It was a joy and privilege hearing from Sundress Publications when we were notified that Jared Yates Sexton's story, "Behold, I Come as a Thief" (Split Lip, January, 2013), will appear in the 2013 Best of the Net Anthology, which will be released this March at AWP in Seattle. Sexton is a favorite writer of Split Lip's Publisher, J. Scott Bugher. To have him appear in Split Lip was satisfying enough, but to hear his story will be 1 of 6 pieces of fiction to appear in the anthology is just straight up beautiful. Sexton is a master of all things writerly: He pulls readers in with his first sentences, tastefully develops memorable characters without overdoing it, crafts plots that entertain and trigger deep interest, presents important details a lot of writers would overlook, adds accents to his scenes that presents what John Gardner calls a "vivid and continuous dream," gives each character a unique voice as found in their dialogue, and he incorporates metaphor that can pass both as a hidden nugget for those who like to crack the code, or as something that doesn't exactly need to be revealed. Overall, Sexton is brilliant, and you should read more of him. Check out what's up below followed by a reprint of the story, "Behold, I come as a Thief.
"A Man Gets Tired" found in PANK
"Yankee" found in HOBART
"It Comes with the Territory" found in PITHEAD CHAPEL
"Coming Home" found in THE ACCOUNT
J. Scott Bugher talks about Sexton in an INTERVIEW
BEHOLD, I COME AS A THIEF
by Jared Yates Sexton
They were tired from all of the sex. It was the weekend, which meant it was time for having sex and walking around their apartment without any clothes on. Every weekend worked that way. They would get home from work, take off their clothes, and have sex until they got tired. Then they would walk around the apartment and eat and drink and watch TV without their clothes on until they were ready to have sex again.
There's something on the TV, he said to her. Something about an earthquake.
She stood in front of a window beside the TV. She didn't have any clothes on. She patted her flat stomach with her hands and looked down at the gas station next door. People parked at the pumps and walked in and out of the gas station. What's that? she said.
There was an earthquake in Japan, he said.
On the TV was a news program about the earthquake in Japan. There were several pictures of Japanese people standing in the streets. They cried and looked upset and confused. Sometimes the pictures of Japanese people looking upset and confused were replaced by pictures of rubble and ambulances and people digging through what was left of their homes.
I'm hungry, she said, still patting her stomach by the window. I'm always so hungry after having sex.
He was too. Every weekend, when they had sex and walked around the apartment without any clothes on, he was starving the whole time. It took a lot out of him having sex like that. They were very adventurous and tried many positions. Sometimes, between positions, he would lean down and ask her if she liked a new position and she, being quite a positive and supportive person, would always say yes, she liked the new position.
We have leftovers in the fridge, he said to her, trying to help with the problem of hunger.
I never feel like leftovers, she said, watching a couple exit a pick-up truck and walk hand-in-hand to the gas station. They had on matching sweatshirts and their hair was cut similarly. I always look at the tupperware, she said, and think to myself, enough is enough.
He didn't say anything. He never felt that way, not really. And besides, he was too busy looking at her nice body and thinking that maybe he'd like to have sex with her in a little bit, after they'd eaten and rested and watched some TV, of course.
People here are stunned, the TV said. Their entire world has been shaken.
Tell you what, he said to her. I'll see what I can do.
The two of them went into the kitchen and he opened up the fridge. There were stacks of leftovers on the shelves and he removed them and put them on the counter by the stove. There was rice and bacon and some pork chops they hadn't cared for all that much. He got out a skillet from the cabinets and filled it with oil.
Here's an old trick, he said to her. I call this one Bachelor's Surprise.
As he turned on the heat she sat down at their kitchen table and crossed her legs. It felt good to be naked all weekend. It was something she looked forward to. She'd been spending her weekends naked for so long that she barely remembered a time before doing so. Whenever she put on clothes to go to the store or to run an errand or to go back to work on Monday she felt odd and out of place. She liked being naked and she liked sitting there in the kitchen and watching him cook while naked.
Let's fry that rice, he said, dumping the rice into the skillet. He got a wooden spoon from a drawer and pushed the rice around some. Hey, he said to her. What're you thinking about?
Being naked, she said and uncrossed and crossed her legs. I'm thinking about how much I like being naked and I'm thinking about the earthquake.
What about the earthquake? he said.
I don't know, she said. Earthquakes are scary. One minute you're standing there, eating or drinking or whatever, and the next you're not. The ground opens up and you're gone.
It's awful, he said, turning over the tupperware that held the bacon and scraping it into the skillet with the rice. You can try your hardest, he said, but you can't predict an earthquake.
You can't, she said. She watched him cook and watched how his naked body moved as he stirred the skillet. I mean, she said, there could be an earthquake right now and we'd be in a whole lot of trouble. We could be the ones on the news.
We could, he said. He got the tupperware with the pork chops and he cut them into little bites and plopped them into the skillet with the rice and the bacon. He got a bottle of soy sauce out of the cabinet too and he poured some into the skillet and swished it around. Hey, he said. This is going to be pretty good.
I'm thinking about this earthquake I was in once, she said.
You were in an earthquake? he said.
I've been in a couple, she said. She looked down at her breasts and, for no reason at all, ran a finger over one of them. The breast moved and then stopped. One when I was little, she said. It wasn't very big.
How old? he said. He was still frying the food in the skillet.
Maybe eight, she said. All the cups and plates rattled around a bit.
That's not too bad, he said, thinking about the Japanese people on the TV.
No, she said.
What about the other one? he said.
What other one? she said. She didn't know what he was talking about.
The other earthquake, he said. He poured some more soy sauce into the skillet with the rice and the bacon and the pieces of pork chop. You said you'd been through a couple.
Oh, she said. She remembered then. That was just a few years ago. When I lived out west.
Out west, he repeated. That was before they knew one another, before they spent their weekends having sex and walking around naked. Remembering that made him remember having sex and suddenly he wanted to have sex very badly.
Out west, she repeated. That was when I was living with Horace in that old house. You remember that old house.
He did remember that old house. He'd gone there to pick her and her things up after they'd fallen in love over the telephone. He pulled up in front in his friend's truck and loaded all of her things off the old house's porch and took her away. He hadn't met Horace but he'd heard him yelling and screaming in the background of their phone calls. He also saw Horace standing in the window upstairs as he loaded up her things in his best friend's truck. He was crying and looked confused. I remember that old house, he said to her.
It wasn't built too good, she said. It was an old house and when that earthquake hit it swayed back and forth like it was going to fall right over.
It was an old house, he said. The Bachelor's Surprise was almost