Un pájaro puso a su dueño en una jaula. “Nuestros papeles se han invertido”, dijo el pájaro. “¡Quiero que cantes!” El dueño se quejó: “Pero yo no sé cantar”. “No importa”, gritó el pájaro. El dueño silbó pero claramente no tenía ningún ritmo. “Prefiero que bailes ante mí”. El dueño bailó sin ninguna gracia. El pájaro se sintió desilusionado. “De cualquier manera te mantendré en la jaula”. Sin embargo, una hora más tarde el pájaro estaba del todo aburrido. “No me había dado cuenta que tener una mascota es como estar en la cárcel. En la medida que controlamos a los demás ellos también nos controlan a nosotros”.
By SUSAN STINSON
Elisha Hawley turned nine years old six weeks after his father had laid violent hands on himself and cut his own throat. Rebekah, Elisha’s mother, made apple flummey seasoned with cinnamon and ginger for breakfast and let him have the last of the bacon with pea soup for supper. She made doughnuts, despite the heat, and let him lead the evening prayer, even though his older brother Joseph mouthed a silent gobble gobble gobble as Elisha stammered over the verse. Life was rising as loss burrowed in. Elisha wanted to snicker at Joseph, or weep with relief that his brother was trying to be funny, but he swallowed all that and sounded out the scripture more loudly, evenabomination, which he didn’t know how to say. Rebekah fixed her eyes on Joseph as Elisha mangled the vowels, then gave them each half a doughnut and a sip of cider before bed.
An urban garden-party in spring, at dusk. The light waning, the air mild, the walled garden compact but lush.
A cat slinks along one flower-bed’s edge. Guests arrive singly and in couples; they pass through the brownstone’s ground floor to the patio at the back, exchanging handshakes and cheek-kisses as they meet. Their voices generate a steady babble.
By DAVID WILLIAMS
The night doesn’t ask much, my daddy used to say, a whiff of gas and a working radio. Come dark, he said, you can pull in ancient sounds from hundreds of miles away – blue stomps from the big cities, lick-skillet country come down from the hills and up from the hollows, gospel on the lam from grace.
My daddy told me a good many things, for never being around much. He told me stories of the road and the songs he found there. Songs of sweet evil and blue ruckus. Murder ballads, odes to ghosts. Drinking hymns.
By JESSIE MARSHALL
The club’s house mother—we’ll call her Cheryl—didn’t think I dressed sexy enough. I had purchased three slinky outfits in Camden Market, two red and one black, for less than thirty quid each. They weren’t slutty exactly, but came off quickly and showed a lot of skin. Cheryl made her own dresses and sold them for ninety pounds, so I knew her opinion was not to be trusted.
Translated by PHILIP NIKOLAYEV
I wore the same checkered coat for six winters in a row. It had once been warm and even elegant in its way, but then developed holes and faded. Whether because the cotton lining had become matted or because the outer cloth had worn thin from wind and rain, the garment no longer gave any warmth. I felt cold even in reasonably warm weather. Wind would penetrate it in unpredictable spots, now chilling my waist, now freezing my shoulder blades, as if someone had thrown a piece of ice behind my collar. When one time I arrived at the Kolosovs all soaked and melancholy with hunger, Ivan hung my coat on the kitchen radiator and scratched the back of his head.
Translated by ILAN STAVANS and HAROLD AUGENBRAUM
I’m sitting by the sewer waiting for the frogs to come out. Last night, while we were having dinner, they started kicking up a huge ruckus and didn’t stop singing until dawn. That’s what my godmother says, too: that the frogs’ shouting scared her sleep away. And she’d like to sleep now. That’s why she told me to sit here, near the sewer, waiting with a board in my hand so that I can smash to smithereens any frog that hops out … Frogs are green all over, except for their bellies. Toads are black. My godmother’s eyes are black, too. Frogs are good to eat. You shouldn’t eat toads; but I’ve eaten them, too, though you’re not supposed to, and they taste the same as frogs.