Becoming Food

By Elizabeth Duffy

13430047155_25a7d296d1_zAt five a.m. this morning, my husband woke me while taking money from my wallet to buy donuts for himself and our fourth child who was to accompany him to the lumberyard. He was buying wood to build a picnic table and a couple of porch swings.

My husband shouldn’t be driving a car. He shouldn’t be making things with wood yet. He had shoulder surgery several weeks ago, and at this point, his arm should be immobilized ninety percent of the time. He’s on short-term disability, home from work for an entire month, and he’s bored silly, so immobilization couldn’t last. It barely lasted a week.

Now he’s making furniture and renovating the storm windows. If he gets on a ladder, I’ll scream. And that should stop him. I think it really will.

It’s been interesting having him home all day. For the first week I gave him sponge baths, made him eggs, brought him entertainments, and took leisurely walks with him in the park. It was heaven. I thought I might amputate his legs, and keep him here with me all the time as my special patient. How delightful it was to serve, to experience his gratitude and dependency. [Read more...]

I Found Him at Subway

By John Bryant

subwayI found him at Subway, an old man in a brown jacket, boots, jogging pants, standing in the small space between the table and deli counter.

He shut his eyes so he could hide himself under them, in a place where the cold and his age couldn’t find him. Eyes closed tight so he wouldn’t fall out of his eyes and land in the Subway, in his body, like a fish flopping in a bucket. There was no one else there. I stood in the silence he’d made in the room.

His face relaxed as he fell all the way into himself, the only place inside him that was bigger and quieter than the restaurant and his entire life. It was his peace.

He stood under a jet of warm air when the Subway heater came on. He lifted his face toward the ceiling as the warm air pulled the damp out of his coat and asked him gently to return to who he was when he was eighty and dirty and in a Subway. His lips searched the heat until they became a smile. He opened his eyes and found me looking at him. [Read more...]

Dancing with Zoe

8320352035_4a05a492f4_zBy Tali Rose Treece

Every day as I walked to school I saw them through the window: eating lunch, playing games, laughing. After a semester of passing by that window, I stopped one day and walked through the door.

“What can I do for you?” asked the woman at the front desk.

“I’m wondering if you’re hiring,” I said.

“We are! Fill out this application.”

The next day I was called in for an interview and after a short talk I had the job: Therapy Technician for developmentally disabled people.

While I was training for the job, I met Danielle, who cussed compulsively; Chelsea, a teenage girl with a cleft pallet and a ton of attitude; Peter, a seven-year-old with autism who could figure out any tune on the piano.

Then there was Zoe. She had clown lips, spreading wide over a gap-toothed smile. Her brown skin was dotted with acne, her nose was wide, and her small hands were gnarled like old tree branches. [Read more...]

Thou Shalt Not Kill Time: The Ethics of Storytelling

9109573902_47916587a7_zBy Daniel Taylor

Is The Great Gatsby a crime novel? (There’s a murder.) Crime and Punishment? (It’s in the title.) Moby Dick? (Oh the whales!) People like to make distinctions between mystery, crime, and detective fiction. But what’s the essence of a good mystery? What are the boundaries of what constitutes a crime? How narrowly professional or intentional does a character have to be to be considered a detective? And how do any of the novels in this loose genre relate to literary fiction?

I ask these questions because I have published a novel this year (Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Slant) that finds itself located in a genre that I do not myself read or know much about. It makes me a bit uneasy.

I spent much of my life reading and teaching literary fiction. My most significant exposure to genre fiction was traipsing around small English bookshops with John Wilson (Books and Culture) many years ago looking for used copies of Georges Simenon novels.

Have I written a mystery/crime/detective novel? Can it make any claims to being literary? Does it matter? [Read more...]

The Embarrassed Samaritan

12352928935_7eae7d4b9d_zBy Bradford Winters

No doubt it was one of the more truly mortifying episodes I have ever experienced.

Right up there with the time my freshman year in college when, alone at a table in the quiet library, I thought I had successfully suppressed a particularly insistent bout of dorm-food gas; but so strained was the effort that when I relaxed prematurely there erupted what must have struck others in the library as the boldest fart in human history.

At least in that instance I could keep on reading Plato and not break my gaze as if nothing had happened, as if the shock of dumbstruck students at the periphery of my vision on both sides was altogether unfounded.

But this time there was no pretending otherwise.

There was a book in my hand, yes, as there was in the hands of many others on the subway when he boarded, a man who in addition to perhaps being homeless was certainly mentally handicapped, and possibly even drunk. Whatever the extent of his plight, it was impossible to understand the details given his garbled speech. But it was obvious what he wanted, even if he hadn’t thought to bring an empty cup for the occasion.

And while I could have kept on reading, as many others did and I sometimes do as well, the moment I looked up his eyes met mine from down the aisle in the crowded car. The glancing exchange lasted no more than a second. But when the hurtling train took a turn and shifting bodies blocked his eye line, he stepped aside to resume the desperate connection with a crooked smile and eyebrows raised like question marks: Yes? You? [Read more...]