Two War Stories


The IRS called Tanya twice while she was in the waiting room of the fertility clinic. “You don’t have to keep calling me,” she said to her phone without answering it. “I know exactly what you want. What do you think I’m doing here?” A dapper young gentleman sitting across from Tanya said, “What are you doing here?” Tanya said, “I wonder if you’re familiar with the term None of your fucking business.” “I’m here to donate sperm,” he said. “I don’t need the money — I have lots of money — I just haven’t found a suitable mate yet, and I don’t want to raise a child on my own, but I do want at least one child of mine to exist in the world, and the director of the clinic has assured me that he will find a good, healthy mother for my child. That gives me some peace of mind, even if I never meet the mother or the child.” Tanya picked up a magazine and put it in front of her face. “You’re here to donate eggs, aren’t you?” he said. “And you are doing it for the money.” The nurse came into the waiting room and called her name. The man said, “May I treat you to a cup of coffee after our respective procedures?” She walked back to one of those rooms with the vinyl-and-butcher-paper-covered things that are half table and half space alien probing machine. There was nothing pleasant for Tanya about the procedure except, unfortunately, picturing the dapper man’s smooth, lean jaw, his thick, perfectly trimmed black moustache, and clear green eyes. When she walked out of the clinic he was waiting for her on the sidewalk, smiling. Spring had come and the afternoon sun was shining. Back when life was simple, she would have known whether this man was creepy or charming. How nice it would be just to connect with someone. She walked away. “You look as if you could use a healthy meal,” he said behind her. She kept walking. “Okay then I’ll make my proposal here on the street. You’ve donated one or more eggs. I’ve donated sperm. Let’s create a person. I’m not proposing we have sex. I am not a cad. I’m proposing that because you are a good woman — and I am astute at sizing people up — you become the mother of a child of whom I am the father. If we turn out to get along we could raise this child together. If not you could raise it on your own or with whomever you deem appropriate, and with my financial support. I will sign a contract stipulating to all of this. My name is Max Alberding.” Tanya saw over her shoulder — why did she look back? — that the man now actually bowed and tipped his fancy woolen cap in her direction as he was walking quickly to keep up with her. She broke into a run. “Please think about it!” he called after her. She took the bus home. It was evening, hot and airless in her house. Her in-laws were sitting on the couch in front of the TV with their beers. They weren’t old but their faces and bodies had lost their shape to the point where it was hard to tell who was the man and who was the woman and who was the couch. After two years in the house with them and everything that had happened she was beginning to see the virtue of their approach. She went into her bedroom and he was of course lying on the bed, a zombie, with the mashed-up face to prove it. She said hello. He did not respond, zombies can’t talk. She’d been proud of him when she sent him off to fight in Afghanistan. She wasn’t proud of anyone anymore. She’d heard of miraculous zombie recoveries but she wasn’t counting on anything. He was shivering. She covered him with a blanket and then crawled underneath it and pressed herself against him. She was exhausted and felt herself sinking into sleep. There were stories of zombies devouring their sleeping wives. So be it — at least that would make things different than they were now. And even a zombie needs to know his wife loves him.


First I was a baby girl sitting on the ground looking at the green grass. Then the grass turned brown. A man was above me talking loud. He pet or caressed me, I didn’t want him to but I was too weak to make him stop. I got a tattoo on my arm of a star’s pretty face — that was high school. I went to two wars and saw people and dogs die bloody in the street. I saw whole trees shot to pieces and my friend Ann, no more will her fingers trace my tattoo. In the second war a man tried to do something to me again in a room but I stopped him. He fainted and cried and I liked that, but when I got home I hated it, then I lay down in a green field that had no bombs, I calmed down and let the man cry inside me, and that other man, their tears came out my eyes, that was okay. I worked in a factory and I liked being with all the people doing their jobs, but at night Ann yelled inside me and I drank. Then I was an old woman and I said, Stop yelling, and she said, Stop drinking. She didn’t and I didn’t. I’m drunk now and I still have to go to work. Ann, will you ever whisper to me again? Yes. When? Now, I’m whispering to you now.

Ghosts & Cyborgs

“Stay away from dark colors.” “Hoods and caps cause trouble.” “Don’t stare at anyone too long.” “Hold your chest in, Son.” “Try not to take up so much space.” “Keep your hands where everyone can see them.”