Fiction Pick of the Week: "The Way You Look at Me"
Marriage, infidelity, distance, and communications.
Marriage, infidelity, distance, and communications.
A Texas love story.
On the eve of their daughter's wedding, a divorced couple is confused by old feelings despite sexual identities.
Family problems and a myriad of solutions.
"I don’t know if my husband and I are on the way to church or a hangover. It is too early in the drive to tell. The first Thursday of every month, my husband’s sister comes over to watch the kids. They are too old for a sitter, but the older one keeps trying to kill herself and we don’t want to risk it. Always keep an eye on them, I tell my sister-in-law. Don’t leave them alone for a second, not even to ice a cake, organize a closet, dry the dishes, say a prayer."
Critics call it “the radio of pimps and vagina-sellers.” But a popular new call-in show is helping a generation of Afghans navigate a battlefield full of strife and confusion and fear: modern love.
Interactions and complications ensue at a Seattle wedding.
Vampire movies, sex tapes, aging, and complicated relationships: new fiction from the great Kelly Link.
"It’s not much fun, telling a ghost story while you’re naked. Telling the parts of the ghost story that you’re supposed to tell. Not telling other parts. While the woman you love stands there with the person you used to be."
A woman's life is complicated by a sick lover and a job playing Bigfoot.
"I wait for the woman to relax, watching for the instant when she begins to think: maybe there won’t be a monster after all. I can always tell when this thought arrives. First their posture goes soft. Then their expression changes from confused to relieved to disappointed. More than anything, the ambush is about waiting the customer out. I struggle to stay in character during these quiet moments; it’s tempting to consider my own life and worries, but when the time comes to attack, it will only be believable if I’ve been living with Bigfoot’s loneliness and desires for at least an hour."
Human emotions and contact in the far future.
"Ethan begins moonlighting at the touch center on weekday mornings. Off-peak hours. He robo-cabs it there and back alone. Still, working there is a leap from the isolation of his apartment, and it’s the first time he’s felt inspired in years. He knows he’s not handsome by conventional standards, but he can give a mean hug and they never have enough guys to work at places like this anyway."
A story of bird and human patterns.
"Rose is nothing without him because difference defines everything. The eyes of the Cooper’s hawk are closer to the front of the head than the sharp-shinned hawk. The downy woodpecker’s bill is small relative to its head while the hairy woodpecker’s bill is long and thick. House finches are more slender than purple finches. When she finds his hairs scattered on the pillow, they are straight, black pins while hers are bright, red commas."
A tale of small town love and loss; a summer tale for the last official weekend of summer.
"Do you love her? Those things are kind of hard to know. For me, anyway. My mom died when I was four and my dad never met anyone else, at least, not anyone that made him want to try again. I never got to watch him love, and so it feels like that part of me is broken. I know how to ride a bike, how to fry an egg sunnyside-up, how to thread a worm on a hook, but I don’t know when someone says I love you if they mean it or if they just want me to lie back in the grass and hike up my skirt."
Two shorts about cowboys, love, and unhappiness.
"We’d been too young, too passionate. We lived wearing blinders: we only saw each other. After pay days, we had nothin’ left but a few dollars for a six pack and a pack of smokes, but that’s all we needed. We’d sit on the back porch, drinking and smoking, watching evening fall. And once it got dark, we’d go inside, make love, have a drink and another smoke, and then make love again."
"I drove past Low’s house, saw his truck out front. I didn’t slow down. My body ached, I prayed for rain—a purple-blue tempest, lightning slicing sky."
The memories of rock stars’ ex-lovers.
Two lovers, a new home, a repeating cycle.
"That night, I will dream a dream of trains, and of the sound of waves. I will dream that I am the woman searching for something lost. I will dream the man’s dream, and walk into the night alone, guided by the moon. The earth is cool under my feet. It is summer. I can smell the light from the sun that has left the trees. I am knee-deep in the swaying ferns. They are so tall I only have to bend a little to reach them with my fingertips, and then I let my legs fold under me, and I lie down in the ferns. I close my eyes and listen to the ferns, try to understand their secret whispers. When I open my eyes again, the ferns begin to blossom, their fragile white petals bright against the night sky."
Dodging bill collectors, a couple stops at a motel on their way to Tennessee.
"See, Faye was an absolute saint of a woman. Kind, funny, understanding to a fault, but she was young, eight years my junior, and she lacked a certain seriousness about her. Everything to her was solvable, temporary, and the gravity of our situation - how much we'd fucked things up, how much we owed, and what a general shit-storm we were in - didn't seem to bother her for a second. Being with her then was like looking down one day and realizing you were sporting a fancy convertible when what you needed was a four-door sedan."
A disenchanted academic attends a wedding.
