"Okay" – by Paul Maliszewski
Paul Maliszewski is one of the strangest, most original people we know. He is extremely funny. He probably doesn’t want us to talk about it anymore, but when he was just out of writing school, he worked at a business paper, and he spent several months creating “contributors” to the paper. They had names, voices, and agendas, and they were published straight. Paul’s bosses had no idea that he was writing half their content. Anyway, one thing led to another, and then the New York State Attorney General’s office got involved, and two men sat Paul down in a room and told him his life was over. In response, he defined satire. He is stubborn, and when he gets angry—Jesus, you don’t want to be around. But this all gets missed sometimes, if you aren’t paying attention, becausehe hides it. He goes around in khaki pants and button-up shirts, all innocent, all good credit, but then he writes a story like this.
"Okay" is about a husband whose wife suggests that she have sex with strange men while he watches. Paul applies all his intelligence and creative energy to an idea that an inferior writer (1) wouldn’t think up or (2) would think was enough in and of itself to carry the story and would just kind of mess with for 20 pages and then add an up note or a down note and call it done.

***

My wife liked the idea of me watching. That’s what she said. One moment we were talking about making dinner and what did we even have that we could make and did I need to run out and get something or should we just order in again, and then she was saying how she wanted to pick up random guys and bring them back to our house, and she wanted me there to, I guess, see what transpired. It was as if I’d just turned on some movie, except I was in it and my wife was in it and we were speaking about stuff we’d never spoken of before. I asked her where she got such an idea, and she shrugged. “It just came to me,” she said. “You know, necessity. Mother of invention and all that.” Wasn’t that what people said about the lightbulb? “Exactly,” my wife said. After much discussion, we went to a restaurant she liked. It had a big bar that wrapped around the inside. The place looked like a ski chalet. Stone fireplaces and heavy furniture and so forth. We took a table, and our waiter bounded right over. He was wearing ski pants and a black T-shirt that said “Eat.” My wife asked him to please just give us a few, and then he was gone. She put her hand on top of mine and said, “I’m going now, all right?” She indicated the bar, and I nodded. “And you’re sure you’re okay with this?” she said. I told her that I guessed I was. What else was I going to say? “I want to be clear,” she said. “I’m not asking for your permission, Thom. But I do want to make sure you’re okay. I care about you, you know. Very much.” I was okay. I told her not to worry. “You’re going to keep an eye on me, right?” she said. “Like you promised?” I said sure. “The whole time,” she said. I agreed, the whole time. She stood then and held on to the edge of the table. “Don’t you want to kiss me or something?” she said. I looked at her. Did she want me to kiss her? She shrugged, like whatever, so I wished her good luck instead, and then she walked away. She limped slightly, how she always does, favoring that left leg. I was thinking about getting a steak. I hadn’t had any steak that month. I’m supposed to eat red meat only very occasionally. My wife had been at the bar for maybe a few minutes when this guy in a suit sent her a drink and waved from across the room. She is not an unattractive woman. She’s also petite but big in the bosom, which I knew wouldn’t hurt her chances. I’ve seen how men look at her, like when we’re out shopping, and some guy’s walking by and I’m looking at him, assessing the threat level, and he’s just looking at her the whole time, like I’m not even there. Anyway, the two of them got to talking or whatever, and the guy looked like he was getting pretty fresh, and I saw my wife doing that thing where when she laughed she showed a lot of throat, and she must have said something about me, because the guy turned around and looked at me. I was having my steak, chewing on a French fry. I nodded in his direction, and he got to talking again with my wife and then he came over. “Is this some kind of game?” he said. He seemed agitated. I sawed a small bite off my steak, just like my doctor told me I’d better do. I told the guy if my wife said it was a game, then it was a game. Basically, it was whatever she said it was. What had she said? I sort of wanted to know and sort of didn’t at the same time. The guy said something that sounded about right, and I said he seemed like an okay guy, clean and all. I’d figured my wife and I would ride home together, in our car, but she wanted me to follow them. She was quite clear about that. The guy opened the car door for her and then did this little jog around his vehicle. He had one of those sporty Honda Civics. I flashed my high beams to let him know I was ready. We took the usual roads, how I would’ve gone, if I were doing it. I liked how the guy drove. Not too fast and not too slow. It meant something to me that he wasn’t a shitty driver. We turned down our street, and then he proceeded to pull into our garage and park his car. I was fixing to honk, I was this close to laying on the horn, but then I suspected my wife had just told him to do it. She probably insisted. That time of night, I could usually find a spot on the street somewhere, maybe on the other side of the park. When I got back to the house, I went straight upstairs to our bedroom. That’s what my wife had told me to do. The two of them were in the kitchen, getting into some wine, it sounded like. Our bedroom overlooks the living room. There’s half a wall and some decorative iron railing that looks like it was removed from the outside of a house in Italy or Spain or somewhere like that. Anyway, that’s where I was supposed to station myself, by the railing. My wife and the guy—his name was Terry—got pretty chummy on the sofa. He was telling this joke that sounded like what some comic he saw said on TV, and my wife was sitting there absolutely rapt, like she was hearing about the time he saved a blind family from a burning building. She had one leg tucked under her kind of girlishly, and she was doing that thing where she stretched her other foot out and bounced her shoe on the end of it. The guy touched the back of my wife’s neck, smiled, and I thought, Here we go. They got a pretty kissy thing going then, and my wife started pawing at the guy’s pants, and next thing she removed his member, which didn’t look like anything special, as far as I was concerned. The guy leaned back into the sofa and loosened his tie. Then my wife inserted his member into her mouth and started going up and down like a piston, making these just ridiculous sounds. I really could not get over the sounds. That’s when the guy—Terry—saw me, I think, upstairs, peering through the railing. “I’m sorry,” he said. He pushed my wife away. Not roughly. It wasn’t excessive force he used. He just kind of moved her off him. “This is too weird,” he said. He stood then and tugged at his pants. “You folks have a nice night or whatever.” When he was gone, my wife looked up at me. “You don’t have to be so fucking creepy about it,” she said.
Continue

