Joyland

a hub for short fiction

New York

Flight

I’d stepped into the courtyard of Café Amelie to take the call from Hannah but I could only make out every third word she said: Sam, the police, hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Mississippi. Sam was always getting into it with the police and I couldn’t even tell if Hannah was talking to me or to Nick or to someone else at the bar. She hung up mid-sentence.

My father’s friend had taken me out to lunch because he was in New Orleans for a lawyer convention, and he’d been instructed by my mother to feed me and report back to her. I could see him through the window dabbing his mustache with the napkin every seven seconds like he was checking the rearview mirror. I came back inside and finished my plate of oysters Rockefeller, chewing slowly so that he would do all the talking.

Life Camp

Life Camp is also available in Joyland Retro Vol. 1 No. 3.

We are told the sea monkeys need a special place to live. They are handed out, three per plastic sandwich bag, to our teenage mothers preparation class. Brenda, my only friend from the outside, who is six months pregnant and still not showing, does a quick scan of the room—the vision boards with Hilary and Angelina and Oprah, the cradle dioramas, our oblivious teacher with her ironed three piece suit and ponytailed grey hair —and plops the bag in her purse.

A Doom of Her Own

Please understand.

This story will tell you nothing in a straightforward fashion. Though the pages are numbered, you must not confuse sequence with consequence. The pages are paths, and you will have to choose among them.  

That is to say, whatever happens here will be your fault. But I will try to help you. Really, I will. I’ll make the choices clear. And I’ll make it possible for you to retrace your steps, over and over and over again, if that’s what you feel compelled to do. 

So now the story begins:

Essay: Tangled

Richard and I were in Maine visiting our friend Josey, who had restored a building beside a swing bridge. The building had at various times been a dance hall and a bowling alley, and you could see faded lettering and brickwork from its past. The windows framed boats, water, and sky, and you felt skipped along on a tide. Josey saw beauty where other people didn’t see anything. It was how she had found her house.

One night she invited another couple to dinner. We were all in our 50s or early 60s. It was August, and the air had a sultry feel against your skin. Veronica and George weren’t exactly a couple. They were friends or an on-again-off-again couple. Some people grow into each other like trees planted close together. Their branches and roots get tangled, even if they have not planned it. George knew about such arrangements. He worked as a landscape designer, getting down in dirt with knee pads. Josey had not met him before. Veronica was her friend.

Spells

 

I am starting the Saturday ritual upstairs of moving the old boxes from the new bedroom back into the old bedroom when the doorbell rings.  I’m not startled when it comes.  They say old sounds are like this.  I move to the window and call out to Lara.  Her head cocks back and her grey streaks follow as if caught on wind.  I take this as a sign of good will. 

She comes in, walks the fourteen steps up, and says, Terry, boy, you moving again?

I am carrying boxes packed with relics from our time together, those which I cannot seem to let go and so I move them and move them again, a process that’s taken me three Saturdays and hasn’t progressed much.

Repacking, I say. 

Strange. You have a smoke?

Empty Nest

 

Excerpted from the in-progress linked collection, Joy, Somewhere in the City

Laine was in the passenger seat, her husband Gerald at the wheel, when he confessed he'd been sleeping with another woman. She folded up the papery New Jersey map, keeping the creases where they belonged, even smoothing down the seams before she started screaming.

Their car sped along the Turnpike on the way home from the airport, where they had just dropped their daughter Maya at the British Airways counter, yielding her to the Crown for a post grad year at Oxford. Their older son Alex, who had lived with them at home after college, had flown off to Berlin for a consulting job. Laine was alone—not just in the house, but on the continent. Gerald had used her long name: “Elaine, I’m sorry to tell you this way.”

The Picture of Feminine Corporate Sensuality

Excerpted from the forthcoming novel Executive Privilege: An Erotic Satire due this fall from Baby Robot Press.

Carolyne was a ball of frenzy. She wasn't usually like this and, in fact, she hated when she felt this way. She could already sense the tension of the day, and her much-anticipated meeting with Peter Mansfield, founder and CEO of Deep Tissue Nautilus Supply Co. Industries, creeping into her shoulders. Carolyne Feldencrest, even on a bad day, was a force to be reckoned with. But she pitied anyone who would try to pull one over on her tough-as-nails business savvy on a day like today. Carolyne knew she had to do something to ease her mind. She hurried to her Rolodex, formulating a plan.

Pop

The first burst balloon was not entirely William's fault. The days had been getting shorter and the wind carried a chill, but he did not notice this as he walked home. Nor did he hear the people talking around him, the woman shouting into her telephone, the beggar asking for change. When there was a sudden release of air near his hand, he barely felt it. But a glittering frond caught his eye as it fell to the ground. He paused absent mindedly to look at it. That was when he heard the child crying.

Cookie Dough

Just out of the subway I spotted the idling hybrid Toyota that 2Byung said he'd be driving.  I looked through the window and saw a man with a thin face, a cleft chin and a full head of salt and pepper hair.  I pressed my forehead against the glass to see clearly through the window and he peered back at me with a forced smile.

2Byung was a perfect example of how little you can guess about the way a person looks by talking to them online.  I’d have pegged him an overweight, pig nosed computer-programmer type, which would have been way off.  He was more of a waspy, TV dad ala Danny Tanner type, the kind of guy whose face would be right at home on campaign flyer or a realtor ad.  I opened the door and looked at him.  He nodded at me, so I sat in the passenger seat.  As soon as the door was closed, he took off.

“Hi, I’m Will,” he said.

“Sid.” 

“Is that your real name?” he asked.

“Yes, Where are we?” 

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