Joyland

a hub for short fiction

Ms. Universe

Baton went up into the blue sky, whipping around so fast it seemed to bend. Baton came down, the spin slowing just before seven long purple fingers grasped it twice around and pulled it to the chest of an auburn felt uniform.

“She’s good.” There was a whole team of majorettes on the field, but somehow Lydia knew exactly where I was looking. We were sitting on the hill above the field, far enough from the smoking quad that we wouldn’t be collateral damage to the usual lunch-hour fistfight, but near enough that we could hear the shouts and smacks. Deek was on the other side of Lydia. Since Deek started guarding her, Lydia always had to be in the middle.

“Think she’s the hottest one, Carmina? The Martian?”

Transcript: Appeal of the Sentence

A version of this story also appears in Cosmo, available now from Coach House Books.

...the sentence itself is a man-made object, not the one we wanted of course, but still a construction of man, a structure to be treasured for its weakness, as opposed to the strength of stones
— From “The Sentence,” Donald Barthelme

DaveWare

I bought a 3D printer the other day. I’d been reading about them in magazines over the past year or so, watched videos of guys in lab coats huddle solemnly around fabricated guns and waffles, and when I saw one on eBay I snapped it up without hesitating. It wasn’t listed as a 3D printer but a “dual extrusion autoforge.” When UPS rang downstairs I only nodded and signed my name, the same as if it were a shipment of boxer shorts.

War of Attrition

My marriage is ending and it's my fault. In the other room, Andrew is snoring. I’m on the couch. Here is the buttery weight of polar fleece on bare skin, the entire length of my body unblemished by a goose bump. Try not to anticipate the cold. Squint at the dark window, listen for the rain, but only to harden against the inevitable. At five I get up: sweater, housecoat, slippers on the floor within reach. Pull them under the covers first. To turn on the gas fireplace is to risk making inside too comfortable. Kettle on while I dress for work: long underwear, fleece vest, wool sweater. Two layers of socks, even though that's not a good idea. Cuts off circulation, Andrew says.

Tiger’s Got Teeth

Ethel Rohan's new collection of fiction, Goodnight Nobody, is now available for preorder from Queen's Ferry Press. Here's a repost of Rohan's 2011 Joyland story.

Roberta refused to move past the antiques shop, its grimy front window crowded with Korean furniture, ornaments and bric-a-brac. Anna protested her immovable mother; they were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Seoul and en-route to Chanddokkung Palace, why delay in a creepy antiques shop? Roberta pulled Anna past the colossal stone creatures on either side of the shop entrance. Anna couldn’t decide if the bizarre-looking statues were supposed to be dogs or lions. She and her mother separated immediately, Anna drawn to the rustic urns and Roberta elsewhere.

The Farmers Market

Home

The family resides in what was once a famous crack house. Their neighborhood, at the edge of a city park, has been revitalized. The city received a grant from the state. Tax incentives were offered to those willing to buy the once stately homes. The mayor enlisted the aid of certain renegade members of the police force, and also some union organizers, to usher criminal elements from the area, although this was not reported and is not known.

The park is beautiful again, as it was near the beginning of the last century, when, the mother imagines, ladies in hoop skirts walked their tiny dogs and young couples wheeled past on bicycles built for two.

Still, there are vestiges of the neighborhood’s darker years.

The mother, on an early morning run through the center of the park, stumbles across a goat with its throat cut, tied with a rope to a tree. It wavers on its legs, nose grazing a puddle of its own dark blood.

Entropy

Excerpted from the in-progress book RAD: a twisted memoir of a fierce teenage girl in 1982. Halpern’s latest film, with co-director Chris Quilty, is the documentary Llyn Foulkes One-Man Band, which premiered at the LA Film Festival.

I am 16 and not invited to my mom’s third wedding.  Apparently, it’s a ‘no kids allowed’ affair, which is scandalous considering I menstruate, I have touched three penises (two with my eyes open), and tonight, I am pretty sure I will lose my virginity.  When I march in my mom’s bedroom to tell her what I think, she laughs and says of course you’re invited.  We said it to keep the Bialy kids from coming, the ones who always pee in the pool.  That’s a relief, I say.  I thought you guys didn’t want me there.  My Stepdad-To-Be says nothing as he pulls on his shoes and leaves. 

Big Lunch

Minutes after the cathedral tour, I was with this boy at Hesburger on Vilnius Street. Just two casual acquaintances on vacation, as they say. We each ordered the number four: double-stacked burgers with fries and pop. I chose orange Fanta and the boy, who seemed eager to please me, got the same. 

He sat adjacent to me; I was on a stupid bench and he got to sit on a chair. But it wasn't like we were at the Blu Astorija Hotel, so we unwrapped the plastic from our big number fours and began to nibble. 

