Fiction For Your Lunch Break: Three Stories by Anya Yurchyshyn

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Welcome back to Fiction For Your Lunch Break, a weekly series highlighting the best short fiction on the web. This week we’ve got a triple shot for you from Anya Yurchyshyn via elimae. Anya’s perfectly crafted and emotionally devastating fictions have appeared in a bunch of publications, including NOON, West Branch Wired, Guernica and Adirondack Review. Elimae (pronounced “el-ee-may” or “electronic literary magazine”) has been publishing quality short fiction since 1996, which, when you think about it, was a pretty long time ago, and a feat worth celebrating.

The stories in question — “Sweater,” “Something You Must Know,” and “A Concert” — are splendidly economic nuggets that manage to fully capture entire worlds in the span of just a few sentences. In “Sweater,” a mother takes her confused young son to visit his grandmother in a nursing home. The son doesn’t recognize the grandmother even though she’s wearing a familiar sweater, which later reappears on homeless lady sleeping on a bench. “Something You Must Know” turns motherly advice into a sexual grotesque. The longest of the three, “Concert,” about two sisters attending a surreal church organ concert at the height of summer, is marked by pitch-perfect dialogue, and like the other stories, its strength lies in the almost shocking corporeality of its final image.

So much short fiction is squarely cerebral, dominated by ideas, and overtaken by an obsession with its own form. Yurchyshyn’s work is heady and formally adventurous, too, but it’s also refreshingly grounded in the physical, and uplifted by fearless inquiry into the body’s transformative beauties. Check out this excerpt from “Concert,” and read all three stories here:

My sister went to the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub and soaked her feet. I took off my shirt and stuck my face in the freezer. My sister came into the kitchen on her toes. “Did your feet shrink?” I asked. “A bit,” she said, marching with her hands in the air. “Did you freeze your zits off?” “I stopped doing that a long time ago.” I said. “I’m just really hot.” She came up behind me. “You have zits on your back.” I tried to look. “No, I don’t.” “Yes, you do.” Her fingers bounced around my shoulders. “I can ice them off if you want.” I tried to look. I couldn’t see any. “Ice?” I knocked some ice cubes out on the counter and brought them over in my hands. They slid off the table when I put them down. “A bowl, a bowl,” my sister said. “Paper towels.” I sat in front of her, on the floor. “You still have freckles?” she said. “You don’t?” I said. “They disappeared. They faded and faded and then they were gone.” She sighed. “I miss them.” She wrapped two cubes in a paper towel and rubbed them over my shoulders. Cold water ran into my armpits and onto the floor. I did not let myself shiver.