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The Sun Magazine

Fiction

Good Night

And even after all that, even after everything I’d said to him earlier, he still came to say good night before he went to bed, the way he had when he was a little boy.

A Kiss For Mrs. Sissle

We did come upon a low cave, ten or so feet to the back, but there was nothing inside except empty beer bottles and a white paper bag shaped like a cat. So we sat like castaways at its entrance, knees touching, and watched the hourglass glitter of the moon on the black surface of the ocean. That was all. It was my first experience of nervous teenage heaven, and I doubted I would ever know anything so fragile and sublime again.

The Full Eighty-Eight

They were living off Floreta’s pay now. Money was tight, but it had always been that way, forty years of never catching up. If they ever did get a little bit ahead, something always happened: a recession, a car crash, a broken bone, an illness.

Mother’s Helper

Our mother never threatened and then hit us. It was always either/or. Plus, she struck us only when we were at home. It helped define the place. We could not have told you why she hit us at all — beatings, rash and random, born of a fury we could neither comprehend nor forecast — but we knew we were safe at Erma’s house.

Step Nine

I knew early on that Max was special. She was a taut-bodied pit-bull mix but without the meanness, even in appearance, that her breed is known for. She must have been the kind of dog who rolls over as soon as she sees you so you can pet her belly, like in the photograph on your flier.

The Magician

In 1976, the year we were supposed to be learning the metric system, we fell in love with Katy Muldoon. We were in the sixth grade, and Katy sat at the front of our math class, raising her hand for every question, as though all of the answers to all of the problems were merely floating in front of her eyes.

Wanderlust

We typed slowly and carefully: RussianBride.com. UkranianDelight.com. YourRussianLove.com. And, just like that, there we were — or, at least, versions of ourselves: women of eighteen, twenty-two, thirty-one who looked like us and wanted what we wanted. We sat before this machine — one part oracle, one part mirror — enchanted by the possibilities and all wishing the exact same wish.

Stethoscope

I am always asking doctors about their medical equipment, so I know that the stethoscope was popularized not because it improved a doctor’s ability to hear a heartbeat — although it had that effect, too — but because in nineteenth-century France it was considered improper to put one’s ear to a man’s chest or, especially, a woman’s bosom. The amplified heartbeat was secondary to the stethoscope’s main function, decorum.