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Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

FICTION

Anna Mae had dirt under her fingernails. It was the kind of dirt that sticks for days, like silty-gray clay, seeping deeper into the pads of her fingertips until finally, when the nails grew long enough, Anna would cut them and watch the dirt fall away. Until then, Mama would rail about how unladylike it was for a girl to parade about with such indignity. Anna hardly enjoyed having dirt under her fingernails — she rather disliked the feeling — but she couldn’t help it. She loved the earth. All nine years of it.

The earth was not, of course…


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Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

FICTION

Final words of farewell; Yolanda sobbing gracefully; the funeral service comes to an end. Tufail gets up and approaches her. She appears on the verge of fainting. She looks at him, grief yielding to gratitude, a pale smile. He embraces her. A bit of snow melts inside him while he kisses her forehead, then tries to hold her gaze. Is she thinking this man will leave her? The death has only delayed his departure. Or can they mend a broken nest? He is distracted by the commotion caused by others shuffling and shifting as they rise to form a line…


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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

FICTION

The dream is always the same. I’m stuck in Mesa, and it’s the last place I want to be. I’m trapped inside an antique store filled with Mark McGwire bobbleheads. Staring. Judging. Flexing their muscles. The dream makes sense on some level, considering that, when I was younger, my mother and I went to spring training in Arizona every other year. In this dream, I’m in a stupor, wandering from one aisle to the next, hoping that I’ll find a way out, or at least stumble upon a section of the shop selling something other than wobbling figurines of a…


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Photo by Donny Jiang on Unsplash

FICTION

When Mama died last fall, Velvet would come in and read until I fell asleep, that is, until she started seeing JC. And it was JC who gave me Buttons, until the men from the animal hospital came and took him one day while I was away at school. Daddy says he thinks it was Pastor Jim who told them to come to take Buttons, but all Pastor Jim wanted to know was why we hadn’t been going to church since Mama died.

“I just do not get,” says Daddy, rising up from his tray of food, “what kind of…


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Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

FICTION

When she discovered they’d taken the yellow canoe down from the hooks on the fence where it was stored, her first impulse was to reprimand them. Instead, she watched as her son Rafael and his two best friends devised a system to prop it up. She saw the boys gather rocks and salvage wooden planks from the garage to create a kind of cradle for the canoe, so it stayed upright on the lawn while they climbed in. Since October, the three had traveled somewhere in the canoe every afternoon.

Every evening, Rafael sat at the computer, examining photos and…


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Photo by Денис Токарь on Unsplash

CULTURE

[This is the second part of a multi-installment essay. You can read the first part here.]

It’s hard for me to compare my ex-husband to Mr. Rochester. Whenever I teach Jane Eyre, my students and I talk about how terrible it would be to date him. He’s manipulative and takes advantage of his position — a position partly secured through Bertha’s money. Tellingly, he’s initially attracted to Jane because she has no independent means and no familial ties. He thinks he’s doing her a favor by marrying her even when he knows his track record with women is a disaster…


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Photo by Bryan Geraldo from Pexels

FICTION

I found it strange to receive a postcard just a few days after having read a short story by Haruki Murakami about a young man who, too, receives a postcard. It carries an invitation to a concert in which a young woman he knew from his student days would play classical piano pieces. Even stranger was the fact that my postcard also included an invitation to a concert in which a woman, a pianist, I had known about a year ago would play solo piano pieces as well. For a moment, I believed I had fallen victim to a hallucination…

The Nonconformist Magazine

Stories and articles from “The Nonconformist” contributors; writing about books, without compromise: www.nonconformist-mag.com

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