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Fiction: 2010s

Fiction of the Day

Nothing to Declare

By Richard Ford

All the senior partners were having a laugh about a movie they’d seen. Forty-Five Years. Something, something about the movie taking forty-five years to sit through. The woman McGuinness thought he recognized was in it with them at the far end of the long table. Leaning in, as if hearing everything for the second time. “Miss Nail!” they were calling her. “What do you say, Miss Nail? Tell us.” Laughing. He didn’t know what it was about.

Last Rites

By Anuk Arudpragasam

It was a little past four in the afternoon, the light softer now and more diffuse, the intensity of the day’s heat beginning to wane, and standing by himself in a corner of the garden Krishan was observing the people gathered in Rani’s house for the funeral, somewhat unnerved, after his long and meditative journey, by how quickly he’d found himself in this place so different from his point of origin, this setting that, despite conforming to all his abstract expectations, had nevertheless managed to catch him off guard. The sense of calm, peaceful self-containment he’d felt on the train had remained with him on the bus during the quiet, two-hour ride from the Kilinochchi station, and it had persisted too on his walk from the bus stop, as he made his way slowly and leisurely along the network of paths that ran through the noticeably deserted village. The properties on either side of the lanes were marked off by low fences of dried palm fronds thatched together with wire and rope, most of them fronted by small, well-cultivated gardens, each with its own little vegetable plot and an assortment of trees—drumstick, banana, coconut, curry leaf, as well as others he couldn’t identify. The houses themselves were simple and unadorned, the larger concrete ones containing two or three rooms, the smaller ones consisting of mud walls and thatched roofs and no more than a single all-purpose hall. He’d taken his time noting and regarding everything he passed, as if he’d come for no other reason than to discover what effect the surroundings had on the trajectory of his thoughts, and it was only as he turned into the lane where Rani’s house was located, as he heard the low, irregular beat of funeral drums rising up from the end of the lane, that he began to realize his journey was over, that he’d finally arrived at his destination. He wondered suddenly how he should comport himself, what he should say to Rani’s daughter when they met, how he could give her his grandmother’s money without drawing attention to himself, questions he’d had the whole day to consider but had avoided thinking about till then. Approaching the house he saw first the band of drummers standing just behind the palm-leaf fence, four men aloof from everyone else in the garden, looking at one another intently as they rapped the small, flat, beautifully constructed drums that hung from their necks—members, he knew, even if nobody talked about it, of one of the most oppressed castes in the northeast.

Karolina

By Laura van den Berg

I first saw Karolina outside the Sumesa on the corner of Avenidas Oaxaca and Álvaro Obregón. She was smoking a stubby cigarette, a sled-like backpack hitched to her shoulders. I stopped short, felt my heart lurch. Could it be? Karolina was my brother’s ex-wife; they’d divorced five years ago, in Seattle, and I’d not seen her since. Right before their divorce, she had gone missing for fifteen days, an event still marked by dread and shame. The second time I saw her was by the bus stop on Avenida Michoacán. The third sighting was in Parque México, late at night. I had decided to walk back from a work dinner in Roma Sur to the hotel because I was having trouble sleeping and a long walk before bed—tracing the park’s serpentine paths, imagining the alertness being drained from my body one step at a time—seemed like a preemptive strike against insomnia. The dog run was empty except for a young man throwing a tennis ball for a German shepherd. The owner was wearing sunglasses, despite the hour. I was just past the run, in the thick green center of the park, when I came upon Karolina asleep on a bench, squeezing her giant backpack like a lover. 

Foxes

By Kimberly King Parsons

What’s worth happening happens in deep woods. Or so my daughter tells me. 

Her plotlines: In the deep woods someone is chasing, someone else is getting hacked. Hatchets are lifted, brought downdowndown. Men stutter blood onto snow. A cast of animals—some local, some outlandish—show up to feast on the bits. “The bitty bits,” she’ll say, “the tasty remainderings.” Good luck diverting her. Good luck correcting or getting a word in once she gets going. It’s gruesome, but this type of storytelling, I’ve been assured, is perfectly normal among children her age.

 

Guests

By Mary Terrier

The month after our mother died, our father began bringing women home. It felt like a behind-her-back kind of operation. “I’m going to have a guest over tonight,” is what he would say. 

David and I stayed out in the living room, turned up cartoons, burned toast, kicked our feet up over our heads. I worked long division. At some point a woman would emerge to drink a glass of water or fix her hair in the kitchen window’s dark reflection.

The guests left behind nubs of lipstick in gold tubes and leftover food, paper pouches of cold french fries, chicken legs in clamshell Styrofoam boxes. They left tampons blooming through toilet paper in the trash can, like tiny mice they’d killed, the cotton tails pink with blood.