The stories in issue twenty-three each do something that I crave in short stories: they show us a particularity, a detail, a spot in time and space that is important to the characters involved. Ki Ki Hobbs takes us to a jazz café, where her narrator wistfully reminisces about an old romance. In a story densely-packed with emotional resonance, we see the narrator not quite coming to terms with her grief, but grieving all the same. DJ Shoemaker takes us to the steel mills of World War II-era Aliquippa, Pennsylvania—near Pittsburgh—where an Italian-American immigrant and her patriotic English teacher form an unlikely bond. It is the sort of war story I love: a war-adjacent story, one that shows us the tolls of war on friendships, families, and communities far away from the fighting. In two flash fictions from Tara Isabel Zambrano, we see complicated portrayals of intimacy. The first is a magical realist tale involving a woman who transforms into a snake after meeting a rock star named Sweetie, which travels from image to beautiful image as the story reaches its subtly terrifying conclusion. The second is a more realist story of a woman who is told by her husband she is “out of love.” As he dates other women, she narrates his affectionate gestures toward the other women he sleeps with, in ways that reveal the deep fears and anxieties she feels as she is told consistently that she is somehow sick, or flawed. But Zambrano’s subtle, nuanced writing opens up the possibility for us that perhaps her narrator is being lied to and, indeed, the narrator begins to confront that possibility.
I’m proud to be publishing all of these stories. Each of them is well-crafted and brings an idiosyncratic emotional resonance. I’m grateful, as ever, to the authors for their beautiful work.
Finally, I’ve reviewed Clean Time: The True Story of Ronald Reagan Middleton, which is a rollicking post-modern debut novel, told with satirical humor and depth by Ben Gwin, a Pittsburgh writer. (Spoiler: I thoroughly loved it.)
I hope you enjoy the fiction in this, the twenty-third issue of Hot Metal Bridge. As ever, we are pleased to bring it to you.