The Wooden Bird

The oar was lax in the old man’s hands. He stared at the once golden-haired boy, now as old as he was himself, waiting for a sign of recognition, proof that those days lying on the hot sand as the sun turned their bodies brown weren’t a product of his imagination. But the curly-haired man just stared at him, waiting to be rowed across the river. The old man’s heart clenched, but he picked up his oars and started rowing.

Gu Père

A few years ago, my dad came to visit me while I was living in France. On a night out, we went to the arthouse theater in Montpellier to watch a Chinese movie that had just come out. The movie takes place in Shanxi province, a few hundred kilometers west of Beijing, and when it started, I found I couldn’t understand any of the dialogue. All the words were spoken in the wrong tone, with the wrong stress, and yet they had a maddening similarity to Mandarin that made comprehensibility seem just out of reach. It was as though I’d had a stroke, and a portion of my mind’s speech center had been injured.

Dead in Long Beach, California by Venita Blackburn

Coral grew up as a closeted lesbian, but if you ask me, she’s none too secure as an adult either. She's now older than her niece’s mother, Naima, was at her death. At the end of the novel, Coral is visited by four ghosts while at a drive-through takeout window, and by then, you’re not surprised but rather feel fulfilled by this most classic of all classical tropes.