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Bootsy Goes on a Bender

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At 9 a.m., wearing only University of Alabama Crimson Tide boxer shorts, Bootsy Sykes lurched down his driveway with a frosted margarita mug in one hand and garden hose in the other to spray away the pollen on his battered pickup truck. His flamboyant Irish setter, Bear, whose farts could clear an auditorium, pranced alongside, ready to catch any drops of high-test Tequila that Bootsy might spill.
Even in Hayneville, a town known for its gentle tolerance of eccentric drinking habits, Bootsy's recent bender was causing a stir.
But the cause was known only to Bootsy. For on this, the Spring Equinox, when dogwoods and azaleas bent low with bee-heavy blooms, when warm sunshine lured women outdoors with their winter-pale arms exposed, he, Bootsy Sykes, felt the full and lonely force of his too-lengthy bachelorhood. Bootsy had woken with a hangover that caused a seam to open in the known universe, leaving Bootsy on one side while all other matter sped away, away.  Medicating himself with a…

The Rivals

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He pushed through the doors of Galatoire's on Bourbon Street, sated and content, and stepped into the twilight. He walked away from the tourist throngs and around the corner onto Iberville, where gaslights were just coming on. This deserted street afforded him the privacy to belch and contemplate a stroll before darkness. He did not turn to see the two men following him.
They could see him very well: a large man in a pale, seersucker suit, the seat of which was slightly stretched. His gait was unsteady, a sign that he had enjoyed more than one sazerac cocktail with his lobster bisque and deep-fried, soft shell crabs. He walked on, losing his footing once on the cracked, uneven pavers until he rounded the next corner onto Royal. A door opened, letting music momentarily escape from the Old Oyster House where he slipped in for a night cap. The followers stretched and waited in a doorway. One lighted a stub of cigar while the other pulled his cap low over his face and shrank further i…

Maritzer's Axiom

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Maritzer's Axiom: Nobody really knows what there is between two people except the two themselves, and sometimes even they don't know.
1. What surprised the family most when she brought him home was his ordinariness. Mother had set the table with her best company's-coming cloth napkins and the good bone China, while Father had donned an anathematic necktie for a meal in his own home. My nervous sister ushered in this man -- one suitor among so many that we'd wondered what made him special -- who wore a shirt that must have spent its life in a clearance bin at Woolworth's. An international spy would have prayed to have his coloring and face — immediately forgettable — and Father later griped that no good comes from a man already balding in his 20s. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that we had been so snobbish, as if we were nobility when we were just as bourgeois as Bloomingdale's, one generation past canned ravioli dinners with cheap white bread.  My sister was obli…

A Conversation With a Ghost

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This must never get out in the press, for it would cause widespread panic. The priests would surround my house, not to mention the police and possibly the army. Castor Desayuno has come back from the dead! Yes, the butcher himself!
You are saying to yourself right now, or possibly to your beloved who sits beside you in the morning sun with her hair down and a cup of café con leche in her sleepy grasp, 'Castor Desayuno cannot possibly be walking the earth. You must be mad!'

You are protesting, ‘But we saw his head on the end of a bayonet, paraded through the streets of San Cristobal. We saw his body lowered, headless, into a grave over which no priest said the holy words.'
But as surely as I stand before you at this moment, I saw Castor in the flesh, last night. He was a hungry ghost, desperate for conversation. He beckoned to me to sit beside him on the steps to the Shrine of the Eternal Madonna, the very one where he was cut down in the middle of fornicating with a girl the …

Signs and Wonders

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From here, along the northern road, the oaks form a phalanx through which no pines dare grow. Bag worms hang in their cloudy white hammocks. This is the month of webs when long-bodied yellow and black spiders sign their autographs between the posts of pastures. I find them beautiful; you would rather not look.Mornings, before the heat returns, we take coffees out to the edge of the property. Indented rocks are our armchairs, and we sit and wait for the thrushes to sing their sonatas. 
I start telling you about a dream full of wonders — scientists had perfected holograms and could project works of art onto the sky for all to see — but you won't listen. Dreams are nothing, you say, cutting me off: meaningless nothings.  The moment is spoiled, and I take my coffee back to the house where I write the dream down, longhand.
I phone your sister. We laugh and insult you, calling up instances when we played games (Password and Balderdash), and you changed the rules so that you could win. I fe…

The Code of Hammurabi

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She is tall and pecan-brown, repeating a history course for the second time. It is not that she doesn't study. It is that she cannot write. She has been told to hand in an essay about the code of laws assembled by the Mesopotamian ruler Hammurabi and to give the reader a picture of domestic life with all its inequalities for women and for slaves. We pull up chairs. I breathe in her Bath and Body Works vanilla, read her paper slowly and aloud because the ears catch what the eyes miss. Her sentences are awkward, stilted, like someone's idea of what academic prose should be. It is slow going. I ask her, "So, what does this sentence mean, this part about 'graphing onto' another society?"
It turns out, after several long moments, that she meant "grafting." I ask her to explain a paragraph that is convoluted. She has tried to discuss a portion of the code stating that women had to utter their grievances before being allowed to leave a husband, but men could l…