Fiction

For Drunken Boat 20, our fiction reflects a diversity of writers and narratives. In this issue, the stories often concern communication and miscommunication, silence, and attempts at connection in a fragmented world. The stories travel continents and time. In Xu Xi’s “Kaspar’s Warp,” Casper and his Hong Kong friends are children of transnational, ambitious parents, still haunted by his close friend’s death years ago. In Jeff Martin’s “This is Not the Time,” the narrator communicates with deer on his walks home at night in an attempt to deal with his father’s mental deterioration. With echoes of Waiting for Godot meets Lord of the Flies, in Matthew Blasi’s “White Sugar Sand,” Francisco Maldonado waits (in what we can guess is Cuba) for de Soto to arrive and rescue him and his mutinous crew. In Carlos Vazquez’s “Tiempo Muerto (Dead Time),” a man witnesses the horror of a father driven to madness because of his family’s poverty. In Brenna Dixon’s “How to Explode an Exploding Man,” the narrator, a flight instructor, connects with a mysterious man named Ahmoud whose body makes strange ticking sounds. In Kawika Guillermo’s “Wretched,” a woman from Jamaica is stuck in a mutually destructive relationship with a white man from Memphis. But a synopsis of the stories does not do them justice. I’ll leave you with a sentence from each story, which shows you the range, the humor, the language, the play, and the loneliness that reflects the stories in this issue.

Natchez went away, leaving Francisco to stroke his drunken possum.

And they shrugged because what else is there when it’s dusk and the air’s lit but not lit and atoms are leaping the gap and the water’s not making sense for a man late at night in a strange kitchen?

“¡Carajo!” Juan Serra cried out, and a fly flew into his mouth.

It's the two of us in the squatter's den with three others and of course that white witch is all gone away now and one of us gotta pawn something.   

Equating people with technology was like the one-legged soldier’s love for a dancer because he thought she was also, like him, one-legged, when really, her petrified state was just the arabesque. 

There we were, thousands of feet above the crisscrossing pavement making out, him with one hand on my hip and me with one eye on our levels.


Sybil Baker is the author of The Life Plan, Talismans, and Into This World. She spent twelve years teaching in South Korea before returning to the States in 2007. She is an Assistant Professor of English (Creative Writing) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she serves as the Assistant Director of the Meacham Writers’ Workshop. A recent recipient of a MakeWork grant for Chattanooga, she teaches in the first international MFA program at City University of Hong Kong and at the Yale Writers’ Conference. She is Fiction Editor at Drunken Boat.