One night, when he was seven or eight, she read her son a story from a book called These Bad Things. It was surprisingly scary, and she knew she should stop, but they were so far in. She wanted to see how it ended.
I shouldn’t leave her alone in the trailer with the dachshund when she’s just threatened to kill him, but I can’t stay; I just can’t. I push past her, out the door, keys still in hand, and start to drive.
The Gah Men were from the island. They were at once of the people, but not the people. The Gah Men used their Oxbridge training on one hand, earnest rabble-rousing speeches on the other, to broker a deal with the Ang Mohs.
The book said “Let’s talk about your new-found liberation” and I wrote “Fuck men” and the book said “Elaborate please” so I wrote “My whole life I’ve been shaping myself around boys and men” and then the book said “Show your work” so I did.
At first it was a pale shrimp curled pink inside V’s belly; now it is a mammal the size of a small cat. V feels its gnawing paws claw at her ribs, feels the burrow of its skull between her legs, a thrashing angry animal fighting at the cave where it’s been kept.
She’d cried because she had expected it to be awful, and it hadn’t been. But she felt embarrassed about the kiss, and she’d asked Sigrid if she could just lie there next to her, if it was all right just to be in bed together, and Sigrid had said, Of course, of course which had felt both like an act of mercy and an act of contrition.
The thing was, she had wished a thousand times for a different child. In moments of crisis, she wished passionately that he could be someone else, someone calmer, or more adaptable, or more like her. She hated herself for these wishes because he was also precious to her beyond reckoning.
Those third and fourth nights, I cried and wailed. On the morning of the fifth day, my eyes were so swollen my father took one look at me and said, “Shiori, your face—it looks like the goldfish put a curse on you.”
Later, when the rest of the girls said they were dipping out to another bar, Fiona stayed behind. “Use a condom!” Tish had whispered in her ear before giving her a slap on the butt, like a coach sending a player out on the field.
In Lithuania, going astray while picking mushrooms is a common experience, with its own word. The same word is used to describe veering from the plot of a story—like my father did when he talked about his time in Vietnam.
The whole right side of Nancy’s body, the side closest the ledge, prickled with horror and disgust. The wind lifted and tugged at her hair, and her head echoed with her own ineffective shouts. She stood frozen by the ledge that the baby bird had just tumbled off.
Grandmother searched the house inside and out, but I was nowhere to be found. Fearful of how Heaven might curse them and filled with pity for her daughter-in-law and poor little granddaughters, she filled a porcelain bowl with cold water, placed it on a small, legged tray and sat out back, rubbing her palms together in prayer.
I didn’t tell G that the Corporation hardly ever brings back the corpses of employees who’ve died in space; that they just collect them up for a while then thrust a batch out through an atmosphere to incinerate them.
I remembered that I’d learned Swahili, that I spoke French and German fluently. Was I a spy? I also knew Russian, Arabic, and Spanish. It was obvious that languages came easily to me. Who is this man? I kept asking myself. Who is Abby?
The first three months of the start-up they’d worked out of Donny’s room in the “Entrepreneurs’ Dorm,” but that hadn’t lasted long. Thank God, really, because it smelled like a dorm room, and there was always pee on the toilet seat, just like in the twins’ bathroom at her house.
How funny to hear Grandpa Zhang say something other than, “I’ve got candies!” He seemed very excited to have some duties at last. When I stuck my head out of my window to greet him, he put on a serious look and shouted, “The typhoon’s coming. Close your windows, little Qin! Stay safe.”
For that one night, the moon takes away our animal memory and illuminates our past, our present, and our hopes for the future. It makes you feel sick and deranged and filled with unbearable and exquisite longing. It drives us nuts.
Before a seizure, I’d get really cold. It felt like a chill, one that crept up on you while lying in bed or washing dishes, just a shiver. But the chill didn’t shake a limb. It’d lay me down and take minutes from me. It’d put me on the moon.
Sometimes I was being chased by furies—monsters with the heads of women and bodies of huge black birds—and the castle was my refuge. Other times I wandered its halls looking for my husband, poking my head in each room and noting the tapestries and gold-framed oil paintings.
Sometimes she would forget about her son, for a few minutes or a few hours, and then all at once she would remember. She’d spot a newborn, or she’d meet someone else with the surname Lo. She avoided the neighborhood where they lived, but as his first birthday approached, she could resist no longer.
Do the same fingers that skim her neck in bed when he returns in the early hours of the morning also press buttons that discharge AGM-114 Hellfire missiles that destroy enemy safe sahouses in faceless desert towns?
There was the time I found an entire horse or cow skeleton laid neatly on top of the shed roof. When I asked my brothers what it was doing there, they looked at me patiently and said, We found it in the desert.
One spring evening in the year 1999 my mother and I were watching Wheel of Fortune when a news bulletin interrupted the show: two young children had been kidnapped from a Native American reservation in New Mexico.
He offered me a fist bump, then seemed to reconsider, and clasped me in a masculine, endearingly chaste hug. “My brother!” he said. “Your wife is a very lucky woman. I hope you get home safe to her, and happy.”