"Okay" – by Paul Maliszewski

Paul Maliszewski is one of the strangest, most original people we know. He is extremely funny. He probably doesn’t want us to talk about it anymore, but when he was just out of writing school, he worked at a business paper, and he spent several months creating “contributors” to the paper. They had names, voices, and agendas, and they were published straight. Paul’s bosses had no idea that he was writing half their content. Anyway, one thing led to another, and then the New York State Attorney General’s office got involved, and two men sat Paul down in a room and told him his life was over. In response, he defined satire. He is stubborn, and when he gets angry—Jesus, you don’t want to be around. But this all gets missed sometimes, if you aren’t paying attention, becausehe hides it. He goes around in khaki pants and button-up shirts, all innocent, all good credit, but then he writes a story like this.

"Okay" is about a husband whose wife suggests that she have sex with strange men while he watches. Paul applies all his intelligence and creative energy to an idea that an inferior writer (1) wouldn’t think up or (2) would think was enough in and of itself to carry the story and would just kind of mess with for 20 pages and then add an up note or a down note and call it done.

***

My wife liked the idea of me watching. That’s what she said. One moment we were talking about making dinner and what did we even have that we could make and did I need to run out and get something or should we just order in again, and then she was saying how she wanted to pick up random guys and bring them back to our house, and she wanted me there to, I guess, see what transpired. It was as if I’d just turned on some movie, except I was in it and my wife was in it and we were speaking about stuff we’d never spoken of before. I asked her where she got such an idea, and she shrugged. “It just came to me,” she said. “You know, necessity. Mother of invention and all that.” Wasn’t that what people said about the lightbulb? “Exactly,” my wife said. After much discussion, we went to a restaurant she liked. It had a big bar that wrapped around the inside. The place looked like a ski chalet. Stone fireplaces and heavy furniture and so forth. We took a table, and our waiter bounded right over. He was wearing ski pants and a black T-shirt that said “Eat.” My wife asked him to please just give us a few, and then he was gone. She put her hand on top of mine and said, “I’m going now, all right?” She indicated the bar, and I nodded. “And you’re sure you’re okay with this?” she said. I told her that I guessed I was. What else was I going to say? “I want to be clear,” she said. “I’m not asking for your permission, Thom. But I do want to make sure you’re okay. I care about you, you know. Very much.” I was okay. I told her not to worry. “You’re going to keep an eye on me, right?” she said. “Like you promised?” I said sure. “The whole time,” she said. I agreed, the whole time. She stood then and held on to the edge of the table. “Don’t you want to kiss me or something?” she said. I looked at her. Did she want me to kiss her? She shrugged, like whatever, so I wished her good luck instead, and then she walked away. She limped slightly, how she always does, favoring that left leg. I was thinking about getting a steak. I hadn’t had any steak that month. I’m supposed to eat red meat only very occasionally. My wife had been at the bar for maybe a few minutes when this guy in a suit sent her a drink and waved from across the room. She is not an unattractive woman. She’s also petite but big in the bosom, which I knew wouldn’t hurt her chances. I’ve seen how men look at her, like when we’re out shopping, and some guy’s walking by and I’m looking at him, assessing the threat level, and he’s just looking at her the whole time, like I’m not