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Fiction: 2020s

Fiction of the Day

Trial Run

By Zach Williams


I pitched through the lobby door and then, as I caught my breath, stood looking back at the storm. It was bad out there. The city had been reduced to dim outlines and floating lights; snow moved down Nineteenth Street in waves. I beat it from my hat and coat, knocked my boots together. Under those high ceilings, each sound reverberated. Only the emergency lights were on, there was no one at the front desk, all the elevators in the bank sat open and waiting. And in a fit of hope, I thought there might not be, in all the building, even one other soul.

Though I hadn’t hit that button, the elevator stopped on nine: silence, nothing but cubicles in the faint light of an alarm panel. When the doors slid open again on fourteen I saw Manny Mintauro, our security guard, like a stone slab behind his podium. Half his face was in shadow. My heart fell at the sight of him.

“Sup, bro,” he said, deep and grave.  

The elevator doors closed behind me. “Hey, Manny.” Snow dropped from my jeans onto the carpet. “Thought it might just be me today.

from Infinite Life

By Annie Baker


APPEARING HERE


SOFI, forties, lives in Los Angeles, California
EILEEN, seventies, lives in Wichita, Kansas
ELAINE, sixties, lives in Dublin, New Hampshire
GINNIE, sixties, lives in Rio Vista, California
YVETTE, sixties to seventies, lives in Midland, Michigan


SETTING


The courtyard of a medical clinic two hours north of San Francisco.
Two rows of outdoor chaise longues.
May 2019.


A “/” indicates that the next speaker’s dialogue has begun.

SCENE 13


Everyone is onstage lying on their chairs. Elaine is holding a green juice and Ginnie is reading a Thich Nhat Hanh book.


GINNIE
Here’s a provocative question.


YVETTE
Ready.

We All Fall Down

By McKenzie

They sayed she had gotted a white mans education. She had climbed the jet and flied across the ocean to read abroad. They sayed she had a big house in the big town of Meru. A big house and big car like a Prado that all the rich people driving in town. They sayed she had one children. A boy children that go to big school for rich people. They sayed she had a law degree but all she did was obey the orders of the wardens and pray. She prayed a lot. Some of the times she used to cry small small when she was praying. Some of the times she would kneel down but not that many times. The wardens would beat us when we showed funny behavior. Mange never showed funny behavior. Mange toed the line.

A Summer Party

By Christina Wood

Rosemary looked over the party; her parents and her parents’ friends down below on the sod lawn. Seersucker and espadrilles; white cotton dresses; Brazilian jazz; the costumes of their heyday. They drank beer and Long Island iced tea and white wine punch, a recipe Rosemary’s mother had clipped from a magazine. Two pitchers on the patio table, under the shade of an umbrella, and two more, waiting in the fridge. Ice cubes slugged into the ice chest; smell of window screen like rust. There were Mr. and Mrs. Carson; Mr. and Mrs. Wentz; the Pattersons in matching hibiscus print; Patricia, who cut Rosemary’s hair; Lauren’s father and his nameless new wife.

Mathematics, under Which Is Love, Whose Bed Is Language

By Adania Shibli

A PAPER


And so it goes, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and empty; and on its deep face was darkness. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, and He was pleased. And God divided light from darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And light stole the darkness of the night from the paper. And the writer saw the whiteness of the paper and that it was empty. And the emptiness of the paper filled the writer with emptiness. And the writer called the emptiness of the paper the death of the writer.

The Beyoğlu Municipality Waste Management Orchestra

By Kenan Orhan

Selim the half-wit hoarded everything—that was the story they told me my first day in waste management. Selim had lost his wife, and I guess everyone figured he took up hoarding as a way to fill the void. It started out with stuff his wife might have liked—small earrings, a tea set, owl statuettes—picked out of garbage bins. Well, Selim ended up with a house packed to the rafters with trash he thought was gold. He tucked it onto shelves and into stacks, put it in cupboards, crammed it under floorboards, couch cushions, and the mattress, until there was no space left but overhead.

So Many Different Worlds

By Anuk Arudpragasam

On the evening of the accident Ganesan was on a bus from the office in Fort, heading in the direction of the National Cancer Institute in Maharagama. The bus was making its way in starts and stops, accelerating and braking as the driver tried, ruthlessly, to overtake on the crowded roads, and Ganesan was gazing out through the half-open window, at pedestrians waiting impatiently at traffic lights and bus stops, at passengers in other vehicles staring silently into their phones or out at the monotonous evening. The light hadn’t yet begun to fade but the day was coming to its end, the city’s commuters all lost in the long, mindless journey from place of work to place of sleep, their last remaining obligation to the outside world. Ganesan squinted out at the passing street signs now and then to see whether he was nearing the hospital, but unable to decipher their wording from afar, in no great hurry to reach his destination and not especially concerned about getting off too early or too late, he soon forgot what he was looking for and let his eyes glaze over, the few sharp edges he’d managed to summon to his field of vision dissolving back into peaceful ambiguity.

A Supernatural Landscape of Love and Grief Not Unlike Your Own

By Peyton Burgess

Sometimes PB to my students, Sack to my friends, and always Pete to my family, my name is Peter Burgundy and I worry that death has been my only inspiration to be a better person—that death has had a way of making life understandable. And oh whoa, how I worry that this will be the case till kingdom come—walking through every day to the quiet beat of grief ’s unfinished heart.

Somebody shouldn’t always have to die, right?

Uhtceare

By John Jeremiah Sullivan


CHAIR


When I was small my parents would host a lot of parties. I don’t know if they had more friends then or were just, as people say, “at a more social place in their lives,” but at least once a month there would be a bunch of adults in our apartment, drinking crappy wine and trying to play our untunable piano. There is something powerful for a child about your parents having people over. It’s not anything that happens at the parties but the evidence they give you that people feel safe where you live. That must go back to the savanna. Sometimes things happened at the parties that I was probably too young to see, but nothing scarring, just grown-up scenes.