NEW STORY @BendingGenres: “The Okay Spa” – where the overworked and underpaid go to feel…okay. #shortstories #flashfiction #litmag

“Oh-em-gee, you have to try the Okay Spa,” said my editor friend Nicole as we left the coffee shop. “It’ll relax you like never before. It’s…beyond.”

“This isn’t a prostitution sting, is it?” I joked.

She slapped me playfully on the arm, sending spasms from my shoulder blades down to my kidneys. I was in bad shape. Working 100 hours a week just to make rent. I could no longer vouch for the quality of my story pitches. For a men’s publication: thirty-seven reasons why it’s healthier to pee sitting down. For a literary magazine: you’ll be shocked why bookmarks are bad for books. For an Asian arts review: why so-and-so is the next great Asian, middle-grade, steampunk autofiction novelist. Each a thousand words for $10 a piece. I was beginning to think that my chosen profession was an elaborate way to commit seppuku without having to sully steel.

Nicole handed me a gift card. “Trust me,” she said, “you won’t regret.”

Read the rest over at Bending Genres.

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NEW STORY: “The Game Cellar” @cosmoavenue April issue #shortstories #litmag

“Many world leaders…have chosen to leave these most difficult decisions of geopolitical and economic import to pure chance, the result of a single, simple game.”

“Leo’s security camera app shows the black car pulling up to his colonial home. The contingent is early, and Leo still has much to do. In the game cellar, the board has been laid out on the polished oak table beneath spotlights. The tiles rest in silken sacks. A single gold-plated armchair faces a giant curved screen mounted to a wall. The chafers have been set out. The caterers are about to bring out the food. The freshly laundered red carpet runner needs to be unfurled to mark the path from the foyer to the cellar. The lavender and rosemary misters have yet to be activated. Mercy, the scent is called.

Leo equips his earpiece and instructs his assistant Dana to bring the glass-bottled water. He drags the red carpet from the closet and unrolls it as he heads upstairs. When done, Leo walkie-talkies the kitchen, announcing that the contingent has arrived. The doorbell rings. Leo turns on the misters, buttons his blazer, flattens his hair, opens the door to two dark-suited men wearing sunglasses. Leo nods and steps aside.

The men conduct their security sweep of the cellar and the ground floor. Leo informs them that his wife is sleeping upstairs, a statement that only reminds them that they need to check the second floor as well. Twenty minutes later, two more besuited men, one obese with a graying mustache, enter the house. “Welcome back,” Leo says to the large man—the player for tonight’s game. The client acknowledges Leo with a guttural squawk, and he and his security team trample the rug, leaving hefty clods of dirt in their wake as they head downstairs.

As he follows them into the cellar, Leo pauses over the shoe-prints, sad he’ll have to launder the rug again, before its next use.”

READ THE REST OF “THE GAME CELLAR” AT COSMONAUTS AVENUE

APPLE, TREE: Writers on their Parents, edited by @lisefunderberg, featuring Ann Patchett, John Freeman, Laura van den Berg, Mat Johnson, and Rumaan Alam now available for pre-order from @univnebpress

Honored to have an essay in this anthology from University of Nebraska Press. Here’s more about the book:

It happens to us all: we think we’ve settled into an identity, a self, and then out of nowhere and with great force, the traces of our parents appear to us, in us—in mirrors, in gestures, in reaction and reactivity, at weddings and funerals, and in troubled thoughts that crouch in dark corners of our minds.

In this masterful collection of new essays, the apple looks at the tree. Twenty-five writers deftly explore a trait they’ve inherited from a parent, reflecting on how it affects the lives they lead today—how it shifts their relationship to that parent (sometimes posthumously) and to their sense of self.

Apple, Tree’s all-star lineup of writers brings eloquence, integrity, and humor to topics such as arrogance, obsession, psychics, grudges, table manners, luck, and laundry. Contributors include Laura van den Berg, S. Bear Bergman, John Freeman, Jane Hamilton, Mat Johnson, Daniel Mendelsohn, Kyoko Mori, Ann Patchett, and Sallie Tisdale, among others. Together, their pieces form a prismatic meditation on how we make fresh sense of ourselves and our parents when we see the pieces of them that live on in us.

NEW STORY: “Passing Days,” a story about the afterlife in @drunkmonkeysweb

“Laughter here feels so good. One laugh feels like tens of thousands of living laughs. If there’s a prize to dying, it’s the laughter.”

We apparate upon the crest of a foothill, one of many that go on and on into the darkness. Not much light here in the celestial; you can never see anyone too clearly. I wonder what Allison looked like in the light of the living. She was only forty-five, went well before her time. I died smack on the average global lifespan. Sixty-eight years and six months, leaving my husband Tim and our son Charlie, who we adopted from China. Allison and I look up at the black-blue of space where The City hung like an elaborate necklace of stars—the world of the living.

“You don’t say much,” Allison says.

I force a smile. “I still can’t believe I’m here. I feel so good. Like I’m eighteen again. Well, maybe not eighteen. Thirty-five? It’s been so long since I’ve felt even okay. I had leukemia. The end was long and arduous.”

“I don’t remember my cause,” she says. “Must have been sudden. But I feel twenty-one! I’ve heard the feeling wears off though.” The sky, she faces. “As they forget.”

I’ve been told that our continued existence is a mere manifestation of the memories of the living—our friends, family, friends of friends, friends of family of friends of family, and so on. As their memories weaken, we gradually fade and feel worse and worse until we’re gone for good. Turns out death is much like life.

Read the rest over at Drunk Monkeys.