Fiction

A Photon Takes the Shortest Path

By ALEX FOSTER

Every second, somewhere in the universe, a star explodes. All life within a trillion miles is condemned to apocalypse, all love forgotten. A supernova spits up a photon, a dribble of light, which rolls onward to another star and another before its path is intercepted by a giant, flailing planet Earth.

On which an ambulance, spraying its own red and blue photons into windows and lower eyelids, rockets down Michigan Avenue. Inside, a twenty-two-year-old woman sits upright on a stretcher, looking all around, proving her physical haleness by screaming at the top of her lungs, because until fifteen minutes ago, she didn’t know that she was pregnant, though she’d felt ill for some time, and then her water broke in a Starbucks bathroom.

At a moment of relative simultaneity, our photon is pulsing through clean air, through airplane windows and white linen kites. It skims a lake and pinballs in a web of sleek skyscrapers.

The woman, admittedly, would not have boasted a fully harmonious relationship with her body before all this; now, minutes after giving birth, things have devolved into open hostility. She’s clawing at her legs. She’s stubbing her toes on the steel door frame. Life is an improbability. It’s an unlikely confluence of pharmacological and genetic circumstances to be eight months pregnant and not realize. The ambulance swerves. She’ll be sick. It doesn’t help that she’s hungover. That her few bouts of morning sickness in the months past could be so easily blamed on margaritas and boxed wine.

A Photon Takes the Shortest Path
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Translation: The Men Go to War

Story by TOMÁS DOWNEY

Translated from the Spanish by SARAH MOSES

The piece appears below in both English and Spanish.

 

Translator’s Note

When I first read Tomás Downey’s story, “Los hombres van a la guerra,” I reread it. This was the ending’s doing: it called into question all that came prior, as the best endings do (I think here of Alice Munro). So I had an ulterior motive for translating the story: I wanted to understand how Tomás had put it together, how he’d written towards that ending. I’m not convinced I’ve figured it out. But in a sense, translating the story was studying it, and I hope that something of the circular way it works makes its way into my own writing. I hope, too, that readers of “The Men Go to War” have a similar experience: that the ending directs them back to the beginning for a second read.

— Sarah Moses 

Translation: The Men Go to War
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Operation Avalanche

By ROSSELLA MILONE

Translated from the Italian by LAURA MASINI and LINDA WORRELL 

“I am living permanently in my dream, 
from which I make brief forays into reality.”

—Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography

 

  1.  

Erminia danced the Charleston. My friend Gianluca told me how, almost every evening, his grandmother would pause on the threshold of the French doors that opened onto the terrace and trace out the steps. Her arms swinging, legs twisting, a toe to the front, then to the back, a heel swiveling to the side, a toe to the front again. She confined her movements to the doorway as though she wanted to go unnoticed, and yet somehow she demanded the attention of anyone nearby. Whenever I was at Gianluca’s, I always saw her singing softly to herself.

Operation Avalanche
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Tsunami Bride

By SINDYA BHANOO

As the parakeet-green municipal bus pulled into Cuddalore, Sai held his sign up as high as he could, his forehead burning from the morning sun. He did not want the reporter to miss him.

The sign was flimsy, made of two pieces of printer paper taped together, but it was sufficient.

He’d written SARA, THE NEW YORK TIMES in thick capital letters with a black marker. He knew of only a handful of women doing serious journalism, mostly Barkha Dutt copycats. His favorite female journalist was actually a character from the movie Gandhi. He had rented it when he was in college in Chennai and watched it alone. He was instantly smitten with the actress who played the Time magazine photographer from America, charmed by the way her short, wavy hair bounced as she squatted to the ground to take pictures of the Mahatma spinning cotton on his chakkaram.

Tsunami Bride
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Dream Catcher

By LOGAN LANE

 

FROM: Tracy Burks <[email protected]>
TO: Office of Coordination <[email protected]>
SUBJECT: How the Cookie Crumbles
DATE: August 3, 2043

FROM THE DESK OF TRACY BURKS

Dear Interns,

I will make this short but not sweet, unlike the chocolate delicacy at the center of this blunder:

Whoever is eating cookies in The Loomery, cease. Did you not see the signs in the hall outside? Did you not read the pamphlets on initiation day? Surely not, because you would’ve noticed they read in large Impact font: DO NOT EAT INSIDE THE LOOMERY.

Dream Catcher
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Geist

By KATHLEEN HEIL

At an artists’ collective near the Polish border about an hour from Berlin, I’d been taking a break from translating texts into English, a task I once enjoyed but was beginning to resent, as I was beginning to feel invisible—or was it burnt out?—in any case, I was glad to get away for a few days: it was my first vacation since I-don’t-know-when, and I’d begun to feel my soul was spent. Over lunch on my last day there, a woman from Seoul who went by the nickname Hae—a transliteration of the word “sun” in Korean, she said—asked what the word in German was for “soul.” Actually, the woman sitting next to her asked, but the woman sitting next to Hae came from Spain and was shy about her English, so when she directed the question at me I heard the word as “sol”—we’d spent the week speaking both Spanish and English—and said, in reply, “Sonne.”

Geist
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In Heat

By GABRIEL CARLE

Translated from the Spanish by HEATHER HOUDE

It’s the last day of school, and I get home with butterflies in my stomach. My mouth already tastes like summer, like heat outside and air conditioning inside, like the darkness of my cave, like cloister and crypt. I turn on the television and change the channel, change the channel, one to the next, discovering the lineup for the beginning of the end of the week, the beginning of my three-month rest, the beginning of a new wave of televised hunger, the same that ensues from another year of school.

In Heat
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The Tiger

By SARAH WU

 

When the Tiger slinks around the house, she leaves behind chess sets and violins and dictionaries that swirl above our heads like birds. Her orange fur disappears from corners and her ink-stained footprints press against the floor, and it is through these moments that we know she is watching us.

Her presence is a pause; she appears the same way commas appear in sentences, bringing a brief moment of silence before the day continues. 

The Tiger
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