Why Did the Morandi Bridge (14.08.18) by Zoë Meager

Of all the things unknotting themselves in the garden, he brings me this armful of hopeful white blooms. I haven’t got the heart to tell him that pear blossom is not a picking flower. So for now we are happy as dogs. We sit on the front porch, dipping our toes in the sun while on his phone, an Italian bridge collapses.

“Bridge is an Italian card game,” he tells me, and I’m thinking about moving, one player at a time.

In Genoa, at least 39 people have died, says the news. At least. As if time did not know any other way of passing. As if it never knew how easy it is to be a wide-mouthed river, swallowing years whole.

We walk the narrow hallway and from my arms the pear blossom reaches out to brush the walls, and some parts of it shake loose and make a trail to remember where we have been.

On the kitchen bench is too much rhubarb. He finds a recipe from the greasy pages of Cooking for One, because it’s the only one new enough to be in metric and neither of us are handy at converting.

“My mother used to wash the stones from rice,” he tells me, and with a clumsy elbow the flour for our crumble goes rushing to the floor. Now we’re dipping our toes in the white-starred galaxy, each writing our names, separately, then rubbing them out. It would be different with rice, I think, you might make the effort to rinse it. With flour you would only get glue.

After lunch, I settle the blooming sticks into a vase on the kitchen table where we can look upon them kindly. By tomorrow, it will all have fallen apart in a spinning shower of petals. And tomorrow, his stoneless mother will arrive, run her fingers through the white drifts on the tabletop and ask me again, “Aren’t you looking forward to the pears?”


Zoë Meager is from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her work has appeared abroad in publications including Granta and Overland, and locally in Turbine | Kapohau, Landfall, and Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. There’s more at zoemeager.com

It was 1687 when a falling apple fell in natural motion by Tanya Castro

The galaxy sits in my palm. Only until it becomes a fist like watching a shark open his mouth and your life hanging on to nothing. There’s a story my father would tell my brother and I as children, there was once nothing until there was genesis. My father would list creation and I saw how it sat on his tongue, in the way that the stars sit against space. Everything sits on atmosphere. On the third day, when dry land was created, there was finally something to sit against light and sky. A reflection was born. The trees were created as well. A shadow was born. My father still tells me the story. Only now, I know how creation feels. It sits against me as I sit against it. The story ends on the seventh day, when creation finished like the way I watch a galaxy disappear when there’s nothing to hold on to. It was named gravity. The way humans fall.


Tanya Castro is a Guatemalan-American writer from Oakland, California. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California. Tanya’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Anser Journal, Floresta Magazine, and FEED Lit Mag.

On the Way to School, a Storm by Katie Cortese

My son stares out his window, a question on his lips about blues and grays while bronze threads stitch the clouds together overhead. When we pass the Wells Fargo, the blades of its ornamental windmill blur in the wind.

“Molecules,” I say, and “refraction,” pointing up toward the sun, which is blotted out behind an endless slab of altostratus.

“But where’s the blue now?” he insists, fingers rubbing as if to conjure the color. Scientist’s son, raised on a diet of doubt. “Where’d it go?”

“Nowhere,” I say, when I should say everywhere. “It’s up there still. Above the storm.”

He frowns, unwilling to take my word. “Why is the sky blue anyway?” he says. There’s defeat in his voice. He knows this answer. He’s asked me before.

“The sky is every color,” I say, like always, “but blue waves are shorter and smaller, so that’s mostly what we see.”

Even if it’s the correct answer, it’s the wrong one, and tears come. It’s visible, the continent of questions massing within his ribs that he lacks the diction to release.

“Rods,” I say, fingering my necklace of polished stone. “Cones,” I say, “perception.” But those words are wrong too. They stoke the rumbles within him the way a blend of water and sand and 600 kinds of poison can force gas and oil to the head of a well. What we don’t see inside the belly of the earth while we’re hunting our treasures are the fissures that prime faults to slip, triggering tremors that rock the places where we sleep at night and grow our food and raise the kids we try to make better than we are.

Tears marble his cheeks while one hand claws at his chest. “But that’s not—” he tries. “It’s not what I think.”

“Okay. What’s your theory?” We are almost to his daycare. In an hour I’ll stand in the bottom of an auditorium filled with three hundred bent heads, a pointillist painting too dim to discern.

“Well, the earth’s round,” he starts, “and it spins. So some parts turn upside down.”

“Sort of,” I say, “but gravity—”

“So when it spins, I think the ocean falls into the sky, and the sky falls back in the ocean. Blue and blue,” he says, palms up.

The light before us turns red, and I stop beside a coupe where a woman wields a wand to magic her lashes longer. My son’s eyes find mine in the mirror. He is frozen, waiting for me to correct him. A tear still clings to his jaw, but when I smile, his lips part too.

