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On Chernobyl

An oral history of the disaster:

Someone said to me, or maybe I read it, that the problem of Chernobyl presents itself first of all as a problem of self understanding. That seemed right. I keep waiting for someone intelligent to explain it to me.

Letters of a Waste Business Man

A strange correspondence between two men--hopes, fears, work, and garbage.

"Momentous. I received my permit. Now I am equipped, attached to my own industrial serial number, and there you have it. 90023-457-89-2. I’m not fooling around when I tell you this is big business dear Fred. I could convey any thing—spoiled fruit pulp, rusted play ground equipment, big hazardous syringes, worn out shoe horns, threadbare ear muffs, passé slot machines, unwound baseballs, and emptied paint cans. Pots and pans and kettles are no big deal what so ever. In dreams begin responsibilities Fred and what’s terrific is it’s not a dream any more. I am a licensed carrier on the make."

Everywhere and Nowhere

A narrator's philosophical observations on travel.

"How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of all the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excruciating pamphlets and brochures—even the elevator buttons!—are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment, whenever they open their mouths. They must have to write things down in special codes. Wherever they are, people have unlimited access to them—they are accessible to everyone and everything! I heard there are plans in the works to get them some little language of their own, one of those dead ones no one else is using anyway, just so that for once they can have something just for themselves."

Life Savings

An old crush is remembered via childhood memories and an unusual anecdote.

"Then he began wearing pastel skateboarding-themed shirts. SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME, one said. Wallace Marguerite is not committing a crime, Stella thought. It was novel and thrilling, true whether or not he was a skateboarder. She never saw a skateboard."

The Trinity

The rise and fall of a friendship between three Indian women.

"We were goddesses. Meena, Annie, and Nayantara. Even our names were like heroines. Meena and Annie had known each other since they were 5. I met them in seventh standard. Though we never said it aloud, we knew that three beauties had more power than two or one. Like the Hindu gods. Or all those pop groups. Like the Wilson Phillips. We liked the Wilson Phillips. We pretended to like the fat one but heart of hearts we didn’t."

On Philly Schools

“It is overwhelmingly young people of color, and those who work in their schools, who will bear the brunt of these closings and witness the worst effects of the budget cuts. Over the last six months, the SDP and the state of Pennsylvania have decided, again and again, that this is acceptable.”

What Do You Desire?

The writer, entering her thirties single and adrift, heads to San Francisco to spend time with Kink.com’s Princess Donna Dolore and attend a gangbang “where all the men were dressed as panda bears.”

Temporary

A woman engages in fantastical, extreme forms of temporary employment.

"The longhaired man is named Carl, and he is something of an entrepreneur. His small murder business sits in a tidy shack not far from the water, which is convenient for dumping the bodies. Location, location, location, he says. He sounds like my real estate boyfriend. I laugh and wash his weapons every morning, adhering to the cleaning manual he developed. I am filling in for his buddy who is currently serving some time. Carl does not always pay in money, but he feeds me and gives me a place to sleep, a small cot next to his desk in the shack."