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The Ditch

She steps out. She’s left the keys inside she decides the moment she hears the heavy door shut itself. Great. A domestic tragedy but due, as it were, with the other. And there the keys hang, inside the automatically locked.

The Ta-Da Girl

The dog is silent, in shock, until they start to twirl sticks. I tie the dog to a post outside while a horror movie Don’t do that backs into my head. They are still twirling when I return, but slower, tossing a burning stick between them.

Afterthoughts of the Future, Premonitions of a Crime to Remember

We had dark clothes on and snappy little newsboy caps. We’d shopped at Amvets two days before in order to dress properly for our parts. I saw Vince put the gun in his pocket but I didn’t say anything. We pulled nylon stockings over our heads even though there wasn’t supposed to be anyone home. Still, why take chances. But I had hay fever and I was sneezing all the time, so I took mine off.

Wounds and Contusions (Political Acts )

“Graciela,” said the girl, with a cup in her hand, “do you want some lemonade?” She’s dressed in a white blouse, jeans and sandals. Her hair is long and black, although not too long, and is tied at the back of her neck with a yellow ribbon. Her skin is very white and she’s nine years old, maybe ten. “I’ve already told you not to call me Graciela.”

Exiles (A Man in a Lobby)

I met Dr. Siles Zuazo in Montevideo twenty years ago, when he arrived in Uruguay as an exile (the word was pronounced differently then) following the triumph of one of the many military coups that have always corrupted the history of Bolivia. I had a few books published at the time and worked in the bookkeeping section of a large furniture company.

Exiles (Penultimate Resting Place)

The death of a friend (and more so when one is referring to someone as dear as Luvis Pedemonte) is always a heartbreak, a rupture. But when death is the culmination of his troubles in exile, and even if that death occurs in a location as fraternal as this one, the heartbreak has other implications, some other significance.

The Man at the Office

Looking in the mirror, she wondered if she could still even attract a man. Furrows made indentations between her eyebrows, and she knew that when she was tired it almost looked as if her face were in sections.


And it is not, I realize now, just the progressive narratives that constitute my life as fiction—the ones that end up changing my life in the direction of economic and emotional prosperity—but all of the subtexts and regressive narratives as well: the realization that the character the pronoun “I” inhabits and that I often refer to as myself is fundamentally defined by her tendency to make bad decisions, thus accelerating a spiral of downward mobility and diminished expectations which is ultimately inescapable.

My Father

I have a picture of him at the age of twelve, before the sun permanently creased his face, in knickers, knee socks and ankle length boots, standing on a well-tended lawn, holding a golf club longer than he was tall; his steel-rimmed glasses framing a smile for the camera. He joined the Merchant Marine as a wireless operator in 1914. He must have been big for his years even then.

The Algebra of Fiction

“Every story is an algebraic equation,” said the professor in turtleneck and tweed sport coat. “A wants B but can’t get it because of C.” I know he’s right, of course. It doesn’t much matter who or what B is. Or how C has inhibited A’s ability to get B.

20 Tanks from Kasseldown

He sat in his cell tapping his fingers on the bottle, thinking, it’s very sporting of them to give me this bottle. When he tapped at the glass it felt good on his fingers, spreading them a bit so, and getting the cool, clean touch. He had used whiskey before, found it made life bearable; took off the edge; was a good wash for minds that turned too fast: culling it, slowing it, settling it to a visible mark.

Hard Without Music

The one in the chair smiled. Her teeth were very white. “You have such good taste. Almost all of Beethoven, and Brahms, and Bach and…” “Yes,” said Larry. “Yes, thank you.” He turned to the other nun. “Won’t you sit down?” he asked. But she didn’t move.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2008

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