“Blue and blue,” I say. “Blue and blue, blue and blue forever.”

I don’t notice the light change, but he does, his finger a twirling turbine. “Come on, Mom,” he says. “Let’s go.”

As the first drops fall, I comply, and when thunder snarls behind us, it’s a tiger’s low purr from somewhere out of sight, still many miles away.


Katie Cortese is the author of Girl Power and Other Short-Short Stories (ELJ Publications, 2015) and Make Way for Her and Other Stories (University Press of Kentucky, 2018). Her work has recently appeared in VIDA Review, Gargoyle, Indiana Review, Blackbird, and The Baltimore Review, among other journals. She teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University where she also serves as the fiction editor for Iron Horse Literary Review.

The Corner of My Eye by Doris Cheng

I saw Meredith at breakfast today. It had been two, maybe three years since I’d seen her—really looked at her, that is. She usually resided in my peripheral vision, like a dust mote floating in the corner of my eye.

“Hi, Mom,” she said.

I was overcome. I loved my girl so much. “Honey, how did you sleep? How are things at school? Tell me everything.” I noticed her hair was in a complicated French braid; she must have learned to do that on her own.

She proceeded to tell me all about a fifth-grade project that involved toothpicks and copper wire and teeny tiny robots. There was some sort of classroom drama. I tried to pay attention. But I was packing her little sisters’ lunches and trying to remember who needed to bring their violin and who needed to return their library book. The dog tipped over the garbage pail and I had to wrestle a chicken bone from its mouth. I know I missed some details. But I thought, thank God I never have to worry about Meredith.

Around then Hallie’s anxiety got so bad she began levitating. I had to meet with the principal and child psychologist and drive her to a social skills group twice a week so she could play board games and practice keeping both feet on the ground. On top of that Fiona developed amblyopia. Her left eye starting rolling around in her head like a greasy marble in a ball socket. When I wasn’t driving Hallie to therapy I was on the Internet researching “levitation treatment” and “child has loose eyeball.”

I ran into Meredith in the kitchen. I’d come in to fix myself a cup of tea and saw her peering into the refrigerator.

“What’s going on, sweetie?” I was happy she was there. I hadn’t seen her in a while though I knew she was around. I could tell she’d gotten taller and more womanly.

“Nothing much. Everything’s fine.” She closed the fridge door. “We’re out of yogurt.”

“Sorry. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to get to the store. Your sisters, their appointments—”

She told me it was no biggie. She was understanding, full of grace. I told her I was grateful to have an independent and resourceful daughter who always did what was expected of her. I hugged her.

I’m kind of fuzzy on Meredith’s high school years. I remember her little sisters were putting me through the wringer. Hallie needed gravitational therapy, which meant I had to tie cans of soup to her feet every night and force her into a heavy-footed walk. Fiona’s doctor recommended she get a mechanical eye. I was buried in insurance paperwork and probably a little depressed. I think Meredith played field hockey. Or maybe it was lacrosse. I vaguely recall there being a stick of some sort. Whatever it was, I’m sure she did well because she’s a team player. Other kids might drink at parties and throw up on people’s lawns, but not her. She’s too considerate for that.

I passed her on the stairs from time to time. Each time she was more self-possessed than the last. Sometimes I felt a hand reach its way inside me and strum a high minor chord along my rib cage. The note reverberated in my chest cavity.

The last time I saw her was in the spring of her senior year. Or maybe she had already graduated, I can’t say for sure. I woke up, looked out the window, and saw her in the yard tending a roaring flame. She was inflating a hot air balloon.

I ran downstairs. By the time I got outside she was already in the basket. The balloon began to float upward.

“Come down, Meredith!” I told her she had to let me know where she was going. She wasn’t licensed and besides, she would need a warmer jacket if she was going to spend time in the stratosphere.

Meredith untied the ropes. She tossed out some ballast and the balloon began to climb. I shouted at her to be careful. I wanted her to know that a mother’s love is infinite, but I wasn’t sure if she could hear me at that point.

She waved. The balloon crested the tree line and found an air current. A sudden gust took it up and away. I couldn’t tell if she was smiling. She kept waving until she was just a dot on the horizon, no bigger than a dust mote. The dog started barking and I turned to shush it. When I looked for her again she was gone.


Doris W. Cheng is a Taiwanese American fiction writer. She received an MA in English Literature from Columbia University and teaches fiction and poetry in NY and NJ. Her stories are forthcoming or have appeared in New Orleans Review, Witness, Berkeley Fiction Review, The Normal School, The Cincinnati Review miCRo, The Pinch, and other literary magazines. She is an alumna of Tin House and the recipient of a 2020 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Grant for feminist fiction. http://www.doriswcheng.com