January 11, 2013 | by Evan S. Connell
Our great contributor Evan Connell died this week. His best-loved novel, Mrs. Bridge, began as a short story in the Fall 1955 issue of The Paris Review. See below for the full text.
The black Lincoln that Mr. Bridge gave her on her forty-seventh birthday was a size too long and she drove it as cautiously as she might have driven a locomotive. People were always blowing their horns at her or turning their heads to stare when they went by. The Lincoln was set to idle too slowly and in consequence the engine sometimes died when she pulled up at an intersection, but as her husband never used the Lincoln and she herself assumed it was just one of those things about automobiles, the idling speed was never adjusted. Often she would delay a line of cars while she pressed the starter button either too long or not long enough. Knowing she was not expert she was always quite apologetic when something unfortunate happened, and did her best to keep out of everyone’s way. She changed into second gear at the beginning of any hill and let herself down the far side much more slowly than necessary.
Usually she parked in a downtown garage where Mr. Bridge rented a stall for her. She had only to honk at the enormous doors, which would then trundle open, and coast on inside where an attendant would greet her by name, help her out, and then park the formidable machine. But in the country club district she parked on the street, and if there were diagonal stripes she did very well, but if parking was parallel she had trouble judging her distance from the curb and would have to get out and walk around to look, then get back in and try again. The Lincoln’s seat was so soft and Mrs. Bridge so short that she had to sit very erect in order to see what was happening ahead of her. She drove with arms thrust forward and gloved hands tightly on the large wheel, her feet just able to depress the pedals all the way. She never had serious accidents but was often seen here and there being talked to by patrolmen. These patrolmen never did anything partly because they saw immediately that it would not do to arrest her, and partly because they could tell she was trying to do everything the way it should be done. When parking on the street it embarrassed her to have people watch, yet there always seemed to be someone at the bus stop or lounging in a doorway with nothing to do but stare while she struggled with the wheel and started jerkily backward. Sometimes, however, there would be a nice man who, seeing her difficulty, would come around and tip his hat and ask if he might help.Read More »
May 2, 2012 | by Clancy Martin
The Milan Review—or, to give it its proper title, The Milan Review of the Universe—is an egregiously handsome literary magazine published in English, in Milan, under the editorship of the improbably named Tim Small. The second issue includes work by some of our own favorites, among them Amie Barrodale, Chiara Barzini, Francesco Pacifico, Lynne Tillman, and, not least, Clancy Martin, whose story the Milanese have kindly let us reprint below, in a spirit of international fraternità, and in light of the patchy trans-Atlantic distribution that our two journals have in common. Auguri! —Lorin Stein
Randy knocked on my door and when I opened it I expected he would attack me with the tennis racket in his hand. I had only bought pot from him before. He had no reason to hate me. But in his mind I am a rich white person.
“Emily’s not home,” I said. Emily is my girlfriend and I suspect, though do not know, that she has had sex with Randy at least once, or perhaps lots of times. He is younger and lither than I am. Probably better hung.
“She’s not home?”
“Right.” I kept my eyes on the racket. Also on his eyes, because you can anticipate a blow that way. Everyone narrows his eyes and looks where he’s going to hit you before he strikes. This is the first lesson of boxing.
“She promised she’d buy this racket from me. I got this racket special. From my daughter.”
Randy, Emily had told me, had a high school–age daughter who was expected by many people to be the next Serena Williams. She lived with her mother in the Bronx and was sponsored by Puma. I noticed the tennis racket had a broken string. Emily was hiding in the bedroom all this time and had instructed me to tell Randy that she was out. I could not decide whether that was reassuring or suspicious.
Emily had had her infidelities.
“How much does she owe you for the racket?”
I took the racket from his hand which he gave me without hesitation, although he looked down and away from me when he said, “Thirty dollars,” which meant he was lying. Probably he had told her he would give her the racket for free. But who knew what more tangible price she had promised to pay. Perhaps eagerly.
I briefly considered beating Randy on the face, head and shoulders with the very light and surely durable racket. We have tile in our stairwell and blood would mop up easily without staining. Randy was not the type to come back with a gun. That would be the last we’d ever see of him. I should have done it. Read More »
January 23, 2012 | by Ricardo Sumalavia
Translated by Daniel Alarcón.
