Sick Babies out in Confrontation

My story “Sick Babies” is out in Confrontation. Here’s the opening:

The baby’s sick. The mom brings him to the park every day, in late afternoons, and he sits limp in his stroller, dazed, unsmiling, eyes expressionless, pupils without any depth. The mom doesn’t seem to be aware of his condition. “Say hi to the gentlemen, Jacob,” she directs, rolling the stroller by the bench where we’re playing checkers. The baby doesn’t bat an eyelid. “He’s a little sleepy,” the mother apologizes. “It’s the weather we’ve been having.”

This afternoon, she parked the stroller right beside us, dropped her tattered backpack on a bench on the other side of the path, and took out a pack of cigarettes. She lifted the canvas canopy over the baby’s head, as though this were protection enough, and smoked one cigarette after another in rapid succession. We averted our noses, but, luckily, the wind blew the smoke in a different direction. True, some of us used to smoke in our youth, but it’s been long since that we’ve kicked the habit. The woman’s entire person showed signs of wear: unwashed hair going gray at the roots, tattoos on her arms looking ashen and flaccid, countless runs in the black hose. The baby stared right at us with his unseeing eyes.

Among ourselves, we’re convinced that the baby’s autistic, or worse. “Shouldn’t he be in some kind of an institution?” we debate.

To continue reading, please purchase the issue.

Love and Hair

I’m delighted to report that my story “Love and Hair” won Willesden Herald’s International short story competition. The award ceremony took place in London this week, and I took home the coveted prize: a large mug and a bottle of campaign. The story appears in an anthology, New Short Stories 9, together with nine other short-listed stories. I’ve been reading the anthology, and I’m so impressed with the competition.

Here’s the snippet from my story. The print anthology is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

The stage crew had been drinking since The Wizard of Oz Singalong the night before and now the director, suffering from a sinus infection, was losing her voice, pleading over the phone with actors calling in sick. This was a radical departure from the spirit of fun and camaraderie I’d expected when I volunteered to perform in an amateur production of The Vagina Monologues. During our final run-through just hours before opening night curtain, we were three actors short and had to find substitutes. I’d recruited half a dozen of my friends to buy tickets—and what if any of them actually showed up? The lack of professionalism embarrassed me.

As the rehearsal finally got underway, my phone buzzed. The house manager turned to me and hissed, animal-like, “What’s that?” She’d been getting on my nerves all afternoon, having berated me for bringing a burrito into the theatre and for daring to eat it while she talked to us about emergency exits. I ignored her and looked at my phone.

A text message: “I’m in San Francisco.” My new phone failed to decode the number, but I had a good feeling the text came from this girl Hana, an Israeli who lived in Portland.

“Great,” I texted back, “I’ll see you after the show.”

On the first night I’d met her, Hana put her hand on my shoulder, gripping firmly, and said, “You look so Russian, Yelena. I’d love to seduce you.” Then she toasted me with whiskey and walked away.

Хлоп-страна

Осенью 2016 года в издательстве «Время» вышел новый сборник рассказов Ольги Гренец Хлоп-страна. Сборник доступен в продаже в магазинах сети Лабиринт, с доставкой в США и страны Европы. grezez-cov_1st_sm

Ольга Гренец — современная американская писательница родом из Санкт-Петербурга, мастер короткой психологической прозы. Герои её рассказов, живя в России, Америке, других странах, сталкиваются с необходимостью соотнесения и совмещения разных миров, но главное для автора — показать их отношения, порой осложнённые проблемой конфликта поколений, а также проследить традиционную для современной прозы линию «поисков себя». В оригинальных сюжетах Ольга Гренец предлагает читателю увлекательный калейдоскоп эпизодов повседневной жизни людей из разных слоев общества.

Ольга Гренец — мастер рассказа, самого сложного из всех прозаических жанров, где неверное слово, неверный сюжетный поворот могут всё разрушить. Она обладает удивительным умением соединять в своих текстах американскую и русскую новеллистические традиции, две культуры, и работать в их пограничье. Её прозу отличает бережное отношение к мельчайшим деталям, а умение фиксировать повседневный мир в его многообразии сочетается с поразительным пониманием нюансов психологии современного человека.
Андрей Аствацатуров

Opera at the Ballpark in Santa Monica Review, Fall 2016

My story Opera at the Ballpark appears in the current issue of Santa Monica Review. I wrote the first draft of this story in March 2010, after volunteering at a simulcast–an opera performance, broadcast from the live show at the San Francisco Opera to a screen at the AT&T Ballpark. Walking home after the show, I passed the opera house. The performance had long ended, and the homeless people were canvassing the house stairs.  I struggled to make sense of opera’s place in the social order of the New World. Of the hundreds of people who’d come to see the simulcast at the ballpark, many told me they’d never been to the opera house. The company was financially insolvent. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a sense of doom was in the air. The simulcast was one idea to reach out to larger audiences and to give opera mass appeal. The opera they had chosen was traditional, and staged as though to mimic a 19th Century production. To me, this was fairly familiar territory and I was bored by it, but I was in the minority. Most of the simulcast attendees seemed to have had an amazing time.

The story came out of these disparate threads of thought.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote in 2010,

After the soprano finishes her dying aria on the giant screen above the third base, and the audience sitting in the stalls (word choice?) and on the grass of the baseball diamond scorched their throats with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and clapped so loud as if they wished to be heard back in the opera house two and a half miles away (distance?), the screen went black and the baseball stadium emptied quickly. A warm breeze filled the air with the fragrance of the cherry trees blooming all over the city, lavish romantic music made us sentimental, its heroic overtones urged us to commit ubiquitous acts of kindness,—and conversation flowed freely. Several trains came to pick up the passengers and left overcrowded, while more people continued to shuffle onto the platform. We decided against taking the train, and slowly made our way downtown along the dark waters of the bay.

Seventeen revisions later, the first paragraph of the story published in Santa Monica Review’s Fall 2016 issue looks like this,

The final sounds of the soprano’s aria soar over the baseball diamond as Tosca collapses on stage projected onto the giant screen above second base. The audience sitting in the bleachers and on the grass explodes with shouts “Go, Tosca!” and applause almost loud enough to be heard back at the opera house two miles away. The screen goes black and everyone stands up, emptying the plastic cups of the last drops of beer and pushing cartons with the remains of cheese fries deeper under the seats. The simulcast is over. On the field, families pack up their picnic baskets and fold blankets.

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing this story and for helping me with the title. You can buy the issue and subscribe to the magazine on Santa Monica Review’s website here.