From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism




Free Coffin

The coffin lies at the curb, tilted aslant on the strip of grass next to the sidewalk. Old Mr. Byerly spies it on an evening walk through his suburban neighborhood. It’s been put out alongside a pile of other discards—an old-fashioned lawn mower, a chrome-legged kitchen table, a bookcase with only one shelf. The stuff is from a house that’s under renovation after sitting vacant for many months.


Markets: A Beginner’s Guide

In the folds of banyan trees, between the treeish world and ours, are markets. Real markets, not the pale human sort that happen every week, as if things that are worth buying happen every week. A banyan market occurs one day a year, which is as often as trees are willing to entertain on such a lavish scale. And once a year is just barely enough time to make the stuff that trees dream of. – Revathi Kumar, ‘Markets: A Beginner’s Guide’


The Rainmakers

“When in doubt—” I catch Thomas’s eyes and hold up a jar of sparkle lip gloss. “—add more glitter.” The mirror we face is cracked and wreathed in vanity lights that flicker in time with the strained chugging of the ancient generator outside. The smells of old perfume, road dust, and hush puppies fill the painted wooden wagon that serves triple duty as my transportation, home, and dressing room. I blame the generator for that last odour. We restocked on biodiesel at our last stop, and now everything smells like frying corn.


Saviour of the Light Market

Rain soaks through my hair, stretching my coils to wavy locks streaming down my face. A cold gaze follows me through dark windows, reminding me of Lisa’s face. I complained about my parents, once.


Girls Have Sharp Teeth

When Madison S. didn’t show up to school, and word got around that it was because her boyfriend threw his phone at her mouth and knocked out four of her teeth, the junior girls of Clark High turned into monsters. Taloned, screaming things driven by rage and revenge. We swarmed her boyfriend, Josh C., by his car after school, and though he tried to beat us off with his lacrosse stick, our numbers were too great, our sisterhood too mighty.


The Petticoat Government

I was twenty years old when Hamida Bano, the Padshah Begum, supreme wife of the Emperor, entrusted her infant prince to my arms before fleeing across the Thar desert. Her opium-addled husband, steeped in the luxury of his harem, had no defense against Sher Shah Suri’s advancing armies, which squeezed Agra like a coal between tongs. The Sur Empire then settled its traitorous haunches on North India, and Hamida Bano, trailing her husband’s camel, trekked across the blistering desert, while I, still a young concubine, nursed the boy who would inherit the throne.



Nellie kept moving, expecting to blend into the ridgeline, but the hiking guide spotted her. He called out in Italian first, then English.

“I don’t think you belong out there.”

His group, tourists with brimmed hats and walking sticks, stopped and stared with dull curiosity. The steep slope under her feet was loose gray rock, treacherous for amateurs perhaps, but she’d been wandering terrain like this almost forever.



I’m excited about this new apartment, its shining glass windows overlooking Harlem, until I see her peeing in the park one morning, shortly after we move in. Insulated glass dampens the screech of taxi honks and sirens below and gives us a great view of the nearby park: a huge swath of hilly green in the middle of the city, where evergreens reach up like pining lovers and silent figures walk along its paths. And yet one morning, while sipping my cinnamon coffee, I see her.


An Arrangement of Moss and Dirt

I have spent a lifetime in front of this window, mortality seeping out in waves of nausea and lost weight. There she is, just beyond the grime-cornered glass, in the yard, playing like all children should. I almost tap to get her attention, to give a weak wave of longing and vanished time, but I only watch her move through the grass and tree trunks, hair blown by the breeze.


What is Mercy?

Nanda hauls the bucket from the depths of the well, her palms aflame with red blisters from clutching the frayed rope too tight. The thick rope, screeching against the pulley, trembling under the weight of the water, becomes heavier by the minute. The minute she goes weak, the bucket will plunge, crashing into the sweet water below, and she’ll have to start the charade for the fourth time.