The Character of Magdalen Montague

Eleanor Bourg Donlon

My dear R.,

The character of Magdalen Montague has long been considered an acceptable topic of public discourse, so I feel utterly justified in writing to you about it. The subject has, in fact, proved an invaluable stimulus to waning conversations. One has only to reference that sublimely intriguing yet eminently respectable personage, and interest is revived, animation awakened. I witnessed a singular demonstration of this phenomena the other day when I had the misfortune to meet that Medusa’s head borne on a sea of bombazine (Lady Fleming, you know). I had no idea that park lanes so readily afforded corners until I was backed into one by her formidable ugliness and assailed with political pamphlets and moral lessons. [Read more…]

Answer the Question

Matthew Mehan

Little stars flickered behind the big ones. George had seen the big ones all his life, but this was almost too much. He’d read somewhere and remembered dimly that there were maybe seven—or was it nine—layers of stars to be seen in the night sky, and here, under this indigo dome ringed with pine trees, he fancied he could guess at maybe five, six layers.

“I see seven layers of stars,” he whispered to his sister. She, too, recalled dimly something perhaps their father had told them about Greek—or maybe Egyptian—astronomers seeing multiple layers of stars. She waved an unseen mosquito away from her ear. She rustled her windbreaker by moving her head to tell her brother that she’d looked over at him or nodded or something. “Incredible.” [Read more…]

The Priest Hole

Eleanor Bourg Donlon

We have made a league… cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons.
—St. Edmund Campion,
executed at Tyburn on 17 June 1582.
Written to the Lords of her Majestie’s Privy Council.

The sky was clear save for a small cluster of clouds—more ornamental than brimming over with sinister purpose. The sun was discreet; he did not ostentatiously command the scene, but neither did he make a timid entrance and huddle close to the horizon. The leaves rustled and made merry in the trees. Nature lay complacent and unknowing in the brisk autumn air of an English countryside. [Read more…]

Viaticum

Fiorella de Maria

Maria almost fell out of the train when the automatic doors opened to let them all out. The WAGN train to London King’s Cross was always crammed full of commuters at that time of the morning, and she had stood for over an hour, unable to find enough space even to sit on the floor. When she boarded the already crowded train, a kindly-looking gentleman had stood up and chivalrously offered her…his suitcase to sit on. “Well, what do you ladies expect?” asked a young man in a pin-striped suit, who saw the look of disdain on her face and burst out laughing. “If a bloke refuses to give up his seat you girls get all offended. But if he offers it he might get knocked about the head with a handbag for being PA-TRI-AR-CHAL!” [Read more…]

Why Can’t He Be You?

Eve Tushnet 

“Oh, Nina, you haven’t signed up yet—can you take one of the,” and Dorrie was turning the clipboard toward me with her usual unhappy smile, “morning slots?”

“Sure. Where is this place?” Cigarette. Cigarette. Cigarette!

“It’s a Planned Parenthood on 17th Street. There’ll be a carpool if you want.” Cigarette, dammit! I signed up for 10 A.M. and headed outside as fast as I could. Open pack, fish out lovely lovely cigarette, between the lips and hunt for the lighter and suck and oh, thank God!

Smoky dark gray chemical taste. Already the stress of the morning was falling back into the past. Oh, brilliant, beautiful. Oh frabjous day.

Then, of course, I realized that I’d really signed up for ten in the morning on a Saturday. [Read more…]

Tacky

Stephanie Manuzak

They had divided up the Saturdays of house-hunting, she said, like bath towels. Hers, his, hers, his. Today was his, and Jan was standing on the sidewalk, turned away casually from the house they had come to look at, as if reading the breeze that blew from the harbor and cataloguing the decades-old stained-glass panels that still remained above some front doors. Mac had known she would do this. At least it’s only this one, he imagined her thinking as she crinkled her nose as a stray hair blew across it. She would laugh at him about this house later, he knew, because she loved him. He knew that too and it made his stomach give a lurch that threatened to topple the narrow street, with its rectilinear square-topped rowhomes and parked cars, brick and formstone, pigeons, and an old man walking a waddling terrier: capsize, turtle the whole thing. It was all very new to him, and he supposed the shock would dissipate over time. But a four month engagement and five weeks of marriage still gave him these surreal jolts. How can anyone function like this? he wondered, and he wondered then what would happen if things changed, about how he would handle a lurch in the stomach from something other than happiness, how she would. But that hasn’t happened yet, he told himself again, and concentrated on looking for Kenny, the guy who was selling the house. He would be driving a beige pickup, he said. And right then a small, aged truck rumbled around the corner by the muddy park, driven by a small grayish man with large glasses. [Read more…]

The Salvation of Glorianne

Dena Hunt

Brother Bob stood behind the pulpit and read the Scripture slowly and sorrowfully: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up, so the golden curls covering his thin arms showed when he raised the open Bible. He had been preaching for over an hour. The shirt was wet almost all over with sweat. His red curly hair was combed back into an oily ducktail with curls on top and a single small corkscrew curl falling down on his forehead. His eyes were light blue, and they could look icy mean sometimes. That’s why Glorianne thought he must be a good preacher. [Read more…]

The Strawberry Effect

Lauren Schott

A symphony of color hung in the skies above Nicholas Harris’ head. The sun had exceeded even its own expectations that morning in producing resplendent reds and yellows. Black slated roofs and aluminum, accident-proof car tops obliterated the view for most people–people who rushed to work or golf or home after an extended evening party–but Harris had been awake for several hours already, tending the strawberry fields despite the arthritic bones that complained with painful pops and pangs with his every movement.

Harris did at some point raise his eyes from the ground at his feet to the sky, and some small corner of his mind registered the word “beautiful” in response to the colors before him. [Read more…]

Carla and Jaime

Arthur Powers

“Carla and Jaime” is an excerpt from my novel, Shadow Companion. In 1965, in a period of rampant inflation and weak democracy, the Brazilian military seized control of the government. After General Castelo Branco’s death in 1967, the hard-line wing of the military assumed control of the government. In 1968, there was a particularly severe crackdown. [Read more…]

Parousia

Neil Silva

“The peace of God be with you,” I intoned. “And also with you,” they replied. I continued in a singsong voice, raising my hands where I should, bowing at the right moments: the believing shepherd of a believing faithful. It helped that I had done this for a decade—the tedium of habit has its uses—though I planned to finish fast, and to skip the homily. I still had platitudes in reserve, but even actors have limits. [Read more…]