Best of the Net 2016  


Lois Ruskai Melina’s “Down in the River to Pray” from Lunch Ticket

Hope, someone told me once, is believing in the best possible outcome without any evidence to support it. Some people don't find comfort in hope; they find peace by ending the ambiguity and uncertainty. They create a story with an ending. They would hold a memorial service where family and friends could talk about the person the way they wanted to remember him—his smile, his generosity, his innocence. They would console one another. Embrace. They would have a meal together. They would laugh at the funny stories about him and wonder if it was okay to laugh. The way I was doing with Benji's friends.
Jocelyn Pihlaja’s “Family, Edited” from Winning Writers
After admiring how neatly the claw-foot table fit in the corner, we sat down. A bowl of soup perched on my knee, I juggled sipping, tapping the baby's back, and helping my daughter climb up and down as she and her cousin occupied themselves in the tight space. My brother and I explained why we had honored our sister's decision about the obituary's contents. My mom concentrated her argument on the historical ramifications for future genealogists. We lurched our way to détente. Then, very officially, Mom pulled out a yellow legal pad and announced, "I sat up last night and made a list of questions I'd like you to answer for me."
Alaina Symanovich’s “The M Word” from The Fourth River
No one taught me how to masturbate. I didn't need to scour outdated issues of Cosmo, brave the late-nineties Internet, or smuggle The Joy of Sex out of the library, to learn my way around the body. I knew myself like a map, knew how to work the land with my hands. Even in preschool, I was a little orgasm factory, churning out pleasure with stunning finesse for someone who believed she peed out of her vagina. I didn't have a language with which to talk about sexual things, and I didn't want one. Just like Dr. Seuss said one fish, two fish; red fish, blue fish, the situation "down there" seemed simple: one hand, two hand, WOWZA. No discussion needed.
Kina M. Viola’s “Skin Cells” from The Collagist
If in seven years I can replace my shell, I've washed away that boy who touched me wrong. I've shed the feathers I did not like. I grow a little bit like mountains do, shifted by tectonic plates. Seven more years—I could be a flightless bird. I could be a striped wild cat sharpening my teeth against rocks and the skin keeps flaking off, coming back from a place so deep inside me I couldn't locate it with a finger, tell my lover to kiss me there. Some pieces we keep, others we leave behind.
Sarah Viren’s “The Granola Lesbian Mother's Guide to Having a Magical Day at Disney with Your Two and a Half Year Old” from Fantastic Floridas
Step 16: Fifteen minutes later, realize that this is not just about getting a photo with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Realize there are adults in the line without kids. Realize that these adults get long hugs from both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Realize that they go away with the hugest grins on their faces. Shush your wife when she asks out loud if this is some form of therapy.