Joyland

a hub for short fiction

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.”

St. Urbain’s Horse’s Ass

Almost every evening, beginning in late April or early May, Isaac sat on the exposed staircase of his apartment and watched the corner of St. Urbain and Bernard gasp to life. The condos around the corner were inhabited by people Isaac might have called yuppies if he didn’t feel so close to becoming a young urban professional himself; they bought organic food at the nearby fruiteries and brought it home in canvas tote bags, talking whip-fast French into their smartphones. There were also people Isaac recognized from school or parties, who passed him by with a wave and walked on in their well-fitted clothes. 

“So wistful!” a voice said. “What a vision.”

Isaac looked down the staircase and there was Bronwen, smiling, flashing the gap between her front teeth. Her boyfriend Martin climbed the steps behind her, hoisting a massive, overstuffed armchair.

“Martin,” Isaac said, “what the hell is that?”

Chapman's Green Hairstreak

We've reposted this story from our archives in advance of this month's edition of the Truth & Fiction podcast with guest James Greer. This very funny and insightful episode airs Thursday, May 9. More info here.

Even the sun runs late in Paris. In the pre-bloom dark, from an unshuttered window five stories above the street, Thomas Early could hear the Turks on the sidewalk arguing about attar of Damask rose. In Turkey the production of attar is strictly regulated by a state-run collective, but these guys were rogue producers, distilling in moist cellars the fragrant oil that had, in the past, both started wars and ended them.

Break All the Way Down

The mother of my boyfriend’s youngest child called in the middle of the night. He was asleep, the heat from his body wrapping around us. I stared at the dark shadows of the ceiling fan lazily spinning above us. He sleeps soundly despite many reasons he should not.

“I’m at the front door,” she said. Her voice was tight and thin.

I tried to shake my boyfriend awake but he merely shifted, stretching his leg across my side of the bed. He snored lightly. I sighed.

Are You Okay?

Tamara Faith Berger

An excerpt from “The Way of the Whore,” revised and newly collected beside Believer Book Award winner Tamara Faith Berger's first novel,“Lie With Me,” in Little Cat, from Coach House Books.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

I remember the way John stroked my forehead after we’d had sex for the first time. It felt repetitive, insistent.

 

I wanted to hide.

 

“Mira. C’mon, baby, open your eyes.”

 

There was a candle making shadows on the ceiling. My back was glued to the couch. John was squeezed in beside me.

 

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.

Essay: The Real Portlandia

Richard Melo's new novel, Happy Talk, is out this June from Red Lemonade.

I was half out of my mind if not all the way. One year, I became a single dad. Then a year and a half later, my kid’s mom died. My first novel, a book I had spent the decade of my twenties writing, was finally coming out, and while I should have been ecstatic at my first publishing experience, with so much sadness at home, my face felt too heavy to smile. George Bush was president and acting like someone who never met a war he didn’t like. These were dark times.

Some people in circumstances like these might have turned to drugs and alcohol, others to Jesus Christ. All I wanted was to take care of my four-year-old daughter and surround myself with as much laughter as I could stand until life turned back to normal. Lucky for me, I found LiveJournal.

Divestment

Gerda Kohl, eighty years old, sat in the den of her house, surrounded by cardboard boxes. Her two daughters were fighting in the study next door. They kept their voices lowered, but it was an old house with thin walls, and although Gerda couldn’t understand the words, the tone was clear enough. Charlotte and Anne had never gotten on at the best of times, and it was probably inevitable that they should fight now. She only wished they’d picked a more distant room.

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