Stories by Aimee Bender, Rick Moody, Patrick deWitt, Matt Sumell, and Jenny Offill
In our third anthology, Aimee Bender introduces us to a young woman unable to summon the desire to sleep with her husband without payment in cash, Matt Sumell’s protagonist feels capable of anything but can save no one, Rick Moody charts the rise an fall of a romance via Twitter, Patrick deWitt presents a bleak, funny tale of two movers who are going nowhere, and Jenny Offill chronicles the awkward vigil of a man caring for his terminally ill ex-wife.
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“The Red Ribbon” by Aimee Bender
When she left the store, receipt tucked into her purse, folded twice, emboldened, Janet thought of all the chicken dishes she had not sent back even though they were either half-raw or not what she had ordered. Chicken Kiev instead of Chicken Marsala, Chicken with Mushrooms instead of Chicken à la king: her body was made up of the wrong chickens. She remembered Daniel’s first insistent kiss by the bridge near the Greek café on that Saturday afternoon. She hadn’t thought of it in ten years and she could almost smell the schwarma rotating on its pole outside. He had asked her out again, and again, and told her he loved her on the fourth date, and bought her fancy cards inside of which he wrote long messages about her smile.
“Little Things” by Matt Sumell
I dated a chubby Catholic girl who told me her parents never touched her, that as a kid she wanted to be touched so badly she looked forward to the lice and scoliosis tests at school. I knew a guy in junior high who told everyone he owned a baby elephant; years later he murdered his stepmother by beating her head in with a can of chicken & stars soup. I saw cats, dogs, possums, raccoons, and squirrels; a fox, a kangaroo, a bear, deer, rabbits, birds, and toads; rats and mice and snakes with their guts smashed out, their insides outside, their heads crushed and dead on the sunny roadsides. My mother got cancer.
“Some Contemporary Characters” Rick Moody
“You were just waiting to condescend,” I said on the train, and I got up and moved to the other side of the car.
On the train I thought: I just held this woman, this china vase, this wolverine, and now I’m no better than the vagrant in the two-seater.
There’s a point when you can start repairing all the awful shit you said, but then you kind of dig in and say some more awful shit.
I was a social worker at a halfway house back when and I used to say to clients: when you are becoming angry you are becoming reverent.
“Reed & Dinnerstein Moving” by Patrick deWitt
The jumper was standing now, disrobing atop the bridge. He was young and white, handsome, blond, crazy-eyed. He removed his pants to reveal and abnormally large organ. “Don’t jump!” Dinnerstein said, “I can make you famous!” The jumper took of his shirt; tattooed on his stomach was a large black swastika. “Jump! Jump!”
The man did jump, though half-heartedly, ping-ponging through the rafters and crashing to the ground near the edge of the bridge. The cops were running around, coffee flying though the air. The jumper was loaded into an ambulance and Dinnerstein groaned when they wrapped him in blankets. “Did you see the pole on that baby?”
“The Tunnel” by Jenny Offill
**Named a Distinguished Story of 2010 by The Best American Short Stories**
At first, it was hard to look at her. She had those bright eyes that the dying do. They say time turns hawkish, that you feel it like a wing crossing over you.
He;d read that in a book someone left for Helen. It had a sunrise on the cover. Or maybe it was a sunset. Probably you weren’t meant to tell. The book had enraged him, not an ounce of science in it, not a feather of a fact. It was all heaven-hungry, full of soft voices and creatures made of light. Light! As if that wasn’t the one thing anyone knew. That it would be dark, dark, dark with nothing but the earth all around you. “I don’t want to be burned,” she told him years ago. Don’t let them burn me.”
Cover Artwork: Trimspa by Adam Cvijanovic
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