Scoundrel Time

Fiction

First Gods

They had the number, Lalita divined. Now, sitting with her father and mother at the restaurant, looking at her father’s face, its flat surface smugly composed for once, instead of explosive with rage, Lalita was sure of it. Her parents, having never...

Allegiance

By the time I made it to the school bus, there was one seat left, the one next to Candy. I scanned each row again until Freddy the bus driver, pink and patchy face fuzz, yelled “Take a seat!” Then, a little lower, “Next time you better hustle, girl...

Catch and Release

A lonely trout swam in circles among the pebbles in the shallows of the lake, murmuring about fillets. She knew it was unhealthy and pointless to dwell on morbid fantasy. Yet she could not forget. Her nightmare recurred. True, it was a happy fact...

The Ashen Light

It was July and James, my husband of four months, and I had just driven straight through from Oregon to Chicago. I had lined up a second-year summer internship at a cat hospital in Chicago so that when I graduated from Oregon State’s veterinary...

A Cloud Like a Person Standing Upside Down

This story was inspired by a Chinese news report. For decades, the town on the Yangtze River in southern China had been known for its two kinds of clouds. There were the black clouds billowing out of five big chimneys of a cement factory on the...

Competition

He knelt on the ice and watched his brother Craig skate the wide oval they had cleared off the flood. On the straights, Craig crouched and stretched and pulled with one arm then the other, his crocheted scarf trailing out behind, then glided into...

After Math

Geniuses The boys always planned to be geniuses. Papers spread over the tabletops, numbers on screens. Their gaze has missed something. The girl in a box in the darkness of the closet, hands folded, trinkets worn round her neck motionless. Once...

The President is Missing

We think he is somewhere in the White House, but we cannot find him. He was last seen wearing his robe, watching television in the presidential sitting room, flipping through news channels, pausing occasionally upon seeing his likeness. Many of us...

The Body Confesses

We were so young, my sister and I, both of us still wearing dresses that showed our grubby knees. I don’t know why we joined the crowd that followed our father, who was acting again on one of his “feelings” when he led us to the abandoned...

Invisible Theater

  Not long after the Loma Prieta earthquake, our collective decided to stage an Invisible Theater performance in the atrium restaurant of a grand hotel in San Francisco’s Financial District. When Eva and I walked in, she nodded to our brother...

How It Ends: After Trump

Come and see. A red-haired woman dances barefoot on the asphalt on one side of the street. An elderly man with a cane tries to keep up with her and bursts into laughter as he almost loses his balance. Two olive-skinned young men make music with...

How It Ends: Last Words

The presidential bedroom is covered in gold leaf and glimmers dimly in the predawn darkness. The President is in bed. He reaches out of the golden comforter for the remote. On the giant screen, a man sits beside a woman at a translucent desk. The...

How It Ends: The House

The sponge on the counter reeks faintly and the kitty-cat clock is stuck at 10:05, such a non-time, morning or night, it doesn’t matter. The whole house is like a bad belly, swollen with gross nostalgia: the old-timey radio, the Formica table, the...

How It Ends: Downward Muslimah

When they came for me, I wasn’t expecting it. Every day since the election, I’ve felt just a little less safe, but I never thought they’d actually round us up. Even after the ban, I still had hope. I’m an American citizen, an attorney who knows what...

How It Ends: Unspeakable

I told Ina I would never speak to her again. We had been friends of a sort since our twenties—hung out in the same bars, showed up at feminist rallies and marches together—but she was increasingly one of those politicos who find fuel for neurotic...

How It Ends: #ThemToo

In the video—because there are cameras in every room of that house—he’s walking ahead of her down the stairs and then, perhaps sensing she isn’t following, reaches behind him for her hand. He does it without turning and so he...

How It Ends: Inside the Trump Museum

It’s afternoon outside the Trump Museum, and a small crowd of people has entered the park gates and are surging toward the left entrance. There are always so many more people when the Women’s Brigade are in charge of security, recognizable by their...

How It Ends: What Comes Next

  For the light of heart: dancing cat emojis and Grumpy Cat GIFS. For the TV-obsessive: war on North Korea. For the New Year’s Resolutionist: lobster truffle mac n cheese at Dean and Deluca’s: I’ve always wanted to taste this. I don’t know how...

How It Ends: But Her Emails

Following his conviction for money laundering, racketeering, assault, fraud, obstruction, and treasonous plotting with foreign entities, the current White House squatter will be tossed out of the building along with his portraits (those fake Time...

Requiem

  I woke up one morning and my country was gone. It was strange. It had been there the night before, sparking and hissing, but now it was gone. I could feel its absence in the air, which is a feeling like no other. The garden was still there...

Bride

  The saddest man in the world lived in a little town at the base of a mountain. It was a pretty town, but nothing much happened there. The townsfolk went about their lives. Sometimes they discussed the saddest man, and shook their heads in sympathy...

The Blanket Room

—After Italo Calvino and Dorianne Laux When I’m inconsolable, I like to go to The Blanket Room™. A new one just opened at the Maple Heights Mall. They wrap you in a blanket and turn out the lights. Then someone comes in, brushes the hair from your...

Drops Vanish

I remember very little of my childhood, and less as I grow older, each memory lingering like drops of dew on a mirror dropped, forgotten, in a garden. What do I remember? I remember my brother’s feet beside my face as they pumped up and down against...

Exclusive Service

Tom had built up some sort of callus so the leg shackle didn’t bother him as much as it used to. Also, the Team had been very accommodating when he asked for the chain to be lengthened. Those few inches meant he could reach the bathroom, so he felt...

Welcome to My Highway

It was her last day, the last hours she’d spend a full night in that box. The gel on her chapped hands, the roar of traffic from the E-ZPass lanes. Was she ever really here? In a matter of time even the memory of the tollbooth would lose the smell...

Square Fictions

Around the time of the election, I started writing mostly square fictions about the president-elect. It began with one a day, then went to two, then three, then more. They were short because he has (we are told by many who know him) a small...

Shuffle Off

There was a time where I was breaking a lot of things I’d fixed, which is to say I was wasting second chances. I smoked myself right out of a position when the regional manager caught me puffing in the stockroom. Then when I found a job at a...

How the World Really Feels About You

Extremely talented, good-looking, intelligent. You were light on your feet, unafraid to kiss a lady’s hand if she looked like she needed it, the picture of judiciousness and reserve. You would never choose our brothers over us, nor would you ever...

Any Humans Here?

Earlier, in a bar on La Brea, some kid had stared him down. Six-thirty on a Wednesday, not quite (not yet) the dinner hour, and rain flecked the small square windows of the place in dots of light. He’d been with an old friend, small mercy of the...