Recommendation: Calamity and Other Stories by Daphne Kalotay
Calamity and Other Stories by Daphne Kalotay is a book I came to at random, on the shelves of my hometown library about a decade ago. I must have run through my stash of holiday reading too quickly and needed a supplement. Drawn to it because of the lopsided cupcake on the cover, I was taken in by ten-year-old friends Rhea and Callie in the first story, "Serenade," and the specificity of the startling moment Rhea witnesses between their mothers.
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We went to a desert town once. Stepping out of the car, though, I felt underwater—breathless and panicked. I hadn’t known a place could be so hot. In the air-conditioned car, I’d thought the terrain beautiful, all the hills and red earth, the lacy shrubs and lazy circles of the birds overhead. But I couldn’t follow Dev as he strode up the street toward what could only be described as a saloon, front porch and swinging doors. I stumbled to the nearest large rock and sat. Next to me, covered by chain link, was a hole in the ground: a mineshaft. The stone was there to mark it so no one fell. A small sign indicated that when the mercury market crashed, the cinnabar mine and adjacent town were abandoned. The town had the saloon, a few dozen residents, and the workers’ derelict quarters; it was a ghost town, a real life ghost town. The air had gone wavy with the heat. Dev’s outline quivered as he receded—spectral, too.
“Did you ever make it into the saloon?” Leanne asks.
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In the Morning
In the morning, walking toward the East River, the sun is wan and diffuse. “Can I borrow your scarf?” I ask Eli. He hands it over. “You don’t have to give it to me.”
“Did I complain?” he asks. His exposed throat is speckled red, as if he shaved dry or in a rush. Does he look at my skin with the same scrutiny? I think of the place on my cheek I can’t help picking.
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English Kills Review
Having just published my first book, I am often asked about my influences. I have a great list to rattle off: Lorrie Moore, Jo Ann Beard, Laurie Colwin, Justin Torres, Amy Hempel, Junot Diaz. I could go on. But, if I had only two pedestals to erect, I know who they’d be for: Alice Munro and Bruce Springsteen.
Although I am from New Jersey, my love of the Ontario writer Alice Munro long predates my discovery of Freehold’s own Bruce Springsteen. Given my feelings toward my home state during the period I was first learning about music—like many people, my middle and high school years—it follows that I would have dismissed Springsteen as resoundingly not for me. Munro, on the other hand, I came to early...
When I hear the local newscast, I'm just finishing Buster's cake. He is turning three and finally understands what a birthday is, and that this time it's happening to him. There will be a kids' party this year, because he has friends now, friends whose parents we've been forced to befriend too.
But before the report is even through, I stop piping icing. I call Dax, who is picking up the last of the supplies: paper cups, pointy hats, kazoos.
"Jesus Christ," he says. "Our park?"
"It was spotted skulking at the fountain around sunrise," I say, "and yet is not there now. The park has already been reopened."
"Oh, ok," he says. "So it's fine. So the party's on."
I bonk my palm to my brow, theatrical for no one's benefit. "Not fine! Not on! The coyote's whereabouts are now unknown!"
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Tin House, Flash Fridays
We lay still in bed, out of sleep’s reach, buzzing electric in the dark. At the appointed time, we slipped from the house, careful not to wake the adults as we unlatched the back door. They’d packed us along on their family vacation, three girls for the price of one, and we were one—one mind, one thing in mind, never I, always we.
We had flat teenaged-stomachs, long hair, cut-off shorts and nerves to spare. The boys we’d met on the beach that day were waiting, bikes leaning against trees, sunburned arms hooked around six packs of beer.
Beer was new to us, as were boys, as were nights within earshot of the surf—we were suburban girls, shy ones, landlocked at that. We took drags of the boys’ cigarettes not for the buzz but for the chance to put our lips where their lips had been. We left cherry-chapstick Os, the impression that we were sweet and we were. Continue reading...