Sister Salamander and the Dybbuk
When we discovered the blood on Shira’s bed, we knew she had been possessed by a dybbuk. Grandma Mira used to tell us stories about the dybbuk—how it was a ghost that left a trail of blood on your bed, how it entered your body through the tips of your fingers or toes, how it made you convulse and foam at the mouth, how it enlarged your pupils to the size of matzah balls.
The year we turned sixteen, Genevieve entered an Amway-sponsored beauty pageant held in a local shopping mall. There were about a dozen teenage girls competing and two parts to the competition—the evening dress and the Q&A. Genevieve’s mother spent weeks altering a cocktail dress of her own from the ‘80s to fit Genevieve. It was the most exciting thing I could have hoped for my life: my best friend in a pageant.
That’s Why God Made Men
Pain is part of sports, I know. Not feeling pain runs in our family, Jerry says. I always say I can’t understand how you can teach someone to be tough without hurting them. He says I say that because I’m not a man.
When I am almost asleep, there is a noise. A noise like singing. A noise humming or whispering but a song too, like maybe Mary is singing or maybe someone else. It comes from far away.
It was poorly applied and dark and reminded her of a sort of tunnel vision she once had, one of those episodes where the edges of your vision spiral into themselves like the shards of a kaleidoscope, and at the center of it all you see an old television airing a documentary about honeybees. There’s a disease spreading through the colony. A worker bee gets sick and knows, by instinct, to fly off to a remote area where he will die alone and afraid, because this is what you do to prevent the rest of the hive from getting sick.
She Called Herself Lola
“Ay, Connie. It might matter in your pueblito in Jalisco, but not here. I heard about a woman who invited ex-boyfriends to her birthing room in the hospital. Imagínate!”
A newborn’s heart is about the size of an adult man’s thumb. An adult man’s heart is about the size of that same man’s own fist. At age eleven, Jonah estimates his own heart to be the size of an adult woman’s fist if the woman is slender and strong and doesn’t wear rings.
I had immersed myself into America so fully, succumbing to its soft, rolling English with such abandon, that encountering someone from my country of origin felt like a kind of violation. I hadn’t been to Finland in eight years, almost never spoke the language in New York, and considered myself fully integrated. I had long since stopped checking American tree trunks for authenticity, scratching with my nail to see whether it left a mark, as I had done during my first year. I had seen the leaves of the trees grow and fall and grow again, had missed their green shadows in the desolation of winter. I was here. This was real. Finland was a souvenir.