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    June 2010

    25. The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

    By Neil Gaiman

    You ask me if I can forgive myself? I can forgive myself for many things. For where I left him. For what I did. But I will not forgive myself for the year that I hated my daughter, when I believed her to have run away, perhaps to the city. During that year I forbade her name to be mentioned, and if her name entered my prayers when I prayed, it was to ask that she would one day learn the meaning of what she had done, of the dishonour that she had brought to my family, of the red that ringed her mother’s eyes.

    I hate myself for that, and nothing will ease that, not even what happened that night, on the side of the mountain.

    I had searched for nearly ten years, although the trail was cold. I would say that I found him by accident, but I do not believe in accidents. If you walk the path, eventually you must arrive at the cave.

    But that was later. First, there was the valley on the mainland, the whitewashed house in the gentle meadow with the burn splashing through it, a house that sat like a square of white sky against the green of the grass and the heather just beginning to purple.

    And there was a boy outside the house, picking wool from off a thornbush. He did not see me approaching, and he did not look up until I said, “I used to do that. Gather the wool from the thorn-bushes and twigs. My mother would wash it, then she would make me things with it. A ball, and a doll.”

    He turned. He looked shocked, as if I had appeared out of nowhere. And I had not. I had walked many a mile, and had many more miles to go. I said, “I walk quietly. Is this the house of Calum MacInnes?”

    The boy nodded, drew himself up to his full height, which was perhaps two fingers bigger than mine, and he said, “I am Calum MacInnes.” . . . Read More.

    24. Adults at Home

    By Marcy Dermansky

    The afternoon my little sister won her first U.S. Open, I was also busy, having strenuous sex with David Solemn, a man I’d met earlier that morning at Dunkin Donuts. We did it on the white living room carpet in my parents’ new Connecticut house while the match was broadcast live on the big screen TV. David kept pace with the rallies, moving fast when Amy served and volleyed, thrusting hard for first serves and overheads.

    “Your sister hits the shit out of the ball,” he said.

    My sister, Amy Luna, rising tennis star, took the second set at love. She rocked back and forth on the heels of her sneakers during the closing ceremonies, grinned throughout her older opponent’s retirement speech as the defeated former champion bid farewell to her loyal fans. Amy threw her racquet high in the air, her hands filled with the monstrous trophy and a cardboard replica of the check for the sum of $750,000.

    The camera panned over to my parents, wearing new white linen outfits, hugging, kissing—lips on lips, hands in each other’s hair. I watched, my mouth hanging agape. All year long my mother told me about her divorce lawyer. She talked about equitable property settlements and wanted to know if I’d started looking for an apartment. She took an inventory of the furniture, offered me the old living room sofa and matching armchair, a new set of white ceramic dishes from the Pottery Barn. “I’m fine here,” I said, though I wasn’t, and my mother sighed loudly before asking me to return a stack of overdue library books. . . . Read More.

    23. To Kill the Pink

    By Ben Greenman

    I’m going to Malawi. I’m writing that down on a single sheet of paper, folding it into thirds, putting it into an envelope, and leaving it on the kitchen table leaning up against the sugar bowl. When I go, I don’t want you to have any outstanding questions about where I’ve gone. Though most of your questions are outstanding. Pause. Get it? Remember when I used to do that, make a joke and then wait a minute before announcing it back to you like you were blind or deaf or dumb? I’ve been doing that to you ever since we were kids, ever since I nicknamed you Tails on account of your pigtails and it stuck. Fifteen years later you are a grown woman with a fine shape, top-shelf and bottom-drawer both, and it’s that bottom drawer that lets the nickname live, even though I had to take off the s. I call you Tail sometimes because it makes you laugh and sometimes also makes you hot, but usually not in public, where you’re Angie.

    Last year I made a mistake in this regard, and I apologize. We were out for a walk, talking, and Lee Johnson who joined the seminary overheard our conversation and told me he thought the name was disrespectful to one of our beautiful sisters. I explained to him that it wasn’t at all, that I was honoring one of the most divine aspects of you or any other sister, the woman’s form, and that he could see how it was intended if he watched me when I bent down in the morning to kiss you good-bye before I went off to the radio station for my shift. You are a beautiful sleeper. You are beautiful awake, too, except when you try to be funny, which is why you shouldn’t try to be. You look good, like I said. You’re morally certain. You notice things about people and comment upon them in a manner that almost always leads to improvement. You’re full of more love than hate. Why bother with funny? Leave that to me. You can come visit me in Malawi. . . . Read More.

    22. Against Specificity

    By Douglas Watson

    The trouble: You want Thing A but are stuck with Thing B.

    Shit, you say, turning Thing B around in your hands. Look at this thing, you say. It’s as dull as a bucket of dirt. It’s not half as interesting as a sculpture of a dog pissing on a dead man’s shoe in the rain, and you don’t have one of those. You don’t have Thing A, either.

    Hell, you haven’t even seen Thing A. You’ve only heard about it from your neighbor, who works down at the Thing Exchange. What he or she said: Thing A shines like a gold tooth in the mouth of Jesus. Thing A is rounder, fuller, faster, zestier than Thing B. Thing A is perfect—it’s what you need. Why, it even smells good, like waffles.

    Your neighbor is a very reliable describer of things. For instance, he or she once described life as the long slide into the box. You’ve been thinking about this lately. The box doesn’t bother you—it might even be cozy in there—but the lid freaks you way the hell out. Not much room, once that lid is in place. You’ve been sliding a long time now; better hurry up and get Thing A while you can still enjoy it. . . . Read More.

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