Fiction

Museum Ice (Extended Dance Mix)

By AMALIA GLADHART

Anna was slow to do the math. B saw it instantly—what might be left after everything else melted away. White captions flickered in the dim exhibit hall. 

B had turned thirteen that fall, ready to join Anna on a trip that was part research, part treat and adventure, the first time they had left the country together, alone. A few days in Rosario (a university lecture, an interview with a playwright), the long bus to Buenos Aires. Invited to contribute to the itinerary, B asked to see glaciers; Anna booked a half-day trek across the ice. 

Passengers all around them had clapped when they landed in El Calafate. “That’s so sweet,” B said, joining in. Anna clapped, too, hoping it was thanks, not bald relief. The tiny airport was rapidly navigated. Advertisements lined the baggage claim, placed to catch a teenager’s eye. “They have an ice bar at the ice museum,” B said. “Can we go? There’s a free shuttle from the tourist office.”

Museum Ice (Extended Dance Mix)
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Fallmore

By LAURA NAGLE 

Mairéad knows what she will say if her husband asks why she has been filling their eldest daughter’s bowl to the brim with porridge at every meal while taking less than a full serving for herself. She will talk about how much she hates oats, has always hated everything about them: the thick smell of the fields when the rain has been too heavy, the ache in her left hip each day of the harvest, the gluey texture of oatmeal porridge, the taste of it like dirty air, the way it sticks in her throat when she tries to swallow it.

She imagines Thomas’s response. It’s by God’s grace we’ve oats again, she can almost hear him saying. God’s grace there’s enough for the likes of us after the livestock are fed. This time last year, all they could get was Indian meal, and the whole village was sick for the better part of a week before the women figured out how to prepare it properly.

Fallmore
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The Fish Market

By ESTHER KARIN MNGODO
Translated from the Swahili by JAY BOSS RUBIN

Piece appears below in English and the original Swahili.  

 

Translator’s Note

I was drawn to “Soko la Samaki” by its rich variety of registers, and by its use of the second-person point of view, which in my experience is not so common in Swahili literature. I was also taken by the story’s close attention to class and gender dynamics, and the role of language, indeed languages, in interactions between men and women of different backgrounds and social standings. In my initial draft, I retained quite a bit of Swahili. As I began to revise, in consultation with both colleagues and the author, I was encouraged to seek out English that corresponds to not just Swahili meanings but Swahili cadences, especially when they play a role in one character trying to convince or gain entry into the world of another. The version here contains less Swahili than my earlier drafts, but the Swahili that is retained is more intentional. Of the handful of authors whose work I have been so fortunate to translate, my author-translator relationship with Esther Karin Mngodo has been, by far, the most interactive. In addition to drawing my attention to rhythm, Esther helped me comprehend some of the story’s slang and proverbial language, and she offered invaluable feedback and suggestions on how to render specific moments in English. Going back and forth in our comments in the margins of a shared doc, often when it was morning for me and evening for her, I felt like I was getting to collaborate with an author, editor, and fellow translator all at once. For that, and for the story itself, I am enormously grateful.

—Jay Boss Rubin

The Fish Market
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Rabbit

By JADE SONG

Hu Tianbao waves to asphalt and sky. The bumper of his mother’s car has long since exited the drop-off zone, yet he still stands moving his arm in the building’s entrance doorway. Left right left right dawdles his hand. A farewell to punctuality. He’s alone, everyone else already nestled in their classrooms, reciting poems.

Rabbit
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Symphony of the South

By TAHIR ANNOUR 
Translated by MAYADA IBRAHIM 

Dew
Uncle Musa died. A year after his passing, my father headed north. He said he would be back in a month.

It all happened so fast I barely caught it, like a migratory bird resting in a dark corner of the forest, like all the things that crowd my memory. No sooner do they appear than they vanish. When I try to recall the details, to understand what happened, none of it makes sense. Time lures the mind into letting go, submitting to the abyss, but I know the mind is capable of reaching into the well of the past. All these memories, from time to time they pierce through the pitch-black darkness. They gleam and fade into the shadows of this exile, of this rotten world.

On one of the shadowy days before his departure, I accompanied my father to the farm. It was the afternoon. Our farm was just outside the village. People were drying their earthenware in the sun: cups, bowls, pots, censers, jars. Children ran around them and erected little churches. They waded deep into the mud, sinking their hands in as if into spilled blood—the blood of an offering, perhaps—smearing their faces and tossing it at one another. They yelled and called each other names. Their clothes were the color of rust, their faces crocodile-like.

Symphony of the South
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The Day Azrael Committed Suicide

By ARTHUR GABRIEL YAK

Translated by SAWAD HUSSAIN

Note: The following story contains graphic language related to war and sexual violence.

