Posts Tagged: gender

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Fiction Feature: “Lake effect” by Ryan Van Meter

I don’t understand why he calls it a houseboat. It doesn’t look like a house, and it doesn’t look like a boat. What it looks like is a white box with windows cut out of the sides, railings clamped all around, and deck chairs tossed on the roof. The whole thing bobs in the lake, tethered to a dock post by a soggy green rope. Inside, everything is brown. The walls are covered in plastic panels printed with a wood-grain design, as if to remind us that wood floats and it’s perfectly reasonable that we’re loaded on this box for the next six days, instead of at home in an actual house. He, my Dad, is one of three Dads for whom this trip is now an annual thing, the third summer in a row that these college friends have brought along their elder sons for a week of fishing on a giant lake—this year, in Minnesota.

The kitchen in the houseboat is brown tile instead of brown carpet. I’m eleven years old and standing in front of the sink, washing every dish from the cupboards. The Dads and the other Sons are sitting on the slick white top of the boat, a deck on the roof above me. The sunset is beautiful, they keep telling me, but I keep doing the dishes, which is taking a lot longer than anyone would have guessed. We’ve already unpacked, already uncoiled the rope linking us to shore, already buzzed out across the water, turned off the engine, and started our slow drift around the lake in whatever direction the waves and wind push us.

Even though I’ve endured two previous trips, something about this houseboat idea unsettled me as soon as I heard about it. Maybe the intimacy of all of us aboard one small vessel, three Dads and three Sons in too close quarters? When my Dad announced our plan, I tried suggesting how disastrous my habit of sleepwalking might be on a houseboat, the way I could silently slip into the dark water before anyone noticed I wasn’t tucked inside my sleeping bag anymore. This was unconvincing because, to his knowledge, I’d only sleepwalked once—when I was five and stood in the hallway snoring and peeing in a corner before shuffling back to bed—and because it hadn’t happened since then, he wasn’t worried.

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Fiction Feature: “Looking for Eight” by Marcela Fuentes

Small enough to pull up in a plastic milk crate by a rope slung across a tree limb, I don’t think you wore those blue-footed pajamas anymore.  You insisted on taking the first turn in our makeshift elevator, because I was a girl and the first born, unfair in your baby chauvinist eyes.  An old rope and a very tall pecan tree, so my reasoning to test my weight on it seemed appropriate; I was heavier.  But I wanted to make you happy. 

I can still see your face peeking down at me, as I hoisted you higher and higher into the air, watching me, not smiling but serious, afraid but determined that yours would be the first glory. Read more…

Online Feature: “Hip Joints” by Joy Castro

In the late afternoon of the twentieth century, after Vietnam and before Anita Hill, in the Appalachian highlands of rural West Virginia, it was senior year, and Madonna and the Police filled the airwaves: “Like a Virgin,” “King of Pain.”

Every noon, I drove the six miles from East Fairmont High School to the little machine shop tucked on a winding back road. I’d park in the gravel lot and let the car battery run the radio while I ate my brown-bagged tuna sandwich and stared out the windshield.  My classmates at East Fairmont were dissecting little dead animals and solving for y.

I was done with all that; I was impatient; I had all the credits I needed to graduate. I took morning classes so the state wouldn’t charge me with truancy, and then I left for work.

“I machine artificial hip joints for 3M,” I would say when people asked.

It was tedious, it was eight hours every weekday, it was just the whir of machines for company, the other workers attending silently to their own stations.  But at least it wasn’t McDonald’s or Dairy Queen; I didn’t have to wait on people from high school.  And it beat minimum wage by a couple of dollars an hour.  Sixteen years old, forty hours a week:  I felt lucky.

The titanium hip joints were pocked with small regular holes; they looked like halves of silver Wiffle balls.  Titanium:  strong and light, sleek and durable, a perfect metal for aerospace engineering or replacing the worn interiors of human bodies.  I’d imagine the gloved hands of surgeons inserting the shining silver balls into the dark slick privacies of the pelvis.

In the shop, the machines were huge teal cubes, large and clean, twice as tall as I was, with hot moving steel parts at their hearts where I put my hands to lock down and then remove the half-balls. The machines all had red warning labels that showed how you could die or lose a limb.

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