; I knew it was my fault. I’d been closed up, balled tight like a fist. Of course, the men I’d fucked over the years probably wouldn’t have described me that way. But wasn’t that the point? They didn’t even know what they weren’t getting. They didn’t know anything.

But something about Liz had forced an opening. It’s not what I expected when her résumé popped up in my inbox, or when I forwarded it along to Principal Wu. Or when she finally arrived and I took her to her first happy hour, offered her my extra room.

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Vic Sizemore: “A Fisher of Men,” an excerpt from Seekers


Caleb is in his dorm room early in the morning, still feeling the weightless high of having been set free of his besetting sin of homosexuality. He is under his covers, reading his Bible for morning devotions in the yellow spotlight from his bedside lamp. He has decided to read through the whole Bible, not in one year like most people do it, but as fast as he can, letting the Lord use it to speak to him as He sees fit. Caleb is already in Jeremiah 31. Today he reads from verse 27 to the end of the chapter, Jeremiah’s prophecy about the new covenant, one of the heart, not the flesh, the one we know from Hebrews 8 is the very one Jesus initiated.

He goes back and rereads verse 34 several times over, to meditate on it: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Caleb rejoices in this promise. He prays and thanks God for forgiving his iniquity, for remembering his sin no more.

If only he could do the same.

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John Guzlowski: “Village of Cold Houses,” an Excerpt from Road of Bones


The German soldier stepped away from the house and toward the wooden fence that surrounded it. The moon was full, and the shadows longer and crisper now. He loosened his ragged muffler. The wind had stopped blowing. It was good not to feel the hard snow tearing at his face.

He placed his gloved hands on the pickets of the fence.

The world was quiet, the sounds frozen in the cold air.

A man could think in a world like this, but did he want to? Thinking was remembering, and there was little that Hans wanted to remember about this village. The skinny man with the moustache that Grass stabbed in the chest with his bayonet? The grandfather Weitz had killed? That old man’s crab-like scurrying across the floor? His gray stubbled throat? His curse about fucking your mother? Did Hans want to remember almost strangling him?

He had known men who looked him in the eye and told him that it was hard to kill another person. They told him about the laws of church and country, about what the priests and teachers talk about, and what his mother and his father taught him about being good when he was a child, a boy. They told him about how God had put something in him that let him know what was good and right, and what was bad and wrong. Man had that knowledge in his blood and his heart and his soul, and he was born to listen to it.

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Marlene Olin: “The Maid of the Mist” a Story from a Collection In Progress

The dream was always the same. Sunlight from the window threw a yellow cone on the floor. She stood as if on a theater stage. Her back was to her students, a chalky hand scurrying up and down the blackboard like a mouse. The names Herrick, Suckling, Carew, Lovelace were columned like a grocery list. Then a man’s voice, an Elizabethan lilt, Burbage perhaps. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!…Shifting her feet, mumbling, writing, enveloped in a tornado of dust motes, her hand gyrated in cursive loops until she was through.

Only then would she turn her head to face the class. Her heart lurched at the very thought, the very moment of that pivot, the second her dream turned into something else. For instead of looking at a sea of thirty acned and awkward high school seniors, she gazed at a group of geriatric patients. Wheelchairs, walkers, papery skin. Noses plugged with plastic tubes.

She would wake up vibrating with shock. An arm would violently salute, a foot would jerk. Her entire body trembled with fear and recognition, a visual montage of her future and her past.

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Carole Rosenthal: “News from the Past,” a novel excerpt from The Goldie Files


 Everyone dies, everyone kicks the bucket, spills the milk. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the milk bucket with a clang and in 1871 the city of Chicago went up in flames. The whole rickety wooden city. A kerosene lamp had ignited the hay. His mother told him that story. Now she was dead. And he was rickety. An old man, flammable–dried-out timber with an inflamed heart. He shuddered, imagining his heart popping its husk, or incinerating. Hellfire! Stop! He couldn’t stop imagining death. The whine from a heart monitor across the hospital hallway had awakened him out of his dreams.

Oy, gut in nu, he had too many dreams.

Why flames? He didn’t believe in hell. Hell was life, this life you actually live. Sartre said that. No exit. He wasn’t ready to exit. Not most of the time. Sheol, the Hebrew word for Hell, always too vague in his mother’s explanation, meant “the grave,” a pit of gloom and darkness. No flames. Flames were the Christian idea, the conversion of sheol to Hades. “In Judaism, every dead person waits in sheol, good and evil, until the Messiah comes,” his mother said. “Must be stuffy and crowded down there,” he joked until the one time when his childish tease made her cry. She died that year. He’d been raised later by strangers. An orphan. He couldn’t stop thinking about her though. He imagined her crouching in sheol with random people from history, all eras, speaking different languages, puzzled, unable to understand. That was like life too. Who understood anybody?

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Randy Nelson: “Someone from the North,” an Excerpt from The Duplicate Daughter


There was little to suggest that the building had once been a school. Its gray stone remains looked like an ancient man, half combed and barely buttoned, now flaking bit by bit into the grave. At one end of the main hallway a staircase had come undone, folding like an accordion, its handrails dangling into space. There was also a crumbling pile of debris in the stairwell itself, where a metal corrugation jutted upward at an absurd angle. From a distance it looked as though the north end of the school had been jammed against its neighboring mountain with such force that boulders and shale had become part of the architecture.

On the afternoon that the stranger came, twelve year old Mía was perching at her window, a dusky hiding place among broken rafters in the attic of the school. She leaned into the southernmost gable studying black-throated sparrows in the trees below. From there she could see the dry fountain in the plaza, the pathway to the gray-green valley floor, and the road that cut through the next range of mountains. She imagined that it was thousands of miles to the scattering of buildings in the distance, but her friend Quentin had told her no. That it wasn’t even a village, just another mining camp. But who could know? Quentin was five years older than Mía, seventeen and boastful, quick to dismiss daydreams and the romance of make-believe worlds.

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