In the months before the end of my last year of high school, I began working in the afternoons at a small printing press. My mother was not opposed. I was friendly with the owner as well as his wife, an enormous and attractive woman who visited my house now and then so my mother could cut her hair or dye it in whatever color current style demanded. I learned the publishing trade with the enthusiasm of one who hoped to see his own poems in print one day. For the time being, I was only in charge of placing letters of lead type, and I was always careful not to get them out of order, so that I wouldn’t have to place them all again, line by line, as tended to happen whenever Señora Leonor, the owner’s wife, came by the print shop. Her presence was always a bit unsettling to me, and she was well aware of this. I suspect she had always known it, even before I did, ever since I was a child, when I didn’t understand the transitory pleasure that came from brushing against her legs or her hips on the pretext of playing with my little cars, before I was sent out to the patio, leaving Señora Leonor and that smile that would electrify me years later in her husband’s print shop. If her visits were sporadic, it only made the effect more disconcerting: an unease that I tried to pour into my adolescent poems, to be transferred later onto an old plank of wood in the composition box that I kept hidden beneath the other work of the day—that is, if my shame didn’t force me to undo it all. Read More »
December 30, 2011 | by Tallis Eng
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
When I was in high school, the few friends I had all lived in other states—the far-flung gains of various summer camps—which meant that I took a lot of long train trips on weekends. On these rides, I developed the habit of sitting next to a very specific kind of stranger: a middle-aged man who looked lonely. The goal was to find someone who’d talk nonstop. That was how I met Tom Malone: on the train from New York to Raleigh. Over the course of the eight-hour journey, he talked about everything from his government job to his pit bull’s separation anxiety. He told me he used to braid his ex-wife’s hair every night, back when they were married. He explained in detail the reasons Amtrak’s business model was bound to fail. He said my name a lot, and with formality: “Here’s the thing, Jean,” and so on.
I’d never felt safer in my life, sitting next to Tom—his belly like a life raft, and me nodding like a therapist. At one point though, he ruined the spell. He said, “You look exactly like that girl Lennon dated. What’s her name.”
“Yoko Ono?” I said.
“No, no, not Yoko Ono. Oh, darn it. May. May Pang? You know her? Lost weekend?” I didn’t know her. And I wanted us to go back to talking about him.
About five years ago, when I first saw the work of artist Laurel Nakadate, I could have sworn that she had cast Tom in one of her videos, which feature middle-aged, sometimes overweight, mostly white men who had approached her in the street or hit on her in parking lots. In return, she’d invited them to go home with her and act out strange one-on-one scenarios in front of video cameras. We see them shaking her inert body and yelling, “Wake up! Wake up!” or performing an exorcism, or sharing a birthday cake. In a scene from I Want to Be the One to Walk in the Sun (2006), her hirsute costar strips down to his loose-fitting underpants, while she takes off everything but her bra and panties. Then, with her index finger, she traces a clockwise circle in the air over his head. It’s a signal for him to spin around, which he does, while she watches, unblinking and tender. Read More »
December 1, 2011 | by Lou Beach
I KEEP MY FRIENDS IN A BOX under the bed, categorized and separated, secured by blue rubber bands that originally held broccoli. One day I removed the lid and saw that they had all turned into little bones. I strung them together into a long strand that I looped around and around my neck.
TURNS OUT she wasn’t really pregnant, just doing a number, needing someone to hold onto. Hell, I’ve been married four times, I sussed it out. Anyways, I cut her loose in Bismarck and got a job on a road crew. Saw a big gray wolf deep in a field of snow. He sniffed the air and was gone.
THERE IS A PLACE I visit, where no one else goes. The rocks are slippery and sharp, the drop to the dark sea below makes me dizzy. The sun never muscles its way through the gang of clouds that hover overhead shedding a mist that plasters my thin hair to my head, makes me turn up my collar. No, you can’t go with me, I don’t want a sandwich to take, thermos of hot chocolate, though your asking may keep me home.
THE FLOOR MANAGER cued him for the break. “When we return—a report on elder abuse.” He stood and stretched, sat back down when the stylist came to fix his makeup, adjust his hair. “You’re so handsome,” she whispered as she dropped two pills into his waiting hand. “You’re killing me,” he said and put his hand on her ass.
I DON’T KNOW HOW she tracked me from Bismarck. Maybe she followed my scent. Anyway I was working in Waukesha putting up vinyl siding and I look down and there she is, looking up at me with a hand on the ladder. “Hey.” “Hey.” I was still a little pissed at that pregnancy bullshit she tried to pull, but there was something about the curve of her neck and that dumbass gap-toothed grin … Read More »
November 14, 2011 | by Margaret Weatherford
One day when my father’s car overheated down in Chula Vista, he came home with beans in a can the size of an oil drum. “This is what the real Mexicans eat,” he announced. That sounded suspicious. We ate beans our mom cooked on the stove and supposed real Mexicans did the same. We gathered skeptically as my dad opened the can. “Look at these beans!” he beamed. He was ready to dig in without even heating them up. We stared into the murky depths. Nobody else wanted to try them.
One day as we headed north on Interstate 5, a radiator hose burst right by the big, hollow globe, tilting on its axis in El Toro. Two hippies hitchhiking on the on-ramp kept offering us their ten-gallon bottle of water. “Water won’t do it,” my father said. “It’ll run right through.” There was an Episcopal church there across the street, and the priest took us in for the afternoon. It was 103 degrees that day, but cool in the church. My brothers and I walked up and down the adobe halls for hours. We drank chocolate milk from cartons. The hippies and their dog and their baby and their ten-gallon bottle of water got a ride in a Volkswagen heading for Oregon, but we were there in El Toro till nightfall. I don’t know how my father fixed the car. Read More »