By MARIE GAUTHIER
They hack their way through the wild
kingdom of the back yard
while she alights on a chair, her book
unopened on the grass, more
rest for her glass than her eyes,
which follow to foil: spoiled
moods, spilled blood, numinous
harms yet undreamt.
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.
By TIMOTHY WATT
Long ago I found myself in a dark wood wandering, a tale-teller with no tale to tell. How I’d come to be in that place, I don’t know. I was there shivering, empty, trying and failing to remember the tales I’d told, in times past, in ages before. I couldn’t remember any of them, much as I tried to conjure characters in the throes of a verb, scenes in rooms, conversations, anecdotes, themes. And soon after—I don’t know when, time like the night was monochrome and either too rapid in its passing to be tracked at all, or statuesque, cold and still—I found I no longer knew what a tale itself was, its contours and constituent parts, its reasons, its design. It was then I heard a slow crashing in the timber behind me. I did not look up. There was nothing consoling to be seen. Before me stretched a vast lake, a lake whose color rendered all previous understandings of black, blue, a lake of terrifying calm. The surface was glass, unrippled and hulkingly silent, and the lake did not lap against any of its shores. It was—I see it now—a body of water in an attitude of petrifaction.
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.
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.