2014 First Fiction Sampler

Panic in the Suitcase
By Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Take the Q to 14 St/Union Square, keep to the front of the train, get out the narrow exit behind a long-haired man tango-ing with a life-size doll, cross to the Virgin Megastore side of Broadway, go in director away from George Washington on horse (numbers get smaller) until E. 4 Street, cross to corner with Tower Records, summon willpower to resist revolving doors, find door a bit farther down, tell Jamaican doorman with lazy eye you’re there for Mikhail Davidovich Nasmarkin, confirm you mean Meesha in the loft, sigh with relief as he directs you to an elevator and illuminates a button, launch up to some preposterous floor, shut eyes to avoid surfaces busy with your decrepitude.

The blob of color at the end of the hall was Misha. Gold sneakers consumed his ankles, denim shorts fell almost to those ankles, and a yellow carnation peeked out of the breast pocket of his camouflage T-shirt. Flattened by their embrace. His corkscrew brown hair could’ve been apportioned into five poodles. I can’t believe you’re actually here, he said in a way that made Pasha wonder, Why not? The next half hour was spent getting the atmosphere just right. What was Pasha’s beverage of choice? There were cocktail mixes, espresso varieties, iced herbal teas, fresh-squeezed juices, and vintage wines. Bob Dylan was laid on the gramophone but, failing to satisfy, was replaced by Charles Mingus. Misha announced them as if they were coming out onstage to perform. Pasha took a seat on a stiff couch but was moved to a stiffer couch, closer to the skylight.

Excerpted from Panic in the Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya, published in July by Riverhead Books. Copyright © 2014 by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. All rights reserved.