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    September 2009

    39. On the Weekends Sometimes

    By Ben Greenman

    He was Boyd.

    He worked in hospital administration.

    He played hockey on the weekends sometimes.

    He was twenty-nine.

    Each summer he took a trip.

    One year he went to Cyprus, where, by coincidence, a friend of a friend was getting married.

    Boyd did not attend the wedding though he did drink with his friend Panos and the groom whose name was Eugene.

    “Eugene,” Boyd said. “That’s an old-fashioned name.”

    “Boyd is, too,” Panos said.

    “Panos isn’t,” Boyd said.

    The air was not thick with wit.

    *

    Panos was rich.

    He was an heir.

    He managed some of his family’s companies.

    He was also a musician.

    His band was called Wracked.

    . . . Read More.

    38. Beneath All that Bone

    By Jess Walter

    1

    It was a minute before either of them spoke. “So what would you do . . . if you only had one day left?”

    He stared at the ceiling, still panting. “I guess . . . that.”

    They’d made it just nine miles after the accident before deciding to get off the freeway and find a room—first hotel they saw, a thirty-year-old converted Travelodge with a working lounge—Tracy stroking his arm lightly as he paid so that Nate expected the sex to be tender and safe. He began that way once they were inside the room, brushing the hair from her temple, but almost immediately they were clinging and grabbing, noises coming from their throats. He fell off as soon as it was done and they lay quietly, staring at different spots on the ceiling, their breathing returning to pace.

    Tracy reached over and brushed his shoulder. “Really. What would you do? If you were dying tomorrow?”

    “I think it’s clear what I’d do. Isn’t that why we stopped? It’s evolutionary, innate. We probably don’t even have any say in it.”

    “I’d eat.”

    “Eat what?”

    “Everything. If I had just one day I’d go from restaurant to restaurant, order the best thing on the menu, take a couple of bites and go to the next place.”

    “Maybe you think you’d do that, but you wouldn’t.”

    “No, I would. I’d get crab cakes first. I’d eat all day, but I’d do it like one giant meal . . . . . . Read More.

    37. If You Eat, You Never Die

    By Tony Romano

    The coach, he sit in my kitch. He have big stomach, soft like dough. But he have face like flour. He no eat good. Maybe French fry every day. Americano, they eat like dirty animale.

    My son Giacomo, he no sit. He stand by frigidate. Hands in pock. He wear T-shirt. Is too small. I see bones. He look at shoes by door. I always tell no leave shoes by door. Every day three, four pair.

    The coach, he say, “Mrs. Cummings, I came over to talk about Jim’s weight.” He point by Giacomo. “You have to understand—”

    I check cream puff in oven. If I keep long, they get hard.

    “Mrs. Cummings, we had a wrestling match today—”

    The tray make hot eh I drop. “Disgraziato!” I yell. “Stupido.” I put cold water. “Disgraziato.”

    Coach, he stand. He say, “Are you all right?”

    Giacomo, he no move. Hands in pock.

    “Are you all right?” Coach say.

    “Yeh, yeh,” I tell.

    Coach, he sit.

    Giacomo say, “She does that all the time.” . . . Read More.

    36. The Kitchen Boy

    By Alaa Al Aswany

    For some unknown reason, intelligence is associated in people’s minds with brightness of eye, and anyone who wants to prove he’s brilliant stares into others’ faces, focusing on their eyes. This way, they may witness for themselves how brightly his own flash and the inordinate acumen with which they shine. Hisham’s eyes, on the other hand, did not shine at all, and were small too. Similarly his brown complexion, unremarkable features, meager body, and natural tendency toward shyness and introspection made him appear simply one of those undifferentiated thousands who throng the streets and buses. As soon as Hisham began to speak, however, you would be amazed, because he would grasp what you were saying immediately and comment on it before you’d finished. Then he’d fall silent and quietly smile, as though apologizing for having left you behind. They say—though God knows how true this is—that Hisham learned to speak very early and that before he was three years old he knew how to wind the old Grundig tape reel, put it in place on the machine, thread it, and finally press the button to make the music come out. Because Hisham and I were at the same secondary school, I myself had the opportunity to observe his talents, which carried everything before them. Hisham wasn’t one of those who would plod away at his studies for hours and hours; he would understand the lesson in class and read it once at home, after which he might do a few exercises. Then he would effortlessly achieve the highest marks. In math, he’d often stand up and explain to us, in his quiet voice, how he had solved a problem that had defeated us all, and when he had finished and the teacher had thanked him, we would stare at him, in admiration or with envy. He, however, hated being the object of attention, so he’d busy himself by searching for his pencil, or lean back and start a conversation with the student sitting behind him. Hisham came first in the school in the Secondary General exam. He wanted to go into engineering but his mother wept and pleaded with him in the name of his dead father, reminding him that he was her only child and that all her hopes were pinned on his becoming a doctor, . . . Read More.

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