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The Sun Magazine

Fiction

The Magician

In 1976, the year we were supposed to be learning the metric system, we fell in love with Katy Muldoon. We were in the sixth grade, and Katy sat at the front of our math class, raising her hand for every question, as though all of the answers to all of the problems were merely floating in front of her eyes.

Wanderlust

We typed slowly and carefully: RussianBride.com. UkranianDelight.com. YourRussianLove.com. And, just like that, there we were — or, at least, versions of ourselves: women of eighteen, twenty-two, thirty-one who looked like us and wanted what we wanted. We sat before this machine — one part oracle, one part mirror — enchanted by the possibilities and all wishing the exact same wish.

Stethoscope

I am always asking doctors about their medical equipment, so I know that the stethoscope was popularized not because it improved a doctor’s ability to hear a heartbeat — although it had that effect, too — but because in nineteenth-century France it was considered improper to put one’s ear to a man’s chest or, especially, a woman’s bosom. The amplified heartbeat was secondary to the stethoscope’s main function, decorum.

On My Way Now

Today I walk the shoreline only in my mind, when I so wanted to walk by the sea, to feel the wind, to walk through the stormy weather, unafraid. I’m “being held,” I heard them say. For my “protection.” My body and the rest of me, aged eighty-seven years, sit in a tiny cell with whitewashed walls. I might pretend this to be a cubicle inside a monastery were not the devil wailing in the corridor, making free with a man’s body, crying with his voice a pagan slander on the day, possessing a man he’s bought at some slave auction where souls are up for sale. The devil buys the soul and gets the body in the bargain.

The Man At Table Five

Fanny had a shit list, and we took turns being on it. It was completely arbitrary. One minute you were Fanny’s pet. “Why can’t the rest of you be more like Ralph?” — the waiter with bad teeth. “Now, there is someone with his head on his shoulders. I’m going to make Ralph the manager.” Next it was “I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with Ralph.”

Imogene’s Prayer

The pills are about the size of a bing-cherry pit in diameter and are a faint green color, like the eggs of some songbirds. On one side they have a deeply inscribed SZ, on the other, the number 789. They are Ritalin, the ten-milligram kind. Imogene knows them by sight because occasionally patients admitted to the psychiatric ward where she works as a nurse have containers of assorted pills, and she has learned to spot the ones that will get her high.

My Stupid Harmony

The Wish Family was my family dressed in red-white-and-blue outfits, performing songs written by my father and played by my older brother Todd on our secondhand piano, my sister Mare on a convicted uncle’s guitar, and my little brother Jay on a snare drum so beaten its skin had been taped. In the Wish Family’s original conception, my mother was supposed to dance, but then she suffered a nearly crippling flare-up of varicose veins. She had a good voice, though, and when she sang, she sashayed as much as she could. Sometimes, during practices, she grabbed us hard by the elbows and shoved us into what she called “formations.” I think she’d once been a cheerleader — I’m not sure. I do know she wanted to be a choreographer. There was one song, my father’s rip-off of “Moon River,” during which Jay and I were allowed to stand to the side while my sister danced. My mother had “choreographed” the whole deal.

Marvel Sands

After my dad ran off with a bank teller with great teeth, my mom and I moved in with her boyfriend, Ronny. I was fifteen and needed a job, so I applied for a position at Marvel Sands State Beach, and I was hired. During the day I sat in a booth at the entrance of the parking lot and sold tickets. I liked it out there, especially in the morning when fog curled around the booth.

The Friend Beside The Pool

Prince Siddhartha Gautama had seen the cat many times, though it was cunningly concealed under the overhanging leaves at the edge of the palace-garden pool. The cat was white, and so not quite as well hidden as it probably thought it was, despite the long shadows of morning.

How It Would Come

When the doorbell rang, Alice put down her pencil and took another drag on her cigarette. It was nearly noon; the entire morning had somehow gotten away from her. Peering out through the yellowed blinds, she saw a Pittsfield police cruiser parked at the curb.