Jan/Feb 2023

e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n


(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

A Contested Island
(Spotlight Runner-Up!)

Although otherwise crude, Hazam arranged our dinners with as much fastidiousness as if they were held in the officers' quarters. Each evening, Musuf laid out an unblemished, bleach-white tablecloth surmounted with impeccably laid utensils and plates, and Hazam and I would sit at exactly six and twelve. Arranged this way, our prandial conversations had something of the form, if not the content, of salonic philosophical debates. Hazam's costume at these dinners was a tight, starch-white dinner-shirt, which ill suited him as drastically as it would have a gorilla.

John Gu

Broken Waves, a novel excerpt

When I reached the Damascus Citadel at the northwest edge of the old city, I followed the perimeter toward the entrance of Souq Al-Hamidiyah. The citadel's curtain walls towered above me. Normally impressive, today they felt confining. There were so many barriers around. Modern metal doors meant to keep out thieves. Ancient stone walls meant to keep out invaders. All of them reinforced my panic.

Reem Hazboun Taşyakan

The Male Feminist

It wasn't until later, after an evening when he'd asked for her advice about a student, asked to borrow language from her syllabus, asked her to make him dinner, and then cried copiously while breaking up with her because he was ready to get serious with someone else—only then she saw how, beneath the new masculinity he so proudly wore like his pair of ill-fitting purple python boots, was really just the same old tired, repackaged business. Only then she noticed the lack of emotional oxygen in any room he was in.

Oline Eaton

Code 3

Visual inspection: a grey, weak old gorilla in a housecoat; a soiled mattress; a tiny room stinking of dung. Jim tries the window, but no luck. There's a jungle poster on the wall above the mattress, and as I take the pressure she keeps glancing that way, as if to keep an eye on things, and I wonder if she's gone dotty. No, no danger from that direction, ma'am. No predators to worry about anymore. No jungles, either.

Will Richter

The Liberata Virus

And so they hid their bearded 12-year-old girl away in her bedroom, took no more visitors, and schooled her from home. The girl picked out oats from the porridge and banana bread her mother made, placing them on her windowsill as she looked out at the giant fir trees. She braided the strands of her beard together and waited for the day it would be long enough for her to scale the walls.

Kelly Piggott

The Bulgarian Mother

Over time I realized Elvis's way was always the hard way. He seemed to feel doing something legally or by established rules somehow took the fun out of it. For example, rather than go shopping, he preferred to barter and angle for food. I once found him offering unsolicited advice to the manager of the local supermarket on how he could heighten the visibility of some of his stock. The manager was receptive, and Elvis walked away with a cantaloupe and a dozen eggs.

Robert Klose