TL;DR: Stories in the Master’s Review (online), Salt Hill (online and print), Joyland (online), and Boulevard (print only). Links below.
‘Narada’s Ears,’ the Master’s Review (online, June 2019): of a glass eyeball maker, enchanted earwax, eavesdropping, and the life of a brown eccentric
“You told them you only do eyes,” Narada said. “You said, ‘Only eyes. For now.’”
“Yes,” I said, irritated; how many times had someone asked me—only eyes? Really? Not even a nose? I was trained in other things, besides glass, too—ceramics, sculpture. But what was so wrong with a bit of focus? “For now.”
“What would it take for you to change things up?” Narada asked.
He extracted a lengthy metal instrument from his pocket—it was thin like a needle and ended in a soft scoop. He stuck it in his right ear and dug around for almost thirty seconds. I watched his black eyes for clues about how it felt to dig around in such an enormous ear, but he was impassive. It was an unseemly gesture, like picking one’s teeth at a party, but he seemed so at ease that I wasn’t embarrassed for either of us.
He removed the instrument. A large glob of strange earwax clutched its end. It was burnt orange, marked with a few natural indentations like cratered cliffs. Narada took a thumb and a forefinger to the edge of the glob and pinched to show it was moldable. It softened, appeared to give a little exhale.
“For example,” he said, “I was wondering if you’d ever considered ears.” He proffered the instrument. “And if maybe you could work with this.”
“Really,” I was saying. “I thought I was the only Sanjana Satyan in the world.”
“Don’t feel bad,” Sanjena Sathian said. “You are, technically. I’m just almost the same. But we’re still our own people, with our own individual identities, our own combination of letters. You've got a Y. I’ve got an E, an H, and an I. Hm. I guess I do have more than you.”
I examined her for differences. Her complexion was clearer and lighter than mine. Were her eyelashes thicker? I thought my teeth might be whiter. Our hairstyles varied: she wore hers short, almost pixie cut, daring to expose much of her long neck; mine hung past my shoulders, straight and unassuming. She wore a small silver stud in her right nostril. My nose was rounder. In a cute way. I thought—I’d have to check back home—that I had a tiny beauty mark in the left corner of my chin.
Yes. We were altogether distinct.
‘New America,’ Boulevard (issue no. 100, print only, September 2018). Listed as a ‘Distinguished Story’ of 2018 in the 2019 Best American Short Stories anthology. First runner-up in the Boulevard Emerging Writers' Short Fiction contest. Winner of the Elmore A. Willets Prize. Of beauty pageants, multiculturalism, manic mothers, and diaspora
Long before they sold curry-flavored Lays Chips at Safeway, James and Kali worried that their daughter would grow up without a homeland. They told her she had twin histories. You get two countries, they said. Most people just get one! What they didn’t tell her was that the land they lived in was actually built of cables under the sea; that its bricks were the work of scholars like James and its mortar the expatriate nostalgia of immigrants like Kali. They didn't tell her she would have to be brave enough to live in theory.
‘Neighbors,’ Joyland (online, May 2018): of Bombay, monsoon, expats, and karma
They had moved to Bombay from Madison in January, after V decided to take a mid-year leave of absence from his PhD program in religious studies. Janani was thrilled to quit her own silly nonprofit job, and thrilled, too, for V. She had looked on at his work for some time now with distaste, seeing the ethical and spiritual migraines he sustained each day, the prematurely jaded advisors, the minuteness of the work and its audience.
She suggested Bombay. Janani had once wanted to be an actress; she’d auditioned some in college before discovering that parts for Indian girls, even light-skinned ones with competent breasts, are hard to come by. But in Bollywood, she stood a chance. They chose Versova because it was cheap and Janani read online that it was where the up-and-coming artists lived. They had yet to meet any.
It was, technically, temporary. They had told the university V would be back in the fall. But Bombay worked magic on people, seduced them, entranced them into staying much longer than they meant to. Something in their lives was about to change, and Janani did not intend to leave before the magic set in.