Have you ever seen a ghost? Or heard one? Maybe not. But perhaps you’ve had some experience or other you couldn’t easily explain, some weird occurrence which you mull on even now. Did it happen the way you remember? Or did you imagine it? That ambiguity, unfocused and inconclusive, is the essence of what we think of as the supernatural.
Ode to the Queen of Strays
I am in the emergency vet – the pricey one based in a university, where the not-yet-vets get to earn their chops. I’m thinking about chops because at my feet is a cat carrier with a wildling of a cat in it. Last night, I found her in my kitchen under a chair with her mouth hanging open above a pool of drool and a blinked-back look of pain on her face. It was 1 a.m. I was ready for bed. My children were at their father’s, sleeping in a house I’ve never seen. I had once again fallen asleep watching TV and was preparing for the usual light switching and door locking. But then there was a cat that did not look at all right in my kitchen. I put out a saucer of milk. It lapped. I tried some cheese, thinking, hoping, an appetite might mean it was not dying a painful, poisoned death. She let me rub her forehead. Now I really have to worry about this cat. But she managed to gum the cheese.
Fishing, Painting, Fireflies, and Metaphor
by Alex DiFrancesco
It was about a decade ago, and a romantic partner and I were driving back to New York City from the Catskill Mountains. My partner at the time’s name was Oscar, he was about twenty years older than me, and owned a cabin and some property at the top of a mountain upstate. We’d spent the weekend there, and on Sunday night, we were driving back into the city, down the highway, with WNYC on the car radio. We were mostly quiet, Oscar focused on the road in front of us, and me drifting in and out of thought, tired from hiking, happy to be in a heated car and headed back to Astoria, Queens, where we both lived. In the quiet, a song started playing through the car’s speakers. It was jazz — jazz is something I’ve always appreciated, but never been deeply into — but it was a totally different kind of jazz than I’d heard before. There was something joyful and a different kind of wild about it, something I responded to by immediately leaning forward and turning it up.
My author copies of The Bridge arrived today. My new puppy Eleanor barked as I opened the boxes, in either fear or excitement. The book sits on the desk as I write this. My fourth book and third novel, this time it is an out-of-body experience. Previous books arrived in similar boxes and it was euphoric, terrifying, victorious, or any happy-dance-air-punching combination of the above. But this time it’s different. I look at The Bridge and it looks back and me and any minute one of us is going to say, “Wait. Do I know you?”
Salchow and Seminoma
by Logan Davis
I was treated for cancer at the age of 23. Not the kind of cancer that could kill you, but the kind that takes a while to heal from, and destroys any semblance of trust in your body. The thing I was principally grieving at that time was any possibility of living the first half of my twenties being bad at dancing, getting a little too drunk with friends, and knowing my body would recover by the time I went to sleep the next day. I innately trusted my body, and I knew after this that I couldn’t.
by Treena Thibodeau
You are not doing enough. This announcement goes out at regular intervals over the P.A. system inside the cramped fitting room of my skull. You are not doing enough. I’m supposed to be meditating, but instead I’m dress-rehearsing conversations with people who now only exist inside of glowing rectangles. Visualize: sending my breath out. Think about viruses, try to pull just my own droplets back in. Sometimes it helps if I visualize a cat’s tail sliding through my fingers. I don’t have a cat, so I mentally borrow my sister’s. If no one is around to hear, I’ll screw headphones into the sockets of my ears and sing along with kirtan recordings, making a mess of the Sanskrit. I sing loud enough, maybe I’ll call monsters out of the lake. This week a creature that is not a goose but is definitely the result of something a goose fucked landed on the water and is now on patrol. We nicked this house too, a family member’s rural getaway in a part of Connecticut called the Quiet Corner. We came here the week the morgue trucks came to Queens and have remained since, possessions spreading in the cabin like a spill. I thought I would feel lost here in the woods, so far from the familiar grid of home, but I do not. Squirrels get into the frame of this house and chase shelter and I put out a catch-and-release trap but they are too wily for it.
Safe In Heaven Dead
by Michael Stutz
I’ve been ripping through lots of books during quarantine, going at a mad pace — faster than I’ve done in years. I haven’t read this many books this fast since I was a kid: 14 in the past month or so, and the count’s rising quickly.
One of my favorites in this batch was the smallest. It’s a book I’d read before, an old friend I’d first discovered many years back, a book that’s exactly the size of a pack of cigarettes sliced in half from the top down – Safe In Heaven Dead by Jack Kerouac, published by Hanuman Books in 1994. I think I first bought it, and read it, not long after it came out.
The Ghost of Karen Dalton
by Siân Evans
Across the distance of a computer screen, I’ve witnessed a dear friend process her trauma around starting her career as an ER nurse in a pandemic this year. I’ve felt helpless as so many people I love lost family members they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to over the past few months, haunted by the irony of their loved ones dying alone in overcrowded hospitals. And while I’ve wanted to hold all this grief in my small hands, it often feels like this year has stretched the very limits of empathy, distancing us all from each other – both physically and in our varied experiences of loss.