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    Simon Van Booy

    7. French Artist Killed in Sunday’s Earthquake

    By Simon Van Booy

    The final moments of her life. Marie-Françoise lay crushed under tons of rubble.

    The fish she had been eating was still in her mouth.

    Her eyes would not open.

    She could sense the darkness that encapsulated her. She could not feel her body, as though during the fall, her soul had slipped out and
    lay waiting for the exact moment when it would disappear from the world.

    Then her life, like a cloud, split open, and she lay motionless in a rain of moments.

    The green telephone in her grandparents’ kitchen next to the plant.

    She could feel the cool plastic of the handle and the sensation of cupping it under her ear. She could hear a voice at the other end of the line that she recognized as her own.

    The weight of her mother’s shoes as she carried them into the bedroom.

    The idea that one day she’d be grown-up and would have to wear such things.

    Running into a friend.

    That time had passed.

    And then the rain of her life stopped, and she was in darkness, . . . Read More.


    20. Tiger, Tiger

    By Simon Van Booy

    When I first saw Jennifer, I thought she was dead. She was lying facedown on the couch. The curtains were not drawn. Her naked body soaked up the falling moonlight and her back glowed.

    Jennifer was Brian’s mother. When he frantically turned her over, she moaned. Then her arm flew back, viciously but at nothing. Brian told me to call 911, but Jennifer screamed at him not to. Brian switched on a lamp. He kept his distance and said “Mom, Mom.” Then he asked where Dad was. She moaned again. Neither of us knew what to do.

    Brian fetched a bathrobe and laid it across her back. She sat up, then pulled it around herself weakly. The robe was too big and gaped in several places. One of her breasts was visible. I know Brian could see it. It was like an old ashen bird. I made coffee without asking. There was cake in the refrigerator. It said “Tate’s Bakery” on the box. I cut the string. With the same knife I cut three equal pieces. We ate and drank in silence. Jennifer swallowed each forkful quietly; my yoga instructor would have called her mindful. She shook her head from side to side. Then Brian and I watched as Jennifer buried her face in her hands as though she were watching a slideshow of her life projected across her palms.

    On the carpet next to Jennifer’s clothes were several brochures for new cars. There was also a wedding band and a glass of something that had been knocked over. . . . Read More.


    1. The Missing Statues

    By Simon Van Booy

    One bright Wednesday morning in Rome, a young American diplomat collapsed onto a bench at the edge of St. Peter’s Square.

    There, he began to sob.

    An old room in his heart had opened because of something he’d seen.

    Soon he was weeping so loudly that a young Polish priest parking a yellow Vespa felt inclined to do something. The priest silently placed himself on the bench next to the man.

    A dog with gray whiskers limped past and then lay on its side in the shade. Men leaned on their brooms and talked in twos and threes. The priest reached his arm around the man and squeezed his shoulder dutifully. The young diplomat turned his body into the priest and wept into his cloth. The fabric carried a faint odor of wood-smoke. An old woman in black nodded past, fingering her Rosary, and muttering something too quiet to hear.

    By the time Max had stopped crying, the priest pictured the place where he was supposed to be. He imagined the empty seat at the table. The untouched glass of water. The heavy sagging curtains and the smell of polish. The meeting would be well underway. He considered the idea that he was always where he was supposed to be, even when he wasn’t.

    “You’re okay now?” The priest asked. His Polish accent clipped at the English words like carefully held scissors.

    “I’m so embarrassed,” Max said. . . . Read More.


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