Short Stories I’ve Loved Recently

I will add more as the month progresses. These are mostly reference links so I can return to them for inspiration.

The Owner’s Guide to Home Repair, Page 238: What to Do About Water Odor
Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summmer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey and erupted with crawling pink worms that scavenged the flesh, until one day in August when you opened the jar.

Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice
She’s born in a pine-wood cottage, birches tangled over its roof, snow burying the log pile. When she’s still young, her father disappears in a war of musket-shot and horses screaming into the gunpowder dark. Her mother scrapes a living by stealing flowers from the gardens of the fine half-timbered houses round the fountain and hocking them in the market. Mornings, the girl accompanies her mother, the armfuls of pilfered calla lilies leaving pollen-smears on her skin. Afternoons, the girl returns to the cottage to sweep the front step with a crooked willow-broom.

Cosmic Spring” by Ken Liu at Lightspeed
The universe is in deep winter. This is my conclusion after studying the matter for 6.7 trillion years.

“A Priest of Vast and Distant Places” by Cassandra Khaw at Apex
You can fall in love with the sutras of never-stopping, always-moving, with the mantra of footsteps on clean, white tiles, the electronic voice reciting departures like prayers for the dead. Stay, the plane said, wrapping you in its thrum, the way a man might lay his woolen coat over your shoulders, might kiss your face. Stay with me forever.

“Al-Kahf” by Beesan Odeh at Lightspeed
There once lived a man who was stolen from the sea. Rare and magnificent, he lived in his cave, rising to the surface every so often to pluck the strings of his violin for the birds before retreating into the water to play for his kin.

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by Phenderson Djeli Clark at Fireside
By Cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoire” –Lund Washington, Mount Vernon plantation, Account Book dated 1784.

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix Harrow at Apex
His caseworker was one of those people who say the word “escapism” as if it’s a moral failing, a regrettable hobby, a mental-health diagnosis. As if escape is not, in itself, one of the highest order of magics they’ll ever see in their miserable mortal lives, right up there with true love and prophetic dreams and fireflies blinking in synchrony on a June evening.

“More Tomorrow” by Premee Mohammed at Automata
Anyway, it turns out trilobites aren’t very good eating even if you haven’t eaten in days. I had particularly high hopes for the fat, humped asaphids, thinking they would taste like shrimp, but everything I’ve caught so far is strictly armor and attitude, plus they bite. 

Pitcher Plant
The mansion is a study in architecture at war with itself. It’s not just the windows that don’t match and the turrets that don’t overlook anything and the roof that sits flat here while looming at impossible angles there. Nor is it just the exterior walls that, seen from one angle, seem rotted and decrepit and about to collapse, and seen from another, gleam like jewels. Nor is it the gnarled skin of the columns that support the overhang at the front entrance, or the glistening scarlet door that seems poised to open until you see that it’s not a real door at all, but just a reasonable facsimile, carved with great love into what would otherwise be just a featureless brick wall.

Mr. Try Again
Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wouldn’t be cajoled with sugar.

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