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Cast of Wonders 516: The Cat of Lin Villa


The Cat of Lin Villa

by Megan Chee

I did not care for Mr. Lin, the man who claimed to own the villa that I lived in. But when his new wife moved in, I found her much more agreeable. She came out to the courtyard every evening to give me treats: handfuls of coconut-scented rice, slices of stewed pork, fish steamed with ginger.

In return for the delicacies, I honoured her with my company. When she made nonsensical meowing noises at me, an offensive imitation of cat language, I made the same silly noises back at her. I even permitted her to stroke my fur. I really did spoil her.

She never realized how well I understood human speech, so she told me her secrets unreservedly. Soon I knew everything there was to know about her. I knew she was thought to be very beautiful by human standards. I knew her marriage to Mr. Lin had been a great fortune for her penniless family.

I knew he hit her when he was angry, and he was often angry. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 515: Little Wonders 36 – Halloween


Interlude

by Christopher Hawkins

“It’s probably just a rash,” my wife said, though I could tell, even then, that she knew it wasn’t true. I could hear it in her voice, the subtle rise at the end that almost made it a question. Her eyes had gone wide, just a little, but the boy never saw it. He was looking up at me with wide eyes of his own, eyes that wanted reassurance. Below them, the tip of his nose burned an angry red, like a pale shoulder left too long in the sun, like a lobster left to boil.

“Probably, yeah,” I told him. “Just don’t scratch at it or you’ll make it worse, okay?” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 512: A Full Set of Specials


A Full Set of Specials

by Marguerite Sheffer

I’m not used to holding strangers’ hands, the way Miss Tina is. I don’t like how they go all soft and strange in mine, all vulnerable. Like anyone can walk in the door, their hands in any state, and they just let you touch them. The sharp tang of the remover is everywhere, not covered by the fake floral-smelling lotions at all, just blown around by the hum of the little drying fans. (Continue Reading…)

abstract mountain

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Cast of Wonders 505: And the rain will come from the mountain


And the rain will come from the mountain

by Innocent Chizaram Ilo

For my father and all the stories he told me.

I

This is how Papa paints.

In the evenings, when air collects at people’s feet in chilly, invisible spools, he gathers his painting things to the balcony and sits in front of a rotting canvas. The numb fingers of his right hand grip the paintbrush, and the aluminium paint tray sways on his quivering left palm. Papa starts by making a whorl at the top left edge of the canvas. He twirls and twirls the paintbrush, concocting a riotous mesh of colours. It does not make sense. It does not make sense at all. Mama has always warned me never to disturb Papa when he is painting but I still linger, hiding behind the torn brocade curtain in the parlour. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 504: Shrine to the Ink Goddess


Shrine to the Ink Goddess

by Monte Lin

Dana Liu took her weekly ten-minute walk to what she called the Shrine to the Ink Goddess. Stepping through the copse of trees that separated the apartment complex and the storm channel, she arrived at a large, hollowed-out eucalyptus tree, split into three parts ages ago from a lightning bolt. She ducked down and sat in the middle, placing an empty inkstone next to her, and took out a beat-up metal food container with a warm zòngzi, the twine still tightly wrapped around the bamboo leaves. With her multi-tool, she snapped the knife through the twine, unfurling the leaves. She grimaced at the soggy bottom (microwaving never seemed to heat them right).

“Ahem. You know you shouldn’t be here, Dana.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 503: Oshun, Inc


Oshun, Inc

by Jordan Ifueko

“For the last time, Bola: I’m not going to sleep with your dentist.”

“But it would only kill him a little bit.”

“Bola.”

“And even if he does die …” Bolajoko’s toothy smile reached all the way to her cowrie shell earrings. “At least he’d get a taste of heaven beforehand.” (Continue Reading…)

raging river

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Cast of Wonders 501: Across the River


Across the River

by Leah Cypess

When the sorcerer walked through the town gates, I was standing with my friends Reuven and Yitzchak in the square, which was not where we were supposed to be. Reuven should have been in the study hall, where his wife had directed him to go. Yitzchak should have been at the market, helping his father. And I should have been resting my voice, since that evening, for the first time, I was going to be allowed to lead the prayers in synagogue—an honor I had been hoping for and practicing for, but that I now, somewhat nervously, wished was not coming so soon. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 500: Ysarin


Ysarin

by Simon Pan

On days when I came home crying, my grandmother was always there with her song.

It was a tune friendly and old as the roads that crossed Mazael: the sort you shared while you watched the land roll away on horseback, or sitting at a moonlit fireside among familiar faces. I would lean against my grandmother on our rickety porch and breathe in her scent as she sang to the street.

Magic lay in that song, the notes so delicate you could tell a story about each one. As the beginning strands of music twined together, I would be transported to a place that let me forget the ache in my chest, a city of an entirely different skin than our Lenniel. A place of worn streets and thatched roofs wrapped in the smell of woodsmoke and fresh ale. A sunset, a fire, the sky on fire and the streets ablaze with torchlight.

“This is our song, dear,” she would say as she smiled down at me. “Don’t listen to the other children. We will always have our home with us…” Her fingers would press against my chest just above my heart. Somehow she knew the exact place where her spell took root. “Here.”

Even after so many years, that is how I think of home. Sitting there on that porch with the wind stealing my tears and carrying away the sound of magic. (Continue Reading…)

A fairy in a jar

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Cast of Wonders 498: Field Biology of the Wee Fairies


Field Biology of the Wee Fairies

by Naomi Kritzer

When Amelia turned fourteen, everyone assured her that she’d find her fairy soon. Almost all girls did. You’d find a fairy, a beautiful little fairy, and catch her. And she’d give you a gift to let her go, and that gift was always beauty or charm or perfect hair or something else that made boys notice you. The neighbor girl, Betty, had caught her fairy when she was just nine, and so she’d never even had to go through an awkward adolescent stage; she’d been perfect and beautiful all along.

Not all fairies were equal, of course. Some of them would do a much better job for you. The First Lady Jackie Kennedy, for example, had caught the fairy queen. Or so almost everyone said. “So keep your eyes open,” Amelia’s mother told her.

“I don’t want to catch a fairy,” Amelia said. “If I did catch a fairy, I’d keep her in a jar like my mice and study her.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 497: Hurricane Season


Hurricane Season

by Avi Burton

Amaya smelled like the ocean. Most Florida girls did, when they returned from the beach with new tan lines and salt-crusted hair, but Amaya was different. The ocean-brine was under her skin, a part of her that was ever-present, unignorable. She wore jasmine perfume to cover it, overpoweringly sweet, but I could always smell the salt underneath.

We met at the beach— she always seemed to be there, sitting silently and watching the tides. I was crouched over a tide pool when I heard the slip-slap of her lavender sandals approaching.

“You’re new, right?”

I looked up and saw her silhouetted in the sun, smiling down at me, and nearly fell into the tide pool. Her swimsuit had a spotted pattern that made her look like the selkies I’d read about in mythology books— lean-boned girls with dripping hair and fur coats, who belonged to the ocean and only haunted the land. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 495: And I Will Make Thy Name Great


And I Will Make Thy Name Great

by Louis Evans

Abraham, the potter’s son, was sweeping out the workshop late one night, the air hot, the sweat beading on his brow, the kiln still radiating the baking heat it had absorbed over the course of the day.

This was when he heard the voice.

“Boy!”

Abraham looked around.

No source of the voice was apparent. No person had stepped into the shed, nor were the flames of a djinn visible. Four copies of the idol of Suen, god of the moon and chief among gods, were cooling on the shelf opposite the kiln, and sometimes Suen spoke to believers, but the idols were not yet consecrated and certainly could not host the presence of the god. No raven perched in the workshop’s eaves, croaking out an imitation of speech. Abraham was baffled. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 492: Stillwater


Stillwater

by Valerie Kemp

Nothing ever changes in Stillwater. Nothing. I get up every morning at the crack of dawn, in the blazing heat, and drive our pick-up all over, delivering eggs and milk and whatever else my daddy feels like selling, to the good people of Stillwater, population 413.

I work my way in a circle from the edge of town, where we live, to the center. I endure all the little old ladies who like to pinch my cheek when they tell me, “Why Pruitt Reese, you are becoming more like your daddy every day!” Like that’s a good thing. (Continue Reading…)