"In the mail, you receive one letter. In between walking the Labrador retriever, attending meetings, and planting trees in disadvantaged parks, a friend has found the time to get engaged. You are invited to the wedding. You are not sure how you feel about this or whether you will have the emotion to attend. Lately, you are forgetting what it is like to be human. Someone has replaced your body with a poor working contraption. It comes upon you when you are wound up in the phone cord, fumbling in your pockets for the sympathy you used to think you had. Who is this new cruel person who listens to the exploits of kittens and puppies like a broker making transactions on the stock market? Your friends are concerned. Somehow, you have forgotten what it is like to be around other people. Your psychiatrist says it comes from a lifetime of observing people and never interacting, but you also suggest it has something to do with spending inordinate amounts of time with dead philosophers in an academic environment."
A deserting Civil War soldier sets out for home.
"As he approached Jacob Story’s farm, Benjamin saw that the corn stood dark and high. No hard frost or gullywasher had come. The signs held true, not only for the corn but the beans and tobacco. Smoke rose from Jacob’s chimney. Noon-dinner time already, he thought. Benjamin followed the trailway through a stand of silver birch, straddled a split-rail fence, placed one foot on his land and then the other. He had hoped Emma would be in the cabin. That way he could step onto the porch, open the door, and stroll in no differently than he would coming from a field or the barn. Benjamin wanted their separation to seem that way, he wanted to never speak of the war or their months apart. He wanted it to become nothing more than a few dark moments, like a lantern carried through a cabin’s low door."
Tensions eat away at a relationship between a musician and his girlfriend.
"Something in her cadence caught my attention. What if…? I imagined the bass line with a new syncopation, a little shift in the rhythm that might liven the song. I ran the part in my head, but I wanted the instrument in my hands, to be certain. Somehow, Anna had wound up at the pier, although it would have been out of her way."
Young love in an rural American town is beset by ominous setbacks.
"The only person he could make out was Reverend Kelly, a traveling preacher from England. He sat by a lamp, which illuminated his sharp cheekbones and pointy nose, his sagging mouth formed into a smirk. And those beady eyes. Willie didn’t like the way he’d seen those eyes following Lena around earlier in the night."
A series of one-sided international love letters.
"I want to frame those first three months I was in Paris with you, and that month last year in Morocco. I want to hang it next to the wooden clock on the wall above my bed. Those hot nights of waiting, talking, making love with our words on Rue D’Aboukir. Waiting for you to return to my fourth-floor apartment with ice cubes for the Martini Rossato and the loud love making that would follow next to paper thin walls where I could hear the neighbours cough. Paper-thin walls never mattered in that hotel room in Morocco. Calling out 'Oui', bent over the bed and the knock of the chamber maid on the door."
A fragile relationship teeters during a family vacation.
"At the restaurant, I enjoy myself for the first time the whole trip: I try fried plantains and sopapillas, washing them down two real margaritas (made from tequila and lime; that’s pretty much it). There is a live band, and Inez pulls Alan up to dance. Her hips have probably never been told no. Erik and I watch from the table. He holds a hand out to me and raises an eyebrow. I shake my head."
A new boyfriend complicates the creative and personal relationship of two teenage musicians.
"I was asking if she had figured out the fifth part because we had worked on three or four different versions, and John said all our music talk was boring. Kenna looked at him for a second, and I could tell she was annoyed, but she wasn’t going to do anything about it. He was limiting her. The old Kenna might have dumped his Denver Scramble on his head. She just made a face."
Misguided love sustains a groundskeeper through multiple deaths and decades.
"Murdering all those Emmetts had been especially hard on Archibald who was never adept at taking the lives of non-gazelles, however plentiful those lives might be. He grew more and more ill as the Emmetts came and dropped. He became increasingly fearful of silence and the dark, spending hundreds in oil to keep the house bathed in flickering light, a whole house drowning in amber. He’d taken to leaving tarpaulins up on the walls for when the Emmetts arrived so he could minimize his cleanup time, but as he spiraled deeper into paranoia he neglected to scrub them, and they wriggled blackly with flies. With an eye to hygiene, he had once tried strangling an Emmett, but this had proved too horrific for him to bear."
Two friends find solace in sexual escapades while struggling with their own fragile connection.
"The four of us ended up in the bathroom—Darlene and Viktor in the claw foot, me and Illia in the shower. I tried to tell my guy he had the same first name as a favourite figure skater, but language was restricted to bodies only. Still wet, the Russians left scrambling to the airport. Dar and I woke hours later, a tangled two, and walked out of my bedroom to a small balcony that overlooked a maze of alleyway garages. We recounted the day and the night before, before she left."
Diary entries concerning innocent Americans abroad.
</blockquote><p>“Our conversation continues!
He is come to tell me I may lunch with him, the progress of my new composition permitting—but immediately he sees I have not moved, not even to dress myself, or put pen to paper.
You have a look of puzzlement on your face, little Lotte! he says, and again, I fear he is about to laugh.
Indeed, sir, I do! I said. Because I am puzzled! Greatly puzzled!
Look! he cried. She gesticulates! You are perhaps at heart una italiana!”</p></blockquote>