even there. Anyway, the two of them got to talking or whatever, and the guy looked like he was getting pretty fresh, and I saw my wife doing that thing where when she laughed she showed a lot of throat, and she must have said something about me, because the guy turned around and looked at me. I was having my steak, chewing on a French fry. I nodded in his direction, and he got to talking again with my wife and then he came over. “Is this some kind of game?” he said. He seemed agitated. I sawed a small bite off my steak, just like my doctor told me I’d better do. I told the guy if my wife said it was a game, then it was a game. Basically, it was whatever she said it was. What had she said? I sort of wanted to know and sort of didn’t at the same time. The guy said something that sounded about right, and I said he seemed like an okay guy, clean and all. I’d figured my wife and I would ride home together, in our car, but she wanted me to follow them. She was quite clear about that. The guy opened the car door for her and then did this little jog around his vehicle. He had one of those sporty Honda Civics. I flashed my high beams to let him know I was ready. We took the usual roads, how I would’ve gone, if I were doing it. I liked how the guy drove. Not too fast and not too slow. It meant something to me that he wasn’t a shitty driver. We turned down our street, and then he proceeded to pull into our garage and park his car. I was fixing to honk, I was this close to laying on the horn, but then I suspected my wife had just told him to do it. She probably insisted. That time of night, I could usually find a spot on the street somewhere, maybe on the other side of the park. When I got back to the house, I went straight upstairs to our bedroom. That’s what my wife had told me to do. The two of them were in the kitchen, getting into some wine, it sounded like. Our bedroom overlooks the living room. There’s half a wall and some decorative iron railing that looks like it was removed from the outside of a house in Italy or Spain or somewhere like that. Anyway, that’s where I was supposed to station myself, by the railing. My wife and the guy—his name was Terry—got pretty chummy on the sofa. He was telling this joke that sounded like what some comic he saw said on TV, and my wife was sitting there absolutely rapt, like she was hearing about the time he saved a blind family from a burning building. She had one leg tucked under her kind of girlishly, and she was doing that thing where she stretched her other foot out and bounced her shoe on the end of it. The guy touched the back of my wife’s neck, smiled, and I thought, Here we go. They got a pretty kissy thing going then, and my wife started pawing at the guy’s pants, and next thing she removed his member, which didn’t look like anything special, as far as I was concerned. The guy leaned back into the sofa and loosened his tie. Then my wife inserted his member into her mouth and started going up and down like a piston, making these just ridiculous sounds. I really could not get over the sounds. That’s when the guy—Terry—saw me, I think, upstairs, peering through the railing. “I’m sorry,” he said. He pushed my wife away. Not roughly. It wasn’t excessive force he used. He just kind of moved her off him. “This is too weird,” he said. He stood then and tugged at his pants. “You folks have a nice night or whatever.” When he was gone, my wife looked up at me. “You don’t have to be so fucking creepy about it,” she said.

Continue

"History," a short story by Thomas Gebremedhin, with art from Chad Wys.

"History," a short story by Thomas Gebremedhin, with art from Chad Wys.

Read “History,” a short story from our 2014 Fiction Issue by Thomas Gebremedhin, with art from Chad Wys.

Read “History,” a short story from our 2014 Fiction Issue by Thomas Gebremedhin, with art from Chad Wys.

