by Danny Goodman
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
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I TOOK A SIP of Delirium and told Josh he was a wuss. The cold of the bottle made my bottom lip numb. As the wind picked up, tossing all manner of garbage and particles into the air, the softball diamond became a swirl of infield dirt, a perfect aestival tornado. I was sweating, and I could smell myself something fierce, though Josh didn’t seem to notice. He went on about Maddie and how he’d lost her and what a fucking idiot he’d been: it was there, and then it was gone, he kept saying. He said it, over and over, like a fucking mantra, as if the words made the sentiment real. It’s all in your head, I told him. He shook me off and repeated the words. He was wrong about some things. I nodded and finished my beer.
“Thanks, douchebag,” Josh said. He grabbed the bottle and tossed it into a trash can. “Why do I even bother?”
“Because, rock star,” I said, slipping an American Spirit between my lips, “nobody else gives two shits.” I cracked a smile and slapped him on the back.
“You’re a real fuck, Ben,” Josh said. He picked up a Louisville Slugger that belonged to our teammate, Canadian Jay, whose wife had recently used it to bash in somebody’s windshield at the A&P, and smacked the aluminum against the bench. The vibrations settled at the tips of my fingers.
Josh walked towards home plate and shielded his eyes.
“Oh, come on,” I yelled, “you know you love me.”
I blew him a kiss, and he gave me the finger. Cigarette smoke filled my lungs and paralyzed everything. For a moment I was distracted from the repetition of the game by thoughts of a recurring dream I’d been having for weeks—one I couldn’t shake. I considered telling Josh, about the woman and her voice and how I woke up, each time, gasping for air. But he was in no state for such things, not right now.
The ping of softball against bat echoed through McCarren Park. I imagined, somewhere in Manhattan, Josh’s wife Maddie heard the sound and missed her husband. I hoped, anyway. She’d been staying at her sister’s in Locust Valley, but that situation proved worse than her own home. I got a call from her a few weeks back, asking if I knew of any places she could stay in the city; it was curious, her calling me. She had plenty of friends. She never asked about Josh, but I could tell she wanted to. When she wondered what I’d been up to, I simply said, “Work. And fucking. You know.” There was the faint sound of a laugh on her end. I wanted to comfort her, bridge whatever canyon had formed between her and Josh. It didn’t feel like my place, though. I promised to call my cousin, a night manager at the Chelsea Lodge, and arrange for an extended-stay room. Maddie thanked me. I thought she would hang up then, but she didn’t. Instead, there was silence, breathing, then, “Don’t tell him where I am, okay? Not yet.” The line went dead before I could respond.
Josh and Maddie gave me hope. This was nothing I could tell him, though, being as emotionally stunted as he was. Sure, they fought. Unendingly, it seemed. And they never said the things that people should say when what they say means something. But when they looked at one another—when I caught them in the kitchen cooking dinner and forgetting I was there—they were incredible. Josh would touch Maddie’s fingers, right at the tips, with his own. She would turn back to him and kiss the edge of his nose. There was more there than either would ever say aloud. This was nothing I could tell Josh.
Instead, we played softball. I listened until the ball settled into leather and the field cleared and all that was left was Josh, alone at home plate, and a swirl of burgundy earth mixed with scraps left by those who had just passed through. It was a hot Brooklyn summer. There seemed to be no end in sight.
CANADIAN JAY DEMANDED THAT we all go to a pub in Manhattan after the game. We usually obliged because nobody told a drunken story like Canadian Jay. He was a stout guy, typically unkempt, though he took particular care in washing his hands repeatedly after a game. He ran a greyhound adoption center in Queens, finding homes for retired and abused racers. It was one of the most prominent in the state; the man I saw playing softball seemed at odds with this vocation, and I had trouble, admittedly, picturing him performing such a philanthropic job. His wife, Elliot, was something of a legend. No member of the team had ever actually met Elliot, but from Canadian Jay’s description, she was certainly too hot for him, and a doctor. I took much of what he said with a grain of really finely processed salt. Josh thought he was full of shit.
“I can’t deal with people,” Josh said, “not right now.” He walked with a slight limp, which was fabricated and helped him feel more like a ballplayer.
“One drink,” I said. “That’s all.”
Josh tucked his glove under his arm and took off his hat. His hairline was receding a little, a fact he’d become sensitive about in recent months, especially since Maddie left. She had never mentioned noticing it, as far as I knew, which meant something very particular. Maddie was not a woman who minced words.
I patted Josh on the back, and he almost smiled.
about the author
DANNY GOODMAN is a writer and editor living in New York City. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in various places, including Paper Darts, Brevity, and FPQ. He edits the literary journal fwriction : review, blogs for the journal at fwriction, and runs social media for Stymie Magazine. Currently at work on his first novel (which follows the characters of Somehow There Was More Here), he is badly in need of a nap. Say hello to him here: http://dannygoodman.me
by this author
If You Waited Here, You Would
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After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
from the library
by Kirsty Logan
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize
by Jack Bootle
On an isolated English beach a man looks back on his school days, recalling the joy and torment of a secret love affair with a boy full of strange ideas, a boy obsessed with the language of the King James Bible. Moments from their relationship return to him: the hidden meetings on the beach, the first attempts at sex, the boredom of a school assembly in summertime, the cruelty of a young English teacher. But most of all he remembers the boy’s words. They’re words that, years later, will haunt him as he tries to come to terms with the person he has become.
“Psalm 77 is the type of story that one wants to read over and over, searching for meanings previously unseen. It is laced with the hidden, the secret, the sacred. From the sand dunes and their private longings in school to the verses, the imagery, and the final paragraphs, there is so much to uncover . . ." (Read full review)
— Amanda Miller from shortsundone.ca
by Kayt Burgess
When Blanche first began singing, she was humble, eager, willing to work, willing to learn. Now she is headstrong, condescending, unprofessional, and just a tiny bit full of herself. She is also the closest to genius that Antoinette, her accompanist, may ever have a chance to work with.
by Kelsey Robbins Lauder
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.
by Curtis Snider
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
by Matt Cahill
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
of My Sound
by Andrew Forbes
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
by Pauline Holdstock
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves ... In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize