Willing

A disillusioned actress, retiring from show business, moves to the Midwest.

"And so she left Hollywood. Phoned her agent and apologized. Went home to Chicago, rented a room by the week at the Days Inn, drank sherry, and grew a little plump. She let her life get dull—dull, but with Hostess cakes. There were moments bristling with deadness, when she looked out at her life and went 'What?' Or worse, feeling interrupted and tired, 'Wha--?' It had taken on the shape of a terrible mistake. She hadn't been given the proper tools to make a real life with, she decided, that was it. She'd been given a can of gravy and a hairbrush and told, "There you go." She'd stood there for years, blinking and befuddled, brushing the can with the brush.

The Master Conjurer

A media firestorm circles around a lucky amateur magician.

"By now, the actual doing of the spell—the Clean Casting—felt like a weird dream that Peter had concocted after too many drinks. The more people made a fuss about it, the more he felt like he’d made the whole thing up. But he could still picture it. He’d gotten one of the stone spellcasting bowls they sold on late-night cable TV, and little baggies of all the ingredients, with rejected prog rock band names like Prudenceroot or Womanheart, and sprinkled pinches of them in, while chanting the nonsense syllables and thinking of his desired aim."

Understudies [Excerpt]

A celebrity moves into the neighborhood, subtly disrupting the habits of the other residents.

"We watched the actress command and coordinate the movers like a veteran general. She was dressed in clothes geared for comfort: charity t-shirt, pink sweatpants. She wasn't wearing any makeup and her hair was tied in a loose braid. Chudley was panting heavily."