For Sale

There’s an old saying that girls here use a lot nowadays. Sa ki pa touye ou, li angrese ou—that which doesn’t kill you makes you fat. My mother used to scold papa for drinking too beer with those words but the girls mean something else. I should know.

Bonjou, m rélé Madeleine, I am fourteen years old, three months pregnant and live with my little brother Pierre. Since our parents died I am all he has. He is all I have. Soon I will be too big and ugly to make any money. After that there will be another little mouth to feed for a while.  Such is life I suppose. You get by as best you can. I make about fifty goud a day and we usually have enough to eat.

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Sabrina

Keith needs to know if his daughter is sneaking out of the house at night. He has caught her sleeping fully dressed and with her shoes on. He has also caught her introducing herself to people as “Sabrina,” which is not her name. Her name is Ruth. Her name, her real name, shares a final tongue thick consonant with Keith’s, the th like a binding agent between them, between the teeth of anyone referring to either or both of them, the same bitten tongue required for…

Ruth.

Keith.

But now she is asking people to refer to her, to think of her, with the suggestive open mouthed “ah” sound that ends so many girls’ names—Maria, Teresa, Jessica, Olivia, Allegra—open and inviting, dip lipped and low tongued, as when a doctor or anyone else for that matter tells you to open wide and say, “Ah.”

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To the Other Side

You know a good man when you see one, that’s what my great-grandma would say, back in those days when the island was full of men, and women could pick and choose, like you would a cherry from a tree. It’s all a legend now, my great-grandma’s stories, the way she became alive.

The giant whales came from the other side of the island and took all our men and boys away, left the rest of us behind, back when I was a child. We watched the show, mesmerized, my girlfriends and I. Each winter, our mothers would give us round glass snow globes, with beautifully sculpted men, yet fragile, trapped inside.

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Viewing Is Essential

THIS SPACIOUS MODERN THIRD FLOOR APARTMENT INCLUDES:

ENTRANCE HALL (3.6m x 1.3m) where they squeezed in their furniture on Moving In Day, as Dad helped them unload all the bags and boxes from the van outside.

CARPET FLOORING, which got ruined by the peppered footprints of his hiking boots and helped them agree a no shoes inside rule.

LARGE STORAGE CUPBOARD, where they kept their old photographs and study folders that she’d secretly get out and go through to remind her of more exciting times.

DOUBLE BEDROOM (4.3m x 2.6m) where she’d brought him a pot of tea and a plate of toast, fried eggs and bacon, the afternoon after his birthday party.

DOUBLE-GLAZED WINDOWS they’d argue about opening or shutting, especially in May and October.

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The Moment

“Almose ther mista.” Pradeep hops gracefully into the water and tugs the skiff towards shore. “Thanks mate.” I grin at Samir (why had I said okay when Pradeep had asked to bring his young son? Wanted to say no but then I’d look like the asshole.) Forget it. I lean back and rest my gaze at the beaming moon. I can’t believe the moment is almost here.

Months of seeking. Retreats. Spiritual advisors. Pilgrimages. Gurus. Countless hours of silent meditation, shadowy auras floating above my eyes. The intense joy at finally feeling the slight pressure of an invisible thumb in the center of my forehead. So soft I was afraid I’d imagined it.  Transcendence. Almost.

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Afternoon Fireworks as a Useless Metaphor

“We’re having a baby,” she says to him, holding her urine stick out in front of her stomach like armour.

You’re having a baby, I’m having a vasectomy!” His face shows no reaction, not even a glance. Fingers move furiously over buttons with raised coloured shapes.

“No wait,” he says, “This one’s better.”

You’re having a baby, I’m having another beer.”

She is already drifting to the porch, phone in hand.

“No wait…”

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Pileup

I’m in a canoe on an upland river. My daughter is on the bow seat, leaning forward, clutching the gunwales with her small hands. “Wonderwall” by Oasis is playing aloft in the breeze of a monochrome sky.

“Faster, Daddy!”

Penelope’s short brown hair is tied back in two stubby pigtails. OshKosh overalls over a pink t-shirt. A team of horses runs in the autumnal periphery. I dip my paddle to steer us around a shallow bar. We enter a narrow gorge and I look up and see unmanned construction excavators perched atop the canyon walls, long steel arms extended and cutting into the rock, causing large chunks to slide and plunge into the water around us.

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Night Fifteen at the Shangri-La

They were both white, both in their late forties. He wore an ivory panama hat and no wedding ring. She had shaved her legs for the first time in eleven months, had been horrified at the thick black hairs that violated the gleaming porcelain of the bathtub; horrified, too, by the salami-like discolouration of her pale legs. She’d wrapped up her shaved cankles in bright white espadrilles, the white was supposed to bring out her tan. Her cotton blouse was white, too; white underwear, white linen pants, white teeth that she always brushed after every meal. He was smoking a cigar, sitting at the bar, as he did every night, long strands of grey hair emerging like spiderlegs from the shirt he always left a little bit unbuttoned. He smoked but his teeth weren’t yellow, she noticed. Thank god. Yellow teeth, smoker’s breath: that had always been the one thing she couldn’t stomach. Everything else—body fat, sagging ballsacks, receding hairlines—she bore with grace, but she drew the line at poor dental hygiene.

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Pool Dream

There’s a swimming pool in the backyard. I’m standing at the top of the stairs, on the porch. The dirt is curled up around the speckled eggshell-colored concrete surrounding the pool. The three gumball trees that fell last October in the hurricane are still standing.

My sister is laying out in a lounge chair, reading a magazine. Her hair’s up in a ponytail with a scrunchie. She never wears her hair like that. She doesn’t read magazines. I wonder if that’s even my sister. Her hair is curly—ringlets, like my mother’s is in her wedding portrait. It’s not my sister. It’s my mother.

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To the Child on the Sailboat, From the Woman on the Shore

The 32-foot Catalina bobs atop the water like a red and white fishing lure. Distance increases scope while reducing size.

I imagine the boat as the upper portion of an illustrated graphic intended to help children visualize the relative size of an iceberg. To reveal how massive the iceberg when you peek beneath the surface. How huge the part you can’t see.

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