Ascending

Christopher Paolelli 

He cowered on the ruined balcony. Shriveled into a crouch, he screamed wordlessly at the inferno that was devouring the known world.

Sal called encouragement to him, but he wouldn’t listen or couldn’t hear. So Sal started toward him, cautiously, one shaky step at a time. Then something went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. In a moment the balcony was gone. And so was the boy. [Read more...]

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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...]

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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...]

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Meat

Matthew Lickona
SELECTED BY BERNARDO APARICIO GARCÍA, PRESIDENT

It was time to test the meat.

Father Dunleavy squeezed his left hand into a fist, and, with the tip of his right index finger, pressed down on the bulging swath of flesh that stretched between the knuckles of his clenched thumb and forefinger. He noted the bounce of fingertip off skin, something like a drumstick repelled by the tautness of the drumhead. Keeping his fingers curled, he relaxed the muscles of his hand and pressed again. He still found tension there at the surface, but it was underlaid with softness—a jellified center. Father Dunleavy smiled. That’s it. [Read more...]

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The Good Thief *

Joshua Hren

Bent in the corner-most seat of the final row of the Sorbonne lecture hall Simon felt claustrophobic, fought in his mind with the thickened crowd—to find an exit just in case. This was a harmless salle de conférence, lost in a labyrinth of hallways, small with a few hundred seats that dipped quickly toward the stage, but the stately arcades with their chiseled vines and flowers grew here a sense of majesty. Simon rubbed harshly the tendon of his neck, which was sore from swiveling brushes and pencils, small talk and war talk and the heart of the matter back and forth between the canvas and the prostitute until dawn. [Read more...]

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An Excerpt from The Woman Who Was Poor

Léon Bloy, Translated by Joshua Hren

“It reeks of God, here!”

This rogue’s bit of gall was disgorged, like vomit, on the very lowly threshold of the Vincentian Missionary’s chapel, on the Rue de Sèvres, in 1879.

It was the first Sunday of Advent, and Parisian humanity was slogging its way to the Great Winter Circus.

That year, like so many others, had not been the year of the End of the World, and no one thought to be shocked. [Read more...]

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A Favor for Cyrus Hammond

Michael Bradburn-Ruster

Without a word, or even a glance at me, the spindly fi gure mounted the porch steps with rigid urgency, collapsed his long legs into a squat, and raising my dog’s bowl of water to his lips, drained it in one prolonged draft, the knot of his Adam’s apple pulsing like a dwarf heart in the slender, sinewy throat.

Too stunned to be startled, I found the book I’d been reading seemed to have drifted into my lap, as the arm that held it before me had deflated. Odd that I hadn’t even caught a peripheral glimpse of his approach, alerted only by the determined thud of feet upon the hollow treads. [Read more...]

Suit

Gabriel Olearnik

It was an orange hour, nearly seven o’clock, when I arrived. That time of day has always been the most beautiful season for me, when the neon starts to burn and line the edges of houses and hedgerows. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. In the middle distance there was a roar of traffic by the main road but it was intermittent, irregular, and did not intrude upon my reverie.

The houses were small and brown, little bungalows almost, and draped with trees. The streets were all named for men. I saw the signs for “Henry Close” and “Andrew Estate” in the half-light. The smell of laundry and cooking dressed the air, here Persil, there faint Indian spices. I could see the shimmer of women moving in headscarves in the low balconies. [Read more...]

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Born-Again Virgin

Andrew McNabb

Holy, holy Ciara, numbed below the waist in her freely flowing bridal gown. Three months fresh from absolution. Pre-Cana, and she had kept her word since, lying stiff as a board night after night next to her Digby so she could wear white and it wouldn’t be a farce; but there she was, garter tight to thigh, in the room in her mother’s house she had grown up in, waiting for the word of the limousine to arrive, having just banished her mother to the hall, so confused in bridal plume, wondering about what she hadn’t mentioned to Fr. Danny: that bit of blood red by her own hand. [Read more...]

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Eyes That Pour Forth

Karen Britten

Brother Michael remembers finding the girl standing in the doorway of the Tanzanian monastery where he lives. She is holding the remnants of her eyes in her hands—milky white orbs with pink muscle attached to them like the trails of twin comets. She doesn’t cry, but she trembles and quivers in the door frame, and the other monks, white Franciscans from places like Scarsdale, New York, and Wichita, Kansas, gather around her and embrace her with robed arms. They find out that she can see from those eyes when she describes the room in detail: the tanned hide lamp by the oak table, the woodstove by the front door. [Read more...]