Algae You In My Dreams

What I remember is, that same night, eating cabbage, raw, over the sink. Nate was working late again and Lucy was sleeping over at Nate’s mom’s, and now I’m thinking maybe that accounts for everything. When I finally fell asleep, it was to the TV: a program about algae. Coral reefs, the scientists were saying, are in danger. They seemed personally hurt, as though something had been stolen from them. Like they’d trusted us nonscientists, and we’d all let them down.

This was a night last week. I had a dream that Sadie, our husky, got mixed up with the Leavitts’ cat, and in a bad way. The cat gave Sadie a deep scratch in the eyeball, and after the vet sewed it up, he put her head in a lampshade, which he told me was important not to remove for six weeks. He sent me home with eyedrops. Administer once a day, he said. The shade pleased Lucy, who called Sadie “Shady.” Anyway, that was the dream. 

Mutations

Andrew Sullivan's first book, All We Want is Everything, is now available from Arbeiter Ring Publishing. The short story collection will be launched tomorrow, Wednesday, June 26, in Toronto. We're reposting a story of Andrew's from Joyland's archive to celebrate.

“How many times do I have to explain this to you? Alright, number one: I don’t even work inside the plant. Can you get that through your head and then listen to me for one second?”

A Rembrandt

Excerpted from the complete novel manuscript, Everything I Want You to Be.

In New York, it’s not the changing leaves that indicate fall is in full swing.  Regardless of how much time you spend with chameleon pigments while walking through Prospect Park, trees aren’t the ultimate barometer.  It’s not the texture of the air, either; sure, it doesn’t hang with paralyzing humidity as it does through the summer, but cool breezes off the water and steamy air vents at service hatches manipulate the temperature year-round.  Quite simply, you can’t trust what your senses feed you. 

The Rings

Eric Barnes' new novel Something Pretty Something Beautiful is now available from Outpost19 Books. Here's a repost of Eric's Joyland story from earlier this year.

The streetlights are shining white in the rain, one after another casting light through the windshield, the motion of the car bringing bright white then gray, the motion of the light seeming to twist the layers of smoke that hang, in circles, around us inside the car.

Carl is driving one-handed. Leaning down toward the gearshift. Taking a hit from his pipe. His face and eyes turning gray and black and white.

“Bark like a dog,” I say quietly, turning to watch him, smiling some at him, smiling wider and thinking I can cast my own little spell on Carl. “Bark.”

Carl is my good friend.

Carl turns to the road, resting the pipe in the ashtray.

Come Over Here and Take Your Medicine

Bad news: they found small white aphids on the Pearl Calico Shebunkins that morning.  These were the moneymakers.  The right kind of customer would ogle them while they darted around their tank and mumble, hypnotized, “How much?” 

The value was in their color, their shine. Goldfish fins refract light, Faye told the employees when they arrived at Faye’s Fins, outlining a tail with one stubby, unpolished nail.  These fish required constant exposure to high-powered lights to keep their colors from dulling.  If left in the dark, the fish would eventually fade to gray.  Then there’d be hell to pay. It had happened once during a power outage: twenty Telescope eyes big as carp and smuggled in from China had gone from vermilion to gray, tropical fruit to gruel, koi pond to grocery store sushi, in less than eight hours. 

Someone asked, “Did they sell?”

Faye snorted and drew her finger across her throat. 

I Want Too Much

Mona Awad

Probably one of these days I’m going to kill Trixie. I have my reasons. I can hear her squawking to another customer just beyond the change room door which isn’t a door it’s a curtain, it’s a dark red curtain like a Lynchian portal to hell. On the other side, Trixie is telling some woman how, with some cute boots, that skirt could really be cute. Or a cute shirt! What about a cute shirt? What about a cute shirt and cute boots?! So cute. Something happens inside of me whenever Trixie says the word cute. My shoulders meet my ears. Heat crackles up my arms. I grow afraid behind my curtain, bracing myself for the moment when the shrill edge of her voice becomes pointed in my direction. Because it’s only a matter of time. The robin’s egg spaghetti strap number she chose for me has my tits in a strangle hold and she’ll be coming to check on that soon.

The Savior of Clouds

Megan ‘The Love of God’ Jeffries moved her finger. Click. The subject of the email read Please proofread the attached cover letter (ALIGNMENT ISSUE: AN ISSUE AT ALL?). New email calmed her. She scrolled with the same finger and read the email thread. Fifteen people including herself were attached. The office was quiet in a purr of central air, Xerox machines, and the hidden fans of computers. Megan continued petting the scroll-wheel of her mouse.

Moving outward from their cubicles came the voices of Tanya, Carol, and Cheryl.

“Hey, what’s everyone doing for lunch?”

“Chinese?”

“I like egg rolls.”

“I’m good. Brought my lunch.”

“Oh, whaja’ bring?”

“A sandwich.”

“Sounds good.”

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