Best of the Net 2018  


Ephiny Gale’s “In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold” from Syntax & Salt Magazine

"Sally likes holding her paintbrush in her mouth, because it lets her get right up close to the canvas and add in tiny details like fingernails and leaf-veins and dress-threads. When her friends are particularly pleased to see each other, they bite each other on their shoulders. All of the doors in the village have levers. Sally can always dress herself alone unless she picks something with an awkward zipper or shoes with laces. At school she drinks her lunch, or throws her bite-sized food into the air with her teeth and catches it on her tongue. Her friends lie in a circle, and Sally stretches out on their feet and pretends she’s flying."

Megan Giddings’s “A Husband Should be Eaten and Not Heard” from Split Lip Magazine
"I think, Aileen says to the cake, hoping it will find her charming, that every person has special taste buds which are activated very rarely in our lives. It’s like this concept in cat training. You must find their superfood. Most cats have a certain thing that once they get a taste, they’ll do anything to get it—even listen to a person. And people are the same way."

Joanna Lee’s “Prawn Mee” from Cha
"My inherited hunger persisted, but from then on, I stopped eating. Once a year, I would open a packet of dried shrimp and eat them voraciously, compensating for a year of starvation, before throwing up a soup of orange and pink vomit. My mother disapproved and scolded me frequently, always mentioning the poverty and hunger of her childhood. Jiak, jiak, jiak, she repeated like a curse, you ungrateful child. But I always refused the food she put in front of me, so my father ate my share. His belly swelled like a balloon, bumping into tables and walls, barely supported by his tiny ankles. When he died, it deflated so dramatically that the doctors called a meeting and asked my mother to donate his body to scientific research. My mother was dragged out of the room kicking and cursing in a dialect I did not understand, and I later found out from one of the nurses that she was shouting about the history of food and love."

Raven Leilani’s “How to Smile” from Pigeon Pages
"When you are a woman, sometimes you give up. You shirk the gospel of the low, unimpeachable hemline and bright, populated space. You feel the greasy fingers in the city’s homeostasis, and understand what is happening to you is just a matter of course. It is not unnatural to share a bed with your natural predator. It’s unnatural to ask that after, your body remain intact. I am working off the debt incurred by my accidental glances at idle men. The men in my family call this way of dining, a compliment. They cape for men they don’t know while I am standing there, counting their teeth. They uphold tradition, say, black girl, lighten up."

Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s “Boy” from SmokeLong Quarterly
"Boy, on the night your mother brought you into this noisy, miserable world, at exactly 11:18 pm, on a rainy Thursday, your father reclined in his Toyota car outside the Emergency Unit and sucked on the titties of a nurse, the same nurse with the pointy bra and four-inch heels who was your mother’s best friend at the clinic during her antenatal classes and always told your mother oh how it was not a stroke of luck that brought the two of them together but a thing our gracious God had arranged — as though she’d spoken with our gracious God in her tiny, musty office lined with shelved paper files that dated as far back as 1978 — which was a big fat lie, as your mother’s elder brother worked in the United States Embassy, and the poor sneaky nurse thought that if only she would help your mother jump queues at the clinic your mother would someday return the favour by helping her obtain an American visa..."

Grace Singh Smith’s “Oshini” from The Tishman Review
"At the day’s end, Joydeb took a bath in the river and combed his hair. The Lecturer swore he saw a light of intelligence in his eyes when he was thus cleaned up. But then he would ask him, “How much work did you do today, Oshini?” (He had started calling him Oshini, saying that he reminded him of a faithful servant from his childhood. Joydeb accepted his new name without any objection.)"

Brandon Taylor’s “Grace” from The Rumpus
"She’s stuck on the shore of her life, watching everyone she loves sail into the distance. It annoys her that people view dying as a kind of going away, slipping out of life, dropping into the void. Death is a cessation, a pausing, a stasis. When she dies, she will be frozen in time. Everything will go on without her. They are the ones on the boat. They are the ones going away. She is the remnant, what’s left behind when life washes out to sea, a bit of glass, a jagged shell."