The Ransom of Samantha – by Merrill Markoe 
Photos by Levi Mandel
This story originally appeared in our June 2014 fiction issue.
Samantha went to YouTube and clicked Make a Video Response.
“Hi,” she said after the countdown, making sure her copy of Masters of Despair: The Big Book of Philosophy was open to the quote by Schopenhauer about how ending your own life “can be compared to waking up after a horrible nightmare.”
“It’s me… I dissolved 40 Ambien into this bottle of Jack Daniel’s. In a few minutes I’m walking into the ocean. Don’t bother looking for me. It’s high tide. Fourteen-foot waves… Like anyone gives a fuck about me anyway.”
Then she clicked Upload.
She was still debating whether to wear her amazing vintage peacoat, because San Francisco nights were freezing cold, when she heard a noise and felt something wet over her nose and mouth.
“What the fuck?” she was saying, as everything went dark. How had she managed to drown without going to the beach?
The detective who showed up at 5 AM was not much older-looking than Samantha’s friends. (Not that Samantha ever hung out with clean-cut guys like this. Why should she when there were still heroin addicts in bands who needed a doormat?)
“Policy is to wait 24 hours,” Officer Stratton said. “A lot of times a kid’ll show up. Did you check her computer history? Her Facebook status?”
“No,” said Jen, feeling stupid about how she hadn’t wanted to violate her daughter’s privacy.
“Mind if I have a look?” said Officer Stratton, opening Samantha’s laptop. The first thing he saw was a YouTube announcement that a video had been successfully uploaded.
Continue

The Ransom of Samantha – by Merrill Markoe 

Photos by Levi Mandel

This story originally appeared in our June 2014 fiction issue.

Samantha went to YouTube and clicked Make a Video Response.

“Hi,” she said after the countdown, making sure her copy of Masters of Despair: The Big Book of Philosophy was open to the quote by Schopenhauer about how ending your own life “can be compared to waking up after a horrible nightmare.”

“It’s me… I dissolved 40 Ambien into this bottle of Jack Daniel’s. In a few minutes I’m walking into the ocean. Don’t bother looking for me. It’s high tide. Fourteen-foot waves… Like anyone gives a fuck about me anyway.”

Then she clicked Upload.

She was still debating whether to wear her amazing vintage peacoat, because San Francisco nights were freezing cold, when she heard a noise and felt something wet over her nose and mouth.

“What the fuck?” she was saying, as everything went dark. How had she managed to drown without going to the beach?

The detective who showed up at 5 AM was not much older-looking than Samantha’s friends. (Not that Samantha ever hung out with clean-cut guys like this. Why should she when there were still heroin addicts in bands who needed a doormat?)

“Policy is to wait 24 hours,” Officer Stratton said. “A lot of times a kid’ll show up. Did you check her computer history? Her Facebook status?”

“No,” said Jen, feeling stupid about how she hadn’t wanted to violate her daughter’s privacy.

“Mind if I have a look?” said Officer Stratton, opening Samantha’s laptop. The first thing he saw was a YouTube announcement that a video had been successfully uploaded.

Continue

Bungalow 89 – A Short Story by James Franco About Not Sleeping with Lindsay Lohan
I was in Bungalow 89 of the Chateau Marmont, the old hotel where the stars stay. The hotel is tucked behind a wall, off Sunset Boulevard, just west of Laurel Canyon, right in the heart of Hollywood. Bungalow 89 is in the cottage area, apart from the main building, where the pool is. It was dusk.
Bungalow 89 is not famous like Bungalow 3 (Belushi) or Bungalow 2 (Rebel Without a Cause). It is only famous in my own mind, because it’s where I first met Gus Van Sant, and because I have been living in it for the past nine months while they do repairs on my house. When I met Gus here, he sat in the comfy chair in the living room and played a little red guitar and talked to me. It was back when he was casting the supporting roles for his film about Kurt Cobain’s last days alive. The role he liked me for eventually went to Lukas Haas, the kid from Witness, with Harrison Ford. Haas was one of the original members of the Pussy Posse, the group centered on the young Leo DiCaprio, back in the 90s, post-Titanic and pre-Scorsese.
Lukas Haas had a gay sex scene in Gus’s film. It was with Scott Green, the guy who talks about having to fuck a guy with a big cock in the Chinese-café scene in My Own Private Idaho. His monologue was probably based on at least some reality; he had helped River Phoenix do research for his young-hustler role in the same film. Which reminds me of a story Gus later told me about River in Portland, during preproduction. River was pulled over by the cops for wearing jeans with a hole in the front so big that his dick hung out.
***
There was a Hollywood girl staying at Chateau Marmont. She had gotten a key to my room from the manager. I heard her put the key into my front door and turn it, but I had slid the dead bolt and that thing—I don’t know what you call it; it’s like a chain but made of two bars—that kept the door from opening.
She said, “James, open the door.”
Across the room was a picture of a boy dressed as a sailor with a red sailor cap, and except for his blondish hair (closer to my brother’s color) he looked like me.
She said, “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”
Continue

