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    April 2011

    8. Remove Yourself

    By Catherine Lacey

    Werner—

    I am asking you to remove yourself from my automobile.

    I was still. I stayed in my seat.

    Werner, this is ridiculous, you know I don’t have anywhere else to go.

    Werner took the keys out of the ignition, got out of the car, opened the trunk and put my backpack on the sidewalk, gently, as if it was living, then he got back into the car.

    Remove yourself from my automobile.

    I was silent. I opened the door and got out and he turned the car on again.

    It was hard not to take it personally, how fast he drove away.

    A man sitting on the library steps waved excitedly like he had been expecting me to show up. I looked at him and half-waved back, but then he realized that we didn’t know each other so he shrugged and turned back to talk to the man sitting beside him. . . . Read More.

    7. Sunshine Cleaners

    By Daphne Kalotay

    Any weekday in Brookline, drivers caught in Beacon Street traffic might see Sergei hurrying along a certain stretch of wet sidewalk. Sergei’s back crooks slightly to the left, and his pants, baggy on thin, bowed legs, billow in the cold April air. If he’s already completed his transaction, he’ll be heading west, pockets sagging with quarters. When he arrives back at Sunshine Cleaners, he obeys the “PUSH” sign on the door, half expecting—one might call it hope—to find something changed. But there’s old Lida behind the counter, smoking her second cigarette of the day, taking dirty silk shirts from a bald man. The man has also brought a pair of shoes to be resoled, and Lida is shaking her head.

    “But the sign in the window says ‘Shoe Repair,’” the man protests. Other signs read, “24-Hour Tailoring,” “Instant Zipper Fix,” and “We Store Winter Furs!” but those are incorrect, too.

    “Down the street,” says Lida, already turning back to her sewing machine, while Sergei, now out of his snow-flecked red satin bomber jacket, begins work: taking piles of clothes around to the front, past the partition, into the laundromat, over to the wall of bright yellow washing machines. All day he tosses clothes into washers and dryers and adds them to flat, folded stacks.

    If it is a Monday, Sergei keeps an eye out for the tall girl. Last week she told him, “You disgust me!” This was after the change machine took her dollar without giving quarters, and Sergei, when notified, said, “Not my machine.” Other customers have given up on Sergei—if they ever addressed him at all—and no longer bother to approach him when machines malfunction. Not the tall girl. When she offered him her other dollar for four quarters, Sergei just shook his head. . . . Read More.

    6. The Infusions

    By Blake Butler

    Jad’s spine stung in the low wind from the burnfields in no light. Black sun on black sky, black hidden half-moon, the black air bending backward all that black year. Jad had held the torches at right angles for eight hours, and eight hours, several days now, waiting. He’d burned the celebration flares. The ash fields sucked the light and color from the burning. The stretched air ate the sound.

    For weeks now the only word that would come out when Jad spoke was brother. “Brother, brother,” on and on. There was no one to say the word to, and so he said it on and on, into the ash, watching the far lip of the flat fields for any chip of movement, any blur. His twin was out there somewhere. His twin named like his name, if just off, one line in one letter tugged taut to change the middle sound. Jad’s brother Jod. Jod who had still not come back out of the ash there since last leaving. Jod with the birthmark underneath his tongue, which at birth had been the one thing that kept them separate, even in their mother’s eyes. Otherwise they were a matchless match, a replication. Mirrors mirroring their brother selves.

    About the birthing Jad could still recall certain things—the suck of sound before the exit, the peeling of their two twin skins, the drawl—and then suddenly his mother’s fingers, scissors, the light inside that room. . . . Read More.

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