A new neighbor's arrival highlights old and quiet problems.
The New Yorker
An Iraq War veteran, now a paramedic, runs into trouble.
"I rewarded the man with another hit of naloxone, which made him even more alive, even less happy. Karen was busy with the gear, and I thought for sure that the coast was clear. It wasn’t. As soon as I put the note in my pocket, I saw the boy. He stood in the doorway, watching me with a basically impassive expression. He chewed his gum. He blew a splendid bubble."
Strange beasts reenact scenes and memories from a woman's childhood.
"In the kitchen, the beast was pushing onions around in a pan. It glanced up, not minding me at all. I could hear a rustling sound just around the corner, where our kitchen table used to be, like the sound of my sister doing her homework or cutting pictures out of magazines. There was a small beast doing exactly that, holding a pair of red plastic scissors, snipping out pictures of animals. She was arranging the cutouts on the table: a cow, a giraffe, two dogs, and a bear."
A single mother and her children attend an Alaskan cruise ship magic show.
"The magician from Luxembourg did his tricks, which seemed more sophisticated than those of his predecessors. Maybe because they involved roses? Before him there had been merely carnations. The roses, this was a step up. Women holding roses appeared in boxes, boxes on wheels, and the man from Luxembourg turned these boxes around and around. Then he opened the boxes, and the women were not there; they were somewhere else. Behind screens! In the audience!"
A divorcee attempts to get back on his feet.
"Ira had been a married man for fifteen years, a father for eight (poor little Bekka, now rudely transported between houses in a speedy, ritualistic manner resembling a hostage drop-off), only to find himself punished for an idle little nothing, nothing, nothing flirtation with a colleague, punished with his wife’s full-blown affair and false business trips (credit-union conventions that never took place) and finally a petition for divorce mailed from a motel. Observing others go through them, he used to admire midlife crises, the courage and shamelessness and existential daring of them, but after he’d watched his own wife produce and star in a fabulous one of her own he found the sufferers of such crises not only self-indulgent but greedy and demented, and he wished them all weird unnatural deaths with various contraptions easily found in garages."
Why a decades-long string of murders near the Mexican border has gone unsolved.
On F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, a repost from 2012:In this previously-unpublished Fitzgerald story, a saleswoman wants a cigarette, and perhaps encounters something more profound.
"Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road."
A day in the life of a child in 1960s England.
"Carrie’s father was studying, in the evenings and on weekends, for a degree in politics, but on the day of a party he had to leave his books and submit to the different laws of the female domain, obeying the instructions that his wife rapped out, vacuuming and tidying, setting up the drinks tray. She followed impatiently after him, because he had no feeling for arranging the cushions or the flowers; he thought these things were not worth having a feeling for. The children exchanged sly looks and jokes with their father behind their mother’s back, conspiring against her remorselessness. But as soon as the guests arrived she relaxed into smiles, as if that other, sterner self had never existed."