News of the clashes poured into the Gudele district police station from everywhere, not least from the general headquarters of the People’s Army, conveyed by the intermittent, staccato rattling of Kalashnikovs and DShK heavy machine guns, and the roar of tanks that left gutter-deep tread marks on the main roads in their wake. Thick, dark columns of smoke soared skyward from the city of Juba, visible from a distance to Colonel Franco just as he was ending his call with his sister Christina, who told him of how their youngest sister, Rebecca Majok Majak, the doctor working in Bentiu hospital, wife to a Nuer tribesman, was at risk.

The Day Azrael Committed Suicide
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Morning Light

By JEMAL HUMED 
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

The piece appears below both in English and the original Arabic.

 

For the fighter Taha Mohammed Nur [1]

1

The hallway is cold and disquieting, lined with austere doors marked with consecutive numbers, giving no indication of their occupants.

The corridor is never-ending, leading to a room at its end whose grand entryway, formidable and rigid, seems to surveil the movement of the other doors.

He stood in front of it and straightened his service uniform. He took deep breaths, as if to expel the fear that had accumulated between his ribs on this particular morning inside the prison.

Morning Light
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A Cause Postponed

By SIMON ABRAHAM ODHOK AKUDNYAL
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The teacher, Ms. Nyiboth, was tenderhearted and gorgeous, with a small, proud beauty mark on the bottom of her left cheek. Her features added to her charm, and as for her voice, it had some hidden magic; whenever we heard it, we were tickled by a kind of madness that made us go still and quiet, as if a gentle breeze had blown through the class. I remember the time fate smiled on me and I got a perfect score on that month’s test; you wouldn’t believe how happy I was when Nyiboth came close and patted me encouragingly on the head. Her hand was soft, her warm touch enveloped me, and there are no words for how I felt; it gave me goosebumps. And now here I was, being beaten like a mangy donkey in front of her. How degrading!

A Cause Postponed
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Papel Picado

By A.J. RODRIGUEZ

Right before her twenty-fifth birthday, Chacha shaved her head, shearing the long black hair I’d known my entire life down to tiny-ass stumps. Having not spoken to my half sister in months, I learned about her haircut through Cero Reyes in the hallway of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where I was a sophomore. He was the little brother of her number-one homegirl, Cici, and had been there that past weekend at his parents’ hacienda up in the North Valley, banging on the bathroom door while our hermanas conspired Chacha’s new look.

I had to take a fucken piss, he said. Real bad too, but they spent over an hour in there, all giggling n’ shit.

You got a fuckload of bathrooms, I replied, gathering books from my locker to show the huevón I had other priorities. You coulda pissed in any of them.

“Cero” was a nickname that translated to nothing. It had carved this wiry, tacuache-looking vato since the day he could talk. Dude blabbered so much as a baby, stringing together words in an order that, according to his parents, made zero sense. He belonged to a family that made a name for itself in Juárez through some maquiladora empire. They’d moved to Albuquerque once his mami announced her desire to start a turquoise jewelry business. A couple years later, Cici popped into their world, who then met Chacha in a dance class for toddlers, and next thing you know they form this lifelong bond, a friendship so strong it forced me to spend too much of my childhood on a giant estate where I couldn’t help but wish my parents never divorced—wish we had enough skina to get out the varrio—wish my mother wasn’t such a pinche gringa and my pocho father spoke better Spanish.

That ain’t the point, Cero continued. It’s my bathroom, cuh. They used my shaving kit. Your sis’s hair was on the sink, shower, mirror—even the fucken toilet seat!

Papel Picado
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A Slippery Coffin

By AHMED SHEKAY
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

I hear a sound at my apartment door, and I just know it’s her. I follow her down the stairs. As I put my left foot onto the first step, I see the tips of her curls as she rounds the bend and, a moment later, glimpse her sneakered left foot as she takes her final step between the stairs and the exit. Then she’s swallowed up by the trees in the Ostpark. I tell myself, Good for Ababa, getting some morning exercise, and run after her, looking for her among the trees and in the forms of the other people out jogging. Every time I see a thick derrière, I’m sure it’s her and no one else, but when I get close, they start looking nervous, fear visible in their eyes, and jump out of my path. It takes me a full hour of looking to figure out why they’re acting this way, at which point, I’ve almost frozen from the cold. My breath has left frost on the tip of my nose, my tongue is parched, and I begin to cough violently. But I have absolute faith that she knocked on my apartment door and then ran away: Who else would do that? She’s the only visitor I’ve been wanting.

A Slippery Coffin
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