Plain China


Alyssa Moore · Susquehanna University

Mike holds me in a position called “hands,” which means he’s tossed me up by the waist and is holding my feet in his hands at shoulder level. “Press up,” he says, shifting from foot to foot to get a better grip, “in one, two—” and he dips his knees and extends his arms all the way up. I pull my feet together tight as he transfers my weight to just his right hand. Pull in from my core, lift up with my shoulders. The balance is the easy part; when there’s only one person underneath you, there’s no choice but to work in tandem: If I lean an inch to the left, Mike takes three steps over to adjust.

In Memoriam

Victoria Baena · Harvard University

The front page of the website for artist Alisdair Hopwood’s False Memory Archive, on exhibition at London’s Freud Museum last year, declares: “WE NEED FALSE MEMORIES.” One could interpret this phrase in one of two ways: the utilitarian—the collective is in need of false memories for its project; or the more abstract—we human beings rely somehow upon a fabricated notion of the past.

Side by Side

WIll Anderson · Bard College

Since I can remember, Riley has gone through phases. He loved the Ninja Turtles. Then Star Wars. Then the CIA. Then Larry McMurtry. Each topic seemed more than a phase—they consumed his speech, his actions, and his thought. It was hard to imagine him ever leaving one behind.

For the Hollow Bones

Kris Mackenzie · Columbia College Chicago · Nonfiction Prize Winner

I spent the summer following my nineteenth birthday compiling a list of acceptable ways to kill myself. Option 1. Hang yourself, only do it dressed as Spider-Man. Option 1. Hang yourself, only do it dressed in nothing but a Ronald Reagan mask and a pair of in-line roller skates.

Last Rites

Faye Yan Zhang · Harvard College

After Grandfather died, he waited in line for one year. His ashes, piled inside a lacquered box, sat among the ashes of others in a cold concrete bunker nestled in the Chinese countryside. Each box bore a tiny black-and-white engraving of the deceased. The owner of the bunker kept track of burials by scrawling the deceased’s name and date of death on the lids.

The Rapture

Lauren Brownlee Copper · Elon University

The cheap, plastic rocking horse was bleached to a pale blue by the sun, with a sticker smile that was slowly peeling off. The saddle grew out of the plastic back, and was the same faded shade as the horse’s coat. The horse had been donated to the church by some unknown worshipper, and was already well loved by the time it landed in the Sunday school nursery.

24 Trials

Warner James Wood · Harvard University

The incident reported below took place on July 1, 2011, at 11:41 p.m. in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Jim Callihan has been indicted with charges of vehicular homicide, among others. His trial is set for spring 2014. Names have been changed out of sensitivity to the family.

What We Inherit

David Banks · Elon University

I ask Tommy, out of the blue, how his dad lost his finger—I know he’s told me before in the fifteen or so years we’ve been friends, but I can’t quite remember the story. I send him a text message and he doesn’t respond for a while. The wait makes me
 imagine the possible ways a boy can accidentally dismember himself. For some reason I dwell upon kitchen knives—a blender, maybe—though I’m not confident I’m on the right track. Turns out, he was six years old and fiddling with a bike chain when the kid on the bike started pedaling. I read this and think it sounds worse than I had pretended to remember. My eyes dart away from the phone, as if the image were on the screen.

On the Soliloquies of Madmen

Jeva Lange · Bennington College

For years I slept with a bible beneath my pillow and dreamt of a loathsome god. I remember this in 2014, in a movie theater in Brooklyn. It comes to me all at once, as memories do—and I am startled. Why remember my faith now, after I have called myself faithless for so long? It has been a decade or more since I pressed creases into my cheeks with the corner of that holy text.

How to Cook Guilt-Free Orange Roughy

Richard DiCiccio · Virginia Commonwealth University

Consider the orange roughy. Native to the waters of New Zealand and Australia, this placid fish’s bulging eyes and hardy, tough jowl may scare off children if their noses are pressed up against the cold glass of the National Aquarium, but don’t let the roughy’s blunt expression put you off your appetite. The orange roughy is a versatile fish with a mild flavor that is highly adaptive to a delightful array of recipes and seasonings. The roughy can survive just about any cooking method, and—best of all—the smooth, pearly white meat of this deep-sea delicacy is naturally low in fat. Roughy can even serve as a healthy substitute for any lean meat. Regardless of how you choose to serve it, we here at guarantee that you can head to bed after dinner with no regrets.

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