Tag Archives: Youth

THE HAMMOCK by Amalia Dillin

“Faster!” “Harder!” “More!”

My cousins and I gripped the sturdy fabric with both hands, squealing with delight and laughter. Three of us in the hammock, two of us pushing.

“Higher!” my cousin called.

The birch tree swayed with the rhythm, calluses in the trunk where the hammock was tied and the bark had begun growing around it. It was young and strong, indestructible like we were.

“The hammock is not a swing!” my uncle shouted from the porch.

We ignored him. As long as he was still sitting at the table, we weren’t swinging fast, hard, or high enough. The hammock jumped when we reached the top of the arc and we all screamed.

“Keep pushing!”

My cousins and I jockeyed for the center seat, crawling over one another, climbing, twisting. The hammock twisted and one of them was hanging upside down on the outside, clinging like a monkey. We helped him back in, pulling him up like a sailors dragging a drowned man from the sea.

“Be careful!” my aunt called. “Don’t rough house!”

The hammock jumped and we all laughed, braced for it this time.

“It’s our turn!” our cousins said, the ones pushing us until we soared. From the top of the swing we could see over the trees as far as Albany, the mountains hovering behind.

“Just one more push!” my cousin said. The one who had nearly fallen.

She pushed, and we leaned forward. The hammock leapt, our stomachs dropping.

SNAP.

The rope on the birch tree gave and we landed hard on the ground with a shared cry of pain and dismay.

“Pop!” One of my cousins went running, before we had even shaken off the shock. “Pop! The hammock!”

“Is everyone all right?” my aunt asked.

But we were already climbing out of the wilted fabric. My tail bone felt bruised, but I didn’t dare even whisper it. If any of us got hurt, they’d never let us forget it. The hammock would be banned, and we’d be stuck playing catch and losing Frisbees in the leech field below the house. We’d already tried and failed to fly the kite three times, and we’d been forbidden from having another water fight. The hammock had been our last game that didn’t require shoes.

“Are you hurt?” my aunt called again, and we could see her silhouette behind the screen, standing and holding her hand up against the glare of the sun.

“No!” we shouted.

The screen door slapped against the frame and my uncle appeared, fresh ropes in hand. We held our breath as he looked over the damage, hoping against hope it was just the ropes. Don’t let it be the hammock. Don’t let it be the hammock!

He loosened the ropes from the trunk of the birch tree and looped new ones in their place.

“No more swinging,” he said, as he drew the ropes taut and the hammock rose back to life.

The two girls who had been pushing us were already climbing in, and my uncle tightened the ropes so the hammock rose another few inches above the ground, then knotted it. He glanced at the three of us, and we stopped rubbing our bruised arms and bottoms. “If I see you swinging again, I’ll take it down. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” we mumbled, not meeting his eyes. The girls in the hammock glared at us.

We waited until he had gone back inside, hands behind our backs. The girls reached down, grabbing clumps of grass to pull the hammock back and forth in a gentle swaying motion.

“Push us faster!” my cousin whispered. “Harder!” the other said. “More!”

AMALIA DILLIN obsesses over old gods and older heroes, but sometimes she breaks out and writes contemporary fiction, too. Her work has appeared in Birdville Magazine. You can find her on her blog and on Twitter.

WRESTLEMANIA III by Chris Joyner

90,000+ mustached, hair-teased
Fanatics sardined into
The Pontiac Silverdome
The biggest event in sports 
(entertainment) history
Hulk Hogan births from backstage
Into electric bedlam
I am a real American, fight 
For the rights of every man
Tan, ripped, ball-of-fire Jesus figure
Red & yellow tornado of macho
Flamboyance Coked up, hulked
Runnin’ wild BROTHERRR!
6”8”, 294 lbs of pure American beef
Hard training, vitamins, & prayers
The hopes of little Hulkamaniacs
Harbored in the champion’s
24” pythons   A nation at stake
Against the undefeated
Frenchman, Andre the Giant
7’5”, 525 lbs of betrayal
Good vs. evil, Rocky vs. Drago, Goliath vs.
A really intense David
Their gaze fixed, laser-guided
[so much depends / upon]
A scoop slam, an atomic leg drop

CHRIS JOYNER is an MFA candidate at the University of Miami and has poems forthcoming in CaKe. Previously, he’d spent the bulk of his life in Virginia Beach, VA and worked for military brokerage companies out of college. Currently, he’s enjoying the novelty of food trucks and parasols.

FOG by Kenneth Radu

Opening her window to the fog, she wondered if the cat had returned. Just before dark last night she had placed a bowl of mashed sardines under the false spirea bushes surrounding the above ground pool. The fog wafted into her room. She saw very little except shadowy shapes, the top limp branches of a sun-burst locust tree which appeared to be floating, the smoky blue roof of the garden shed. No sound, not even birds who usually woke her up in the morning. The pool itself had all but disappeared, the surface of the water or the deck no longer visible. Leaning out, Cassie peered down, listening for the cat, but heard only her own breathing.

The fog almost covered the second storey of the neighbours’ houses, but she could make out windows, chimneys, and the arch of a gable. Perhaps sardines from a can were not to its taste. Shivering in her thin nightie almost the same colour as the fog on the window pane, she carefully closed her bedroom door and tiptoed past her parents’ room. The hard wood floor was cool to her soft feet. She did not expect either her father or mother to be awake before noon. They had not returned home until three in the morning.

Emmanuel had just left the house minutes earlier, promising to come back and wake her if necessary. He had dared her to let him stay the night in her bed where he left his underwear. Rolling it into a ball, she stuffed it under her own panties in a drawer. Her parents no longer checked to see if she was sleeping. Emmanuel had sneezed over her stuffed bears on the bed. She heard every drunken step up the stairs, her father’s curse on the landing when he tripped, and her mother’s loud, “ssssshh, you’ll wake Cassie.”

After they left last night she opened the tin of sardines. Her mother would never notice one missing from the stockpile of tinned goods she kept in the pantry. Cassie then phoned Emmanuel to say the coast was clear. She had first noticed the cat a week ago, having heard a rustle in the bushes just feet away from the deck stairs. There it was, so concentrated on ripping the head off a bird that it didn’t scurry away when she approached, but continued gnawing on the skull. When it became aware of her presence, it simply hissed. Cassie stepped back and the cat resumed his meal. It was a large calico cat with one ear bent and one eye puckered shut, the fur knotted on its back, skin revealed in patches, scratched and pimpled with black and red sores. She stood watching it eat the poor bird, licking its paws, separating each claw. Then it suddenly pricked up one ear and dashed into the bushes, leaving behind feathers and a bird’s delicate foot.

Her parents refused to let her have a dog although they had once allowed a gerbil. It died within a week and they said she was responsible for its death, so no more animals. Once Emmanuel had hoisted himself over the fence last year and joined her in the pool, she stopped thinking about pets. Still, the animal looked hungry. Why not feed a stray cat? Careful that her parents, if home, did not see what she was doing, she left out food and milk and it returned each evening. Emmanuel wasn’t interested in her story of the wild cat, but pushed her up the stairs to her bedroom where he liked to caress her legs first.

Outside the fog felt damp and cool to her skin and she imagined herself walking right through a cloud. A squeak, a meow, a hiss and rustle: she couldn’t quite determine the sound as she approached the ring of bushes scarcely visible herself to Emmanuel’s father who had opened his own window and spied her in the fog below. He had seen Cassie leaving food for the cat the other day, and wanted to tell her not to encourage the presence of feral creatures in the neighbourhood. They spread disease, wrecked gardens, and bit children, he would have said, although he had never in fact heard of a cat biting a child.

Last night he shouted at Emmanuel who had come home too late and smelled of recent sex. “Where the hell have you been? Do you know what time it is?” He knew of course where his son had been. Emmanuel shoved past him on the stairwell, mumbling something about needing sleep and “leave me alone.” Emmanuel was sixteen, big for his age, and a student of martial arts. Strictly speaking, having sex with fifteen year old Cassie was statutory rape. He leaned over the window sill as if to move the fog aside with his hands: ah, yes, there, the fog appeared to separate to his advantage and he could make out her shape bending under the bushes. It would be absolutely reprehensible, not to mention illegal, to seduce Cassie. He was afraid to speak to his son.

Since his wife’s death in a year ago in the car crash, he was burdened by grief, insurance policies, grocery shopping, depressed over the declining sales commissions at the furniture store, and perplexed by Emmanuel’s sullen belligerence. Now he had to remind himself that, yes, he had loved Emmanuel’s mother and cried over her death, but he had forgotten what it felt like to caress her flesh. He imagined Cassie wrapped around Emmanuel’s taut and vigorous physique. His hand reached beneath his pyjamas just as Cassie entered the bushes and disappeared.

Fog wet the bushes and soaked her thin nightie, but she circled the pool behind them. Not even Jackson could see her anymore.

“Here, Kitty, Kitty.”

“Cassie, you there?”

Emmanuel had crossed over the fence.

“Here, I’m here on the other side, Manny.”

“I’m getting wet in the fog. Let’s go to the shed with me. Your parents sleeping?”

“I’m looking for the cat. Yes, they are.”

“Forget the cat.”

Jackson saw Emmanuel’s outline as he climbed the fence and pushed into the bushes. Removing his hand from under his pyjamas, he leaned out the window as far as he safely could as if to call his boy home or warn both kids about the dangers of savage and mangy cats. As he dressed he thought now was a good time to speak to both kids, kindly and fatherly, about the trouble they’d be in if Cassie’s parents found out. Well, he’d begin his warning with the cat: a filthy animal that should be put down.

He didn’t see Emmanuel and Cassie running to the shed, nor hear the door shut. Downstairs he stepped outside into the thickness of the fog. He could just make out the steps and the paved walkway leading to a vegetable patch. Above the garden rose the cedar fence marking the boundary between his property and Cassie’s house. He could climb that like Emmanuel whom, he recognized for the first time this morning, stood taller and broader than his own father. Should it ever come to a physical confrontation, Jackson could not be certain of winning.

Straddling the top of the fence, Jackson admitted that he could just as well have walked around the corner to Cassie’s, which would have taken longer. He didn’t want to waste time. They’d be in the bushes, possibly petting the cat, or Emmanuel might even be hoisting Cassie on to his … Jackson took a deep breath. He would caution them about the dangers of disease and discovery.

In the shed Emmanuel sat on a wooden tool box, his jeans crumpled around his ankles. Cassie straddled his thighs, holding her damp nightie above her navel, just as his father pushed into the bushes and called their names. Their breathing was loud and their attention concentrated.

“Cassie, you there? It’s Emmanuel’s dad. Emmanuel?”
The sound underbrush was sharp, unexpected, as he tripped, fell towards the curve of the above ground pool and struck his head against its grey sides. The next sound, his own yell, broke through the fog, momentarily distracting Cassie until Emmanuel pulled her down again. The cat’s claws scratched one fierce time and tore the skin of Jackson’s left ankle. He had not put on socks in his haste to warn the kids.

“Damn!”

He reached for his ankle when the cat slashed again, this time ripping the back of his hand. Jackson kicked, but missed, and the cat dashed away. Holding his hand close to his eyes, he saw streaks of red and felt the heat of new pain. Over the rim of the pool, he plunged his hand into the water. Temperatures had fallen overnight as they usually did in late August when only the kids, braving the cold, still splashed about in the pool. Cassie’s parents would soon close it.

KENNETH RADU’S most recent collection of short fiction, his fourth, is called Sex in Russia: New & Selected Stories, published last year by DC Books Canada. Some of the stories take place either in the Russia of reality or a Russia of imagination. There is sex, both real and imaginary, as well.

DINNER FOR TWO by Kenneth Radu

Two Saturdays ago in a corridor he had overheard his language teacher Mrs. Ch’en speak to fat Mrs. Hsieh, the Chinese history teacher, that of all the boys she thought Wangqi the most beautiful. Dumpy Mrs. Hsieh giggled and covered her mouth. He could have sworn the word was beautiful even though much of their whispered Mandarin eluded him. At home he stripped in front of his mirror. Twisting and turning to examine his reflection from all angles, including his genitals, he agreed: yes, it was true, he was beautiful. Mrs. Ch’en who loved beautiful vases and jade said so. He washed his long black hair with perfumed shampoo before going out for the evening.

At the sound of a siren careening down de la Gauchetière, the main avenue through Montreal’s Chinatown, Wangqi raised his head from his calligraphy exercise and stared out the window streaked by sunlight trying to burn through the city grime. The heat would rise this Saturday and some of his friends planned to splash about in a community pool, then hang out for a while in the park while he, for the next six hours, would painstakingly brush ink on rice paper, or carry on artificial conversations in his still faulty Mandarin. Mrs. Ch’en was a dragon when it came to the enunciation of vowels and tones. Other equally distracted students drew the teacher’s attention and she cracked her desk with a pointer, demanding they return to their work. He didn’t understand the purpose of writing with a brush as if he were painting when he could write the characters more easily with a pencil and erase a wrong stroke. Outside of school exercises he never wrote in Chinese anyway. Half the time he forgot which way to begin a character.

Mrs. Ch’en was always demanding in that musically high-pitched voice of hers and Wangqi wondered if she sounded the same way at home as she did in class. Did she crack a pointer over a bowls of noodles or steamed rice when her two children acted up around the dinner table? Carefully he brushed in the characters depicting a beautiful bird in flight. He imagined Mrs. Ch’en as a beautiful bird even if she did have two children. Flying away with her and perching in a tree like cooing doves: how sweet would that be?

Before the class began this Saturday morning he saw her kiss her two little children good-bye, a boy and a girl, before their father drove them away in his black sedan. Grey-haired Mr. Ch’en looked like a old merchant who spent too much time counting beads on his abacus. Wangqi knew he used a computer like all business men, except for a few ancient traditionalists selling goods in overstuffed shops on the side streets of Chinatown where his mother bought medicines not available at the white pharmacies. White, she called them, as if the buildings themselves were coated in white wash. It didn’t matter if the pharmacist was Chinese and spoke her language, the medicines were not.

When Mrs. Ch’en arrived, Wangqi was standing in a group of fellow students, all in white shirts or blouses and black slacks or skirts, the required uniform. The silky cloth of Mrs. Ch’en’s blue sheath, peony-patterned dress clung to the curves of her slender body when she leaned over. A great blossom spread over her buttocks.

Last week in class she had leaned over his shoulder and examined his work book where he had copied rules of Hanyu pin yin regarding the use of demonstrative pronouns which Mrs. Ch’en had listed on the black board. He resisted learning the system for romanizing Chinese words because in real life, his life outside of home and school, he spoke and wrote both English and French. Her perfume spilled over him like a waterfall cascading down rocks in a garden, washing among the supple crevices of his brain, leaving him almost gasping for air like a gold fish,. His urgent groin stirred. Ah, if only she would touch him, let him swim in the sensation of her moist presence and seductive fragrance, let him raise her dress above her thighs.

Turning to the student sitting next to him, she displayed her backside within touching distance. Wangqi pressed his thighs together to control sudden tumescence which he tried to soften by picking up his brush and concentrating on Chinese characters, but with a trembling hand the strokes of that bird in flight thickened over this pond, ink spread and accuracy perished. His fingers sweat. She thought he was beautiful.

This week he would have to stand in class and recite fifty lines of a poem in Mandarin. He had spent all week trying to memorize it, but faltered over the unfamiliar imagery and allusions. His father admonished that he do everything right; that he work on his accent; that he pay attention at home and listen to his parents; that he stop playing soccer or paint ball with the white boys of Montreal who called him Willy; that he not see his white girl friend; that he speak Mandarin as well as Cantonese, be a master of both dialects and write correct Chinese script.

Despite his parents efforts, he had grown up resisting linguistic perfection, and what he did speak was so compromised with impurities from French and English that his father could barely carry on a conversation with him, although his mother had no trouble understanding her son. Now after five years of regular attendance, he read the characters easily, pronounced accurately, and he was learning the fine art of calligraphy. Mrs. Ch’en noticed him. Beauty need not speak its desires, for already he understood how he enticed, even fat Mrs. Hsieh who tousled his hair in history class.

Tonight he was taking his girl friend to a movie and planned to caress and probe until Michelle, always resisting, would yield once again. His parents disapproved of her, and his father had cautioned him against pursuing the relationship. Her father disliked him because he was Chinese and because his daughter was too young to have a steady boy friend. Her mother, who looked hot in black slacks and red curly hair, always shook his hand and smiled. Madame St. Denis asked him questions about paintballing and once touched his arm. He answered in his colloquial French which she thought très charmant, his body reflected in her eyes.

He’d have sex with Michelle the way he wanted, the way Miss Ch’en, now writing on the black board, her hem rising up one side of her leg, made him want to. If she called him this very instant to stand up and recite, the entire class would see how much she aroused him. He would flame and explode like a fireworks celebrating the Chinese New Year until he fizzled out in full view of his laughing class mates.

After a shower and before dressing to go out with Michelle, he lay down and thought of Mrs.Ch’en and the fine silk of her dress riding above her thighs. How sweet the sensations flowing through his fine and slender body, especially when he took himself in hand and dreamed of his teacher floating in the sky on effortless wings as he kept company with her, stroke after stroke in the aromatic air. Ah, the brush of fingers on her thigh, the characters his tongue traced on her skin. Could she feel him express on the delicacy of her flesh how beautiful she was like a bird in flight, like a wild swan? The tip of his tongue brushed in her flight. So insistent his body, but patience, patience, patience, she always insisted upon patience, the tonalities would come, the inflexion would come, the perfect stroke would come. He felt big, huge and hard, ponderous with the yearning between his legs.

Michelle just grabbed and lurched and almost wrestled him, repeating Willy, Willy, Willy, do it to me, until he lost control and the joy was over before it really began. After only a month of dating she wanted him to give her a ring to prove they were going steady. And she phoned every night which caused his mother to frown. The sex was fun and always better the second time after Michelle calmed down, but he sometimes felt bored and suffocated.

He didn’t believe Mrs. Ch’en would be frantic like his girl friend. Patience, patience, he could almost hear the teacherly voice instructing him, pulling him on top of her resplendent, perfumed, mature body until the heavy thrilling heat burgeoned into light, but ah, easy, refrain, perfect the tone, he gasped, he held back. Her leg wrapped over his back as he guided himself in, guided himself between the luscious lips he yearned to lick as he licked his girl friend, lips surrounded by hair soft as down, quivering, swelling, moist lips, quivering — a word he recited in a Chinese poem — her most intimate lips quivering as he began to sink gently and most certainly inside the receptive and aromatic body of Mrs. Ch’en.

Erupting over his fist with a groan and enjoying the sudden warmth slipping among his fingers, he paused to catch his breath, then stirred as if doused with cold water and felt the absence of Mrs. Ch’en. He got off the bed and showered again. In the mirror his taut body glistened with wet beauty as he slowly dried himself, brushed his luxuriant hair, and ran his tongue over his exquisitely shaped lips.

Later in his friend’s bedroom and fully clothed, Michelle and he necked for half an hour, but he kept thinking of Mrs. Che’en and also Madame St. Denis while he nibbled on his girl friend’s ear lobe. Jean-Guy, whose parents were vacationing in Florida, had promised to stay out at least until eleven or so when it was time to leave. All he saw when he closed his eyes was Mrs. Ch’en’s silky dress riding up her backside. Instead of arousing him, the image deflated his intentions. The more insistent Michelle became, the more indifference spread through Wangqi like a cold virus. He wished Jean-Guy would walk in and take over because he knew his friend wanted a piece.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you love me?”

He kissed rather than answered and immediately imagined her mother’s lips on his, deliciously surprised by the picture of Madame St. Denis’ vibrant red hair spilling over his chest. He fondled Michelle’s little breasts until her tongue invaded his mouth and he was overtaken by nausea. He pushed her back, at which point Jean-Guy drunkenly barged into the room and Michelle got so upset when he made a grab for her that Wangqi said it was better to go home as it was late anyway. On the metro train, Michelle sulked like a child which bothered him to no end. He had to admit she was little more than a child and not all that interesting, so he kept his eyes and imagined both Mrs. Ch’en and Mrs. St. Denis beckoning him. He tried to make up for Michelle’s disappointment by kissing her long and hard on the porch before Madame opened the door.

On Sunday afternoon his father sent him a message by way of his mother: “your father wishes to speak to you in the library.” This time he noted tears in his mother’s dark eyes. “Please do not offend your father,” she whispered. One always knocked on the door before entering. His father spent most evenings working in his library. Here he discussed business matters after dinner with his clients, mostly Hong Kong entrepreneurs seeking opportunities in Canada, emerging precisely at eleven at night to prepare for bed. Wangqi often heard him pause outside his son’s door and the boy would stop clicking messages on his computer to his friends, or quickly exit whatever forbidden website his was perusing, lest his father enter, see, and criticize.

“Come in.”

Sure enough, father sat in his brass-studded, wine-red leather arm chair, reading a Chinese newspaper. Wangqi stood, waiting for his father to acknowledge his presence. His eyes roamed the dark room, heavily shelved with history books, philosophy and encyclopaediae he had himself never opened, gathering all his facts quickly off the Internet. The monitors of his father’s two computers flickered on the enormous black-lacquered desk imported all the way from Shanghai.

“You are still seeing that white girl?”

His father looked directly at him, the light from the one lamp reflected in the old man’s rimless glasses. The question was rhetorical. Wangqi blushed, ill-prepared to meet his father’s objection which he had known would, must, occur.

“You will no longer do so.”

“But father …”

“There is no room for dispute. We have spoken about your bad behaviour before. Now we end the discussion. Know this: if you see the white girl again, you will not be permitted entry into your father’s house. Your family or the white girl. You have one year left of high school before university and your work is suffering. You will lose any chance for scholarships. You must devote yourself to your studies or perish. Do not bring shame to your family. Now, you may leave.”

The next Saturday at Chinese school, he concentrated on his calligraphy and pronunciation, only allowing himself to be distracted occasionally by Mrs. Ch’en’s black and gold silk dress that rustled like breath in his ear which sent shivers right to his groin. She praised his work. He had not returned Michelle’s calls the past few days. This morning his teacher had arrived at the school by taxi and he wondered if there was trouble at home. Why would her husband not have driven her as he usually did? His cell phone buzzed in his pocket. Surreptitiously checking it, he saw again that it was Michelle. During recess he phoned and Madame St. Denis answered.

“I’m sorry, Madame, I thought Michelle would answer her phone.”

“That’s quite alright, Weelee, I have to answer because Michelle’s expecting a call and she’s in the shower now.”

Saturday afternoon and she was in the shower? Was Michelle expecting his call?

“Ah, how are you, Weelee?”

“I am fine, Madame St. Denis, you?”

He enjoyed the sound of his anglicized name the way this French woman pronounced it.

“Fine also, we miss you, mon cher. We haven’t seen you all week. What a pity I said to Michelle. Weelee’s such a handsome boy, and so courteous, any girl would be lucky to have him.”

He turned away from the various students lounging about the yard and faced the school wall as if to prevent his French conversation from being overheard because school policy forbade the speaking of any language except Chinese on school grounds.

“Well … thank you.”

“I would love to see you again, Weelee.”

“You would?”

“Michelle is going out a bit later and will spend the weekend with friends. My husband is out of town. Pauvre moi, I shall be alone. Come for dinner. I am a fabulous cook. Just the two of us. No one will know. Listen, I have to hang up now because Michelle’s call is waiting. Phone me on my own cell, Weelee. Do you have a pen?”

“I have a great memory, Madame St. Denis. I can’t promise to come for dinner, but I promise to call.”

She gave him the number which he committed to memory. Pausing first to regain control of his nerves, he followed the other students into the building to resume class. Remembering Madame St. Denis’ caress of his arm, Wangqi carried on a half-hearted debate about why he should or should not accept her invitation. She was most definitely not a girl. He’d hardly ignore his studies for a married woman and take her to the movies. Secret arrangements could be made. No one would know. Half way during the class devoted to writing according to the rules of pinyin, he caught Mrs. Ch’en staring at him and he blushed. Married women, the very thought, unsettled his concentration on syntax.

After school he showered and perfumed his body which glowed in his mirror. His father had flown to Vancouver on business. What his father did not know would not hurt him. Delighted by the perfect mark he had received for an exercise from Mrs. Ch’en, his mother did not mind his going out, not with Michelle, he had assured her. Waiting for the subway train with a bouquet of flowers, he dreamed of driving his very own jaguar. His  beautiful face was reflected in the train windows and fire stirred in his body.

Michelle’s mother opened the door. For a moment Wangqi confused her with Mrs. Che’en because of her red Chinese dress with a Mandarin collar, incandescent with gold birds and flowers, fitting her body so tightly it outlined the pattern of her bra. She reached for his arm. With a broad smile, he offered her the carnations and daisies he had bought at a local market, then crossed the threshold.

KENNETH RADU’S most recent collection of short fiction, his fourth, is called Sex in Russia: New & Selected Stories, published this year by DC Books Canada. Some of the stories take place either in the Russia of reality or a Russia of imagination. There is sex, both real and imaginary, as well.

TWO LONG YEARS by Lydia Conklin

LYDIA CONKLIN is a writer and cartoonist living in New York with a parade of mean and scrappy dog orphans. Her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, The Minnesota Review, Hobart, Carousel Magazine, and other places. It is forthcoming in New Letters, The Saint Ann’s Review, Gargoyle and other places. You can order a new comic about her dog orphans here. Her website is lydiaconklin.com