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.

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Upcoming readings

I will read my story “Companionship” that won the Litquake fiction prize at a Lit Crawl event, “Writers on the Verge” will take place on October 14th, at 5 pm, at Samovar Tea Lounge on Valencia Street. Full details are here.

On Tuesday, October 10th, at 7 pm, my friend and colleague Alia Volz organizes a reading called “Straight, No Chaser: Writers at the Bar” at the iconic Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco’s North Beach (its fame goes back to the Beat Generation). This reading features contributors to Golden State 2017: Best New Writing from California (Outpost19), an anthology where one of my stories has appeared. I will read an excerpt from my story. The special guest is Charlie Jane Anders!

Litquake prize!

My short-short story “Companionship” won San Francisco’s Litquake’s short story prize! As a part of the prize, I will read it during an event on Saturday October 14 — more details about this reading to come. This is a very recent story that hasn’t yet been published anywhere. Here’s a teaser opening,

At three years old Michael did decide to return to his mother’s stomach. His mother shifted things around and made room under her heart. She lived a mostly stationary lifestyle, and so accommodating Michael was no problem. In fact, she appreciated the companionship…

The Courtyard in the Mirror

The Courtyard in the Mirror [“Der Hof im Spiegel”]

by Emine Sevgi Özdamar

Translated by Leslie A. Adelson

I thought she had died. I was standing in the kitchen with my back against the radiator, waiting for the sad light in her room, in the house across the way, where she lived, to go on in the large mirror that was attached to the wall over my kitchen table. For years her light from the house on the other side of the courtyard had been my setting sun. Whenever I saw her lighted window in the kitchen mirror, and only then, I turned on the light in my apartment. Now I was standing in the dark and had a cookie in my hand, but wasn’t eating it. I was afraid I would make too much noise. If she had died

Read the rest of this beautiful story in UC Berkeley’s magazine Transit.

Infestation

bedroom

Lying in bed on Saturday night, her eyes closed in the imperfect darkness of the room, her limbs cooling from the day’s chores, Marcie felt a crawling sensation on her right arm, the one outside the blanket. Something crept from her shoulder down to her wrist and then jumped to her belly.

Marcie was lying on her left side, hugging the body pillow in a way that felt comfortable in the thirty-second week of pregnancy. The squash-sized creature inside her belly was still asleep, but the longer she stayed horizontal, the sooner it would be waking up. Marcie needed to get her sleep as efficiently as possible.

The sheet, covering her belly, moved. ….

read the rest of the story in World Literature Today’s January issue.