“Urchins, While Swimming” is a story about a rusalka–in fact, as far as I can tell, the very same one who appears in Deathless. I’d say the style is strikingly consistent with the novel which was published considerably later (though I’ve no idea, of course, whether the two were written close together).
It hurt, the widening of my bones, the rearrangement of my body, ascending and descending anatomies, sliding aside and aligning into a new thing. Of course it hurt. But there was no blood and I kissed his eyebrows instead of crying. My hair hung around his face like storm-drenched curtains, casting long shadows on his cheekbones.
“Ksyusha,” he said to me, tender and gentle, without mockery, “Ksyusha, I will never forget how the light looks on your stomach in this moment, the light through your hair and the frozen windows. It looks like water, as though you are a little brook into which I am always falling, always falling.”
“Secretario” is different (and pretty different from everything else I’ve read from her). It’s noir, and engages critically with the conventions of noir that I do so despise with flair and familiarity. All the dead women, all the sexualization of female corpses. Very sharp.
In the City, there are three kinds of people: the dead, the devils, and the detectives.
The dead are women; the devils are men. Have you ever noticed that? The detectives, by law, can go either way, but look around: you won’t see too many skirts.
“Bones Like Black Sugar” is a Hansel and Gretel retelling. With more queer!
And under my arms there is flesh, there is a taste like cakes in a pretty window, there is a rush of hair darker than ovens. Under my lips there are lips like floss, and my eyelashes beat against warm skin, beading with caramel-sweat.
She smiles at me, she smiles at me and the belly under my hands is turkish delight, she smiles as if I had never pushed her, as if I had come to her house alone and stood student-bright at the stove while she baked her new bookshelves, as if there was no smoke or flame. She smiles like erasure, she smiles like a confessor. She swells with candy like a mother, her green eyes opening and closing, and under my hands she is beautiful, beautiful, under my hands she is innocent, I am innocent, there is nothing which is not white, which is not a scald of purity, which does not flare with light.
“Thread, a Triptych” is a spin on the minotaur story. For this one I wasn’t entirely able to engage with the substance (mostly because the minotaur myth’s remote to me), though I certainly appreciate the feminism and very much the language.
His house was white, white and stone, and in it I stood like a smear, black on black, and my red belt gleaming. He had lemon-cake and black tea waiting. He looked at my teeth. He wanted a woman from home, he explained, as though it made perfect sense, one who would not trade an honest broom for gin. He pinched my cheek to see the color; he showed me clothes which were neither coarse nor black, lined up shoulder to shoulder like churchgoers.
“Give me that old thread, Annie,” he said kindly, “it is Annie, isn’t it? I will have a woman downtown make you a nice Sunday dress.”
I clutched my wad of scarlet to my chest, bright as a heart. “Annie,” I answered slowly, pulling words like beads from my own mouth, “my name is Annie, yes, but you cannot have my thread. It is for my baby, when it comes.”
He shrugged. It didn’t matter. Thread is nothing to a man, it is string, it is knots.
More of her short fiction available online can be found here, but some of the links–to “Thread” for one–are broken.