Salamander 2013 Fiction Prize

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I’m a big fan of Salamander Magazine and it was an honor to have “Funeral By The Arcade” read for this fiction prize judged by the great Edith Pearlman.

Salamander 2013 Fiction Prize

Here’s the opening of “Funeral By The Arcade.”

I can’t say Eddie Wu and I were close. I was just his English tutor. When his granddaughter informed me he’d been killed by a hit-and-run driver, I was moved, of course, but in an unsettled and detached way—like one might react to news of the passing of a distant friend on Facebook. To my surprise, Eddie’s granddaughter invited me to the funeral. I told her I’d be there, but on the morning of, I froze at the sight of my black suit hanging from a towel rod like a headless torso.

I zombie-walked out into the kitchen, where my wife Amy hovered over our phlegmatic coffeemaker, tapping the long nail of her mouse trigger finger on our granite countertops, composing an indecipherable Morse Code.

“Aren’t you going to be late?” she said.

“I feel like I’m intruding.”

Amy filled her mug, replaced the pot. Mr. Coffee wheezed like a respirator. “Weren’t you invited to intrude?” she said, sipping two-handed so that it masked most of her face, save her dark eyes and those exceptionally long lashes that still made me feel unworthy.

“Touché,” I said.

“Which one is he again?”

Eddie was the oldest, I said. In his seventies. The one from Monterey Park. My hometown.

The sun shifted, barbing our living room in a brightness that made me grimace. Amy had wanted blinds. I had romanticized the concept of natural light, wanting a naked view of Manhattan Beach. She’s more often right. Mr. Coffee choked once and went silent. My air passages narrowed. Anxiety’s precipice.

Amy left her emptied mug on the counter. “Don’t forget to have breakfast, Jimmy,” she said, before kissing me on the cheek. “And don’t take your stuff out on Eddie.” Then she put on her work blazer and left for the agency.

I cleansed my wife’s mug, wondering why she had said Eddie’s name like he was still alive.

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