Bungalow 89 – A Short Story by James Franco About Not Sleeping with Lindsay Lohan

I was in Bungalow 89 of the Chateau Marmont, the old hotel where the stars stay. The hotel is tucked behind a wall, off Sunset Boulevard, just west of Laurel Canyon, right in the heart of Hollywood. Bungalow 89 is in the cottage area, apart from the main building, where the pool is. It was dusk.

Bungalow 89 is not famous like Bungalow 3 (Belushi) or Bungalow 2 (Rebel Without a Cause). It is only famous in my own mind, because it’s where I first met Gus Van Sant, and because I have been living in it for the past nine months while they do repairs on my house. When I met Gus here, he sat in the comfy chair in the living room and played a little red guitar and talked to me. It was back when he was casting the supporting roles for his film about Kurt Cobain’s last days alive. The role he liked me for eventually went to Lukas Haas, the kid from Witness, with Harrison Ford. Haas was one of the original members of the Pussy Posse, the group centered on the young Leo DiCaprio, back in the 90s, post-Titanic and pre-Scorsese.

Lukas Haas had a gay sex scene in Gus’s film. It was with Scott Green, the guy who talks about having to fuck a guy with a big cock in the Chinese-café scene in My Own Private Idaho. His monologue was probably based on at least some reality; he had helped River Phoenix do research for his young-hustler role in the same film. Which reminds me of a story Gus later told me about River in Portland, during preproduction. River was pulled over by the cops for wearing jeans with a hole in the front so big that his dick hung out.

***

There was a Hollywood girl staying at Chateau Marmont. She had gotten a key to my room from the manager. I heard her put the key into my front door and turn it, but I had slid the dead bolt and that thing—I don’t know what you call it; it’s like a chain but made of two bars—that kept the door from opening.

She said, “James, open the door.”

Across the room was a picture of a boy dressed as a sailor with a red sailor cap, and except for his blondish hair (closer to my brother’s color) he looked like me.

She said, “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”

Continue

Untitled (Beach), 2012, © Whitney Hubbs, Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.
See more of Whitney Hubbs’ work alongside “How Kohnstamm Got the Beach House,” a new short story by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet.

Untitled (Beach), 2012, © Whitney Hubbs, Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

See more of Whitney Hubbs’ work alongside “How Kohnstamm Got the Beach House,” a new short story by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet.

How Kohnstamm Got the Beach House – New Fiction by David Mamet
Above: Untitled (Beach), 2012, © Whitney Hubbs, Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.
David Mamet wrote the screenplays for American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Wag the Dog, among many others. We’re honored to feature his writing in this year’s Fiction Issue.
-
It was near morning. Margaret and Mel sat, alone, on the couch.
“The weekend the power went out at the Bel Air may have been the most restful of my life,” Mel said.
“As you grow old, various things fade—appetite, I find, increases; but I think this places me in one of two camps.”
“What is the other?” Margaret said.
“They grow thin, as they age,” Mel said. “But both, I believe, find a diminishment of sexuality. Perhaps the thin, though, less. I don’t know. You would know, how would you know, you’re half my age.”
“Not exactly,” Margaret said.
“Well…”
“I am ten months your junior,” she said.
Continue

How Kohnstamm Got the Beach House – New Fiction by David Mamet

Above: Untitled (Beach), 2012, © Whitney Hubbs, Courtesy M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

David Mamet wrote the screenplays for American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Wag the Dog, among many others. We’re honored to feature his writing in this year’s Fiction Issue.

-

It was near morning. Margaret and Mel sat, alone, on the couch.

“The weekend the power went out at the Bel Air may have been the most restful of my life,” Mel said.

“As you grow old, various things fade—appetite, I find, increases; but I think this places me in one of two camps.”

“What is the other?” Margaret said.

“They grow thin, as they age,” Mel said. “But both, I believe, find a diminishment of sexuality. Perhaps the thin, though, less. don’t know. You would know, how would you know, you’re half my age.”

“Not exactly,” Margaret said.

“Well…”

“I am ten months your junior,” she said.

Continue

"I got a feeling you two are together and you’re keepin’ it a secret”
New fiction by Alejandro Zambra

"I got a feeling you two are together and you’re keepin’ it a secret”

New fiction by Alejandro Zambra

Summer/Autumn – New Fiction by Ben Brooks
Twenty-one year old Ben Brooks was recently touring with Tao Lin and was named one of the best young writers by our global editor, Andy Capper. Andy wrote and asked Ben for a piece of fiction, and Ben sent this story, which Ben said is 100 percent true. But we are of the “it is fiction if the writer says it is fiction” school. That is, we are of the “most writers who write about themselves just lie about it, and claim they made it up in their big brains” school. We also asked Ben Brooks to write a bio and he sent us this: "Ben Brooks was born in Gloucestershire, which is in the United Kingdom, in 1992. He is the author of Fences, An Island of Fifty, The Kasahara School of Nihilism, Grow Up, and Lolito. He was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize and some other things and he has had like three girlfriends and other stuff.”
I’m 18 and hiding from school. Ellen is 42 and in an office. She moved to London three years ago. She’s from Portugal. Her job is writing computer code. Her husband is in jail.
“Why is he in jail?” I type.
“Insider trading.”
“Oh, me too.”
“What? How old are you?”
“22. You?”
“35.”
Ellen writes about wanting to sit on the faces of the men she sees on public transport. She writes about wanting to be choked, and demeaned, and elbowed in the eyes. She says that her dad was calm and quiet, and that after he sat in them, chairs smelled of pine needles.
We spend afternoons writing emails and evenings on instant messenger. Ellen talks about her colleagues and her boss and how she feels. I invent several girls and a web of anxieties to go with each of them. It doesn’t matter. We talk to be listened to.
When we start to trust each other, we admit our actual ages and exchange genuine pictures. Nothing changes. School ends. She’s promoted.
She reads my first books and says that she likes them more than other books. Each one sells under a hundred copies. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want a job and I don’t want university debt. I’m not getting taller. I can’t grow a beard.
“Why don’t you move here?” she says. “There’s space. There’s too much space.”

“I don’t have any money,” I say. “I don’t have a job. I wrote a CV, but I didn’t know what to put so I just put ‘Wall Street.’”
Continue

Summer/Autumn – New Fiction by Ben Brooks

Twenty-one year old Ben Brooks was recently touring with Tao Lin and was named one of the best young writers by our global editor, Andy Capper. Andy wrote and asked Ben for a piece of fiction, and Ben sent this story, which Ben said is 100 percent true. But we are of the “it is fiction if the writer says it is fiction” school. That is, we are of the “most writers who write about themselves just lie about it, and claim they made it up in their big brains” school. We also asked Ben Brooks to write a bio and he sent us this: "Ben Brooks was born in Gloucestershire, which is in the United Kingdom, in 1992. He is the author of Fences, An Island of FiftyThe Kasahara School of NihilismGrow Up, and Lolito. He was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize and some other things and he has had like three girlfriends and other stuff.”

I’m 18 and hiding from school. Ellen is 42 and in an office. She moved to London three years ago. She’s from Portugal. Her job is writing computer code. Her husband is in jail.

“Why is he in jail?” I type.

“Insider trading.”

“Oh, me too.”

“What? How old are you?”

“22. You?”

“35.”

Ellen writes about wanting to sit on the faces of the men she sees on public transport. She writes about wanting to be choked, and demeaned, and elbowed in the eyes. She says that her dad was calm and quiet, and that after he sat in them, chairs smelled of pine needles.

We spend afternoons writing emails and evenings on instant messenger. Ellen talks about her colleagues and her boss and how she feels. I invent several girls and a web of anxieties to go with each of them. It doesn’t matter. We talk to be listened to.

When we start to trust each other, we admit our actual ages and exchange genuine pictures. Nothing changes. School ends. She’s promoted.

She reads my first books and says that she likes them more than other books. Each one sells under a hundred copies. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want a job and I don’t want university debt. I’m not getting taller. I can’t grow a beard.

“Why don’t you move here?” she says. “There’s space. There’s too much space.”

“I don’t have any money,” I say. “I don’t have a job. I wrote a CV, but I didn’t know what to put so I just put ‘Wall Street.’”

Continue

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