Sakeen the housemaid was rarely free to play with us, even at parties. She had to prepare dinner, serve it to the guests, and clean up. Shahnaz, my uncle’s wife, liked to throw big parties to outplay our mothers in a game between them known
Why I Chose It: Michigan Quarterly Review reader Julie Cadman-Kim introduces Dounia Choukri’s “Black Bread” from our Summer 2021 issue. You can purchase it here. “If difference has a taste, then it’s rich and earthy.” So begins “Black Bread,” Dounia Choukri’s haunting short story, set
Dudu coughs a little harder, the way his dad has coughed since the flight. A cough he thinks his uncles would cough after their cigars, fiercer than the coughs he has mastered at his school’s nurse’s office.
But we could never escape the weight of those final weeks in Dhaka, what we had lost and what we had faced. We couldn’t forget my father’s blank expression before he left our flat for the last time, in search of supplies the day the war ended, nor the barbaric shrieks and shots that resounded through the window during the riot that ensued. We couldn’t forget the dark and bloated bodies on the road, or my own mother’s choking sobs, screaming my father’s name as we searched. In Calcutta, these memories enveloped us with tension as tangible as the white cloth we had placed over our father, after we found him a few streets from our building, already smelling of rot. Now, as I slashed Faisal’s ping-pong paddle like a boy, I felt this shroud beginning to unravel.
I’ve often heard that a story’s ending should change the way the reader sees everything that has led to that point. It’s the moment when the story’s pieces snap into place, when all the seemingly unrelated scenes become unified in the climactic light.
I returned to the lake. The lake was quiet, desolate. I collected a smooth stone from the river and rolled it in my palm. I put its cold surface to my lips. I watched the shiny backs of frogs in a patina of water rings. But Mother’s voice wouldn’t escape my head: The kappa grabs children’s feet.