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    January 2009

    4. Wish Fulfillment

    By Mary Gaitskill

    One night Mary, a little girl with sisters and parents who loved her, woke in a dark forest. At first she was afraid and then she realized it was her backyard. During the day she sometimes pretended her backyard was a forest and now, in the dream world of night, it had become a forest. During the day she pretended there was a door on the floor of the forest, and so now she went to look for it. She found it between the garage and the fishpond, and she opened it with excitement and a little fear. During the day she had imagined that under the trapdoor there was a staircase lit with lamps, and so there was. Knowing by now that she was dreaming and that this chance might never come again, she went down the stairs, closing the door behind her.

    As Mary descended the stairs, she became me, or, to put it another way, I became dimly aware of her, descending down into herself as I, a middle-aged woman, drove through the town where I live on a rainy spring night listening to an old song on an obsolete tape. The music in the song started with the sound of a crippled machine stripped to its barest function, turning unevenly round and round on a cockeyed pivot, screeching sweetly and brokenly. There was a sound like slow-struck bells and a voice like that of somebody looking for something in the dark. I used to listen to it years ago, lying drunk on my floor in the dark. I would listen and think of a woman I loved, or tried to love. Her name was Karen. We did not belong in the same world, but somehow our separate worlds had overlapped. I see your wishes on the wall. Karen was overspilling with impossible wishes and so was I. Our wishes were glowing, and always out of reach; they made life around us blurred, magical and painful. Our wishes were not the same at all, but somehow, we had met in the dark and, for a moment, our wishes had overlapped. . . . Read More.

    2. The Doctor Takes A Walk and 3. Not Quite Joe Meek

    By Tony O'Neill

    The Doctor sits in a toilet stall in a shopping mall under a short-circuiting blue light meant to stop him shooting up, which is practically useless against a junkie who had put in so many years perfecting his art. Strictly for amateurs and kids shooting up their first hit of Robitussin DM, he thinks, sneering to himself, as he slips the loaded syringe from his dirty overcoat pocket. He knows his veins as intimately as someone who spends a lifetime in New York or London would know the underground transit lines. Even under the eyestrain-blue glow he can see them mapped out like one of those charts in a doctor’s waiting room. He ties the handkerchief around his upper arm and rolls his shirt sleeve up. He concentrates hard and wills the blood to find its way around his ailing system and into the diversion created by the needle. The mind trick works: blood floods into the syringe and, ripping the handkerchief off of his arm with his teeth, he unloads the hit into his bloodstream. His usual stoic calm floods him. Today is a special day—it is his granddaughter’s birthday.

    He has an address but nothing more. The last time he had so much as spoken to his daughter she told him that he should have nothing to do with either of them. He imagines her clearly though, a laughing little girl with dark hair and large round eyes, dancing over a suburban lawn in a light summer dress. . . . Every year he sends a present and every year he hears nothing. He has never attempted a more overt form of contact. He is too old, and in a way he likes things the way they are, even though it makes him feel sick late at night sometimes. Human interaction is a messy business and this relationship with a five-year-old girl he has never seen has proved to be one of the most lasting of his life. The Doctor is an old man, and by junkie standards he is practically a walking miracle. He has no time for drastic changes left. . . . 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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