Brevity's 50th Issue

Brevity’s 50th Issue

Our 50th issue, a milestone, and we proudly present some of the finest work we’ve ever shared: stunning essays from Joe Mackall, Rebecca McClanahan, Diane Seuss, Amy Butcher, Shanaz Habib, Cary Tennis, John T. Price, Matthew Komatsu, Heather Kirn Lanier, Jennifer Howard, Micah Dean Hicks, Suzanne Roberts, Sally Ashton, Traci Brimhall, Angela Palm, Kristine Erwin, and...
Hospitality

Hospitality

is when she walks into your restaurant, a tired young woman in fading clothes, because it is the only one that is still open past midnight on Atlantic Avenue and orders the cheapest thing on the menu and then she starts scrambling to put together three dollars for a falafel sandwich from the dimes and...
The Little Girl at the Door

The Little Girl at the Door

The doorbell rings, and I know before I answer it who will be standing on our misnamed welcome mat. It will be the intruder. A threat to my family. A domestic terrorist. An eight-year-old child. Sure enough, it’s the girl from the next street asking if my granddaughter is over. The little shit seems to...
Advance Directive to my Future Roommate at a Yet-to-be-Named Care Facility

Advance Directive to my Future Roommate at a Yet-to-be-Named Care Facility

For it will come to pass at some appointed hour, that you will sense from behind the pulled curtain of the room we share an agitation of the air, a perturbation of the light, and then a trickle of language, soft babbling you might first guess vaguely Pentecostal, until, breaking forth into raucous splendor, my...
The Essay Determines How it will Begin

The Essay Determines How it will Begin

The essay is a transgression. The night you move back in with your ex-husband, you dream you are in bed with your mother. The essay reveals the world we grew up in. Mother goes on a date with the neighbor six days after Daddy’s death. Then stands in the hallway, her naked breasts cupped in...
Memory Palace, Visit No. 3

Memory Palace, Visit No. 3

On my third visit to the memory palace I found the king. He was under a table laden with apples. He was wearing that campy red gown, velour, with the white trim, and the crown, too, which had rubies, sapphires, and emeralds in it. Now in this palace also were portraits of warriors and kings...
Soundtrack

Soundtrack

Owner of a lonely heart . . . He leans against the building across from the train stop downtown. It seems like the kind of outburst street people sometimes make. Owner of a lonely heart Then I catch the syncopation. Wires from ear buds loop down his saggy t-shirt, disappear in a pants pocket. Owner...
Post-Mortem

Post-Mortem

In the arctic, there is very little predation. The cold and lack of scavengers or insects keeps death on pause. The puffin with wet wings will lay on the beach for months. A washed up narwhal must wait for a polar bear. If he dies north of the tundra, a polar bear must wait for...
Send Out Succor

Send Out Succor

At six, I mastered Pig Latin, that clunky language inherited by children. “E-way ate-hay iver-lay or-fay inner-day,” my brother and I whispered, pretending to stick our fingers down our throats. At eight, I learned Morse code using a handheld flashlight our family physician had given me. With my thumb, I triggered short dits and long...
Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse

Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse

I have been to the end of the world. I was fourteen on a fall morning, frost icing the dead grass in the yard, my feet cold on the tile. The phone rang from under dishes and papers on the kitchen table, and I let my mother get it. She answered, said okay, hung up....
I hoisted them, two drug dealers, I guess that’s what they were,

I hoisted them, two drug dealers, I guess that’s what they were,

crackheads, I exiled them is what I did, from my son’s basement apartment, they’d come to feast off of what was left of him, his entrails I guess, he’d moved into that apartment with such high hopes even though it was on the bottom floor, and no light, or very little light, there was a...
Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Like this. They drop this girl off at school after a visit to the dentist. Midway through the day when all we do is throw stones at the rain. Her gums are numb, so incredibly numb; she opens her mouth wide and digs her finger nails into them, swearing all the while that she does...
Second Language

Second Language

Rarely my mother passed away. Instead my mother died when I was eight. A way to say, this will not be easy. She lay on a pillow of gravel and grass, hands bound behind her back. She stood in the kitchen, a coffee cup from Hershey’s Chocolate World in her hand, and scolded me for...
When We Played

When We Played

1. When we played war as boys, we never died. Dead was a reset button, a do-over, a quarrel over who killed who. Maybe we played fair. Maybe we dropped our toy guns and crumpled on the grass, clutching with grunts like gut-shot movie soldiers. Grimaced and closed our eyes, but only just. Through the...
The Burnt Plane

The Burnt Plane

As Jason Murphy’s mom drove us to the farm, I wondered how it would look now that his dad was dead. It had been almost a year. I pictured man-high weeds and rusty tractors, the house dark and empty, the giant barn rotting with its roof caved in and black birds flying out the broken...
The Longest Con

The Longest Con

Whenever I’m too in love with somebody, I imagine him in prison—orange jumpsuit, laceless slippers, his days a humiliating routine of following other men’s orders. He’s been convicted of something cowardly, or neglectful. Not murder, but uttering and publishing, maybe, or accidental mail fraud. Something worse than failing to fall in love with me back,...
To Seize, To Grasp

To Seize, To Grasp

The first one was not the worst one, although it brought the biggest shock: my infant daughter’s irises sought the edges of her eyelids, pried open by faulty synapses. Her arms bent into Ls, and her hands fisted at her face like a fetus. An alien staccato coursed through her limbs. What seized her was...
Eight Quarters

Eight Quarters

In his maximum-security prison, where I visit him for the first time, Kevin suggests that with our eight remaining quarters, perhaps we should try the photo booth. This is something he wrote about in his letter: how a photo would mean so much. I can’t keep the film copy, he wrote, but you could scan...