Fiction and Drama

The Promise

The Promise

There’s more to life than not writing

The truth is, we were all lucky enough to have experienced writer’s block at some point in our young lives. The block was the reason we were at the program in the first place. Selected from a competitive pool of talented writers who nevertheless lacked our special gift, we represented the potential of an entire generation. From the beginning, the strength of our funding, from tuition remissions to stipends, as well as the entire trajectory of our so-called careers, was based on the severity of our blockage, which was taken as a sign of the promise of our ability to create something “new.”

Jackpot

Jackpot

Nature is ze enemy

During the years when we couldn’t reach him, I had fantasies about my dad. A classmate’s mother was rumored to be a spy for China. My Syrian father had studied political philosophy in Beirut and London. I thought maybe he had become a pan-Arab revolutionary and that was why we didn’t know where he was.

The Amphibians

The Amphibians

It’s just like one big-ass wedding

Always got to wait for this goddamn drawbridge, says Des. He rolls down his window, lights a cigarette. The quiet makes my stomach light with nervousness. I exhale deeply and it’s still there. I look out the window and inhale the swamp. Finally, I turn to Des and say, You believe in an afterlife?

What Good Is Love?

What Good Is Love?

Something wants out

He eats, cuts more. A thick coin of marbled purple slithers across the counter and over the lip to the floor. He scoops it up, gobbles. Five-second rule, he says. She stares at the tiles that haven’t been mopped since they moved in: Are you looking for food poisoning? Don’t believe in it, he replies, setting his bottle back on the squid stain. I don’t endorse your obsessive fixations, he says, turning back to his spitting pan, tossing in a ring and tentacle to test the oil’s heat. Charlotte arrives at last, via Uber, straight off the flight, fashionable, strangely neat, with a hard little mouth.

The Muslim Lady with a Dog

The Muslim Lady with a Dog

At least I have Champ, she’d say, what do they have? Fat and lazy husbands?

Neutering Champ was probably the right call, since testosterone unnerved him. When Champ wasn’t around I would hug Dadi-ma and sneak her my kisses. If he spotted me touching Dadi-ma in any way, I had to deal with his barking, and then if he got close enough, his biting. But Dadi-ma never scolded Champ. She’d look on with affection whenever he tormented me, as a mother does with her two bickering sons.

Decision Engines

Decision Engines

Behind him, a self-driving car approaches.

Scenario Three. It is a sunny day. On a one-lane road in upstate New York, a young boy is riding his bicycle toward a blind curve. A self-driving car rounds the corner carrying two passengers: a teenage girl and her boyfriend, both of whom attend the same high school. Although the self-driving car is driving at a safe speed, it cannot brake quickly enough to avoid hitting the boy on the bicycle. The car can either hit the boy, killing him instantly, or it can swerve off the road and crash into a large oak tree, sending the car’s passengers through the windshield and into the woods. Knocked unconscious by the impact, both passengers will die before an ambulance arrives. The boy will flee the scene.

Sick Puppy

Sick Puppy

As if she were butter on bread

Curt reached over and patted her head as if she were a dog and said he was “very flattered” and “very fond” of her, but he didn’t tell her he loved her, too. Instead, he reminded her that he was “married” and she was “young” and his “employee” so it was “complicated,” which somehow confirmed for Anna that she was just a body to him, always had been, and always would be. Therefore, she was a nobody. Therefore, it didn’t matter what happened to her. No one cared, least of all Anna.

Three Stories

Three Stories

Every so often you need an accomplice

Four billion years ago, amino acid molecules set loose by a dying star gathered into macromolecules, matter having a tendency to become more complex. Who asked it to? During the next half billion years, macromolecules evolved into living cells, first without nuclei, then into cells that could reproduce. One minute you’re matter and the next, poof, you’re alive! Has that ever happened to you? You need soup and the right temperature, things your grandmother would know about, but she hasn’t evolved yet. It’s all guesswork in the dark, the serious, falling-in-love dark. These cells develop DNA, a long molecule that encodes all the information an organism needs to survive. Then they go on a rampage. They do not take no for an answer. This is not some ex-boyfriend who keeps calling or Jessica Walters in Play Misty for Me, who has one date with Clint Eastwood and tries to kill his girlfriend. These cells print themselves like money.

Piss Trump

Piss Trump

A future writ in piss, gushing with life and change and becoming

Hannity mimes surveillance footage from eight separate cameras in the bedroom of the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton, Moscow in November 2013, Trump in suit and tie clapping his hands twice smartly to begin the festivities, a pair of dancers entering the bedroom to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairy Dance” . . .

On My Way Again

On My Way Again

In what possible way could airports be considered inferior to actual cities, nowadays?

April on the motorway, the sun’s red streaks across the asphalt, the world all delicately decorated with a glaze from the recent rain—an Easter cake. I’m driving on Good Friday, at dusk, from the Netherlands to Belgium—I don’t know which country I’m in now, since the border has vanished; unused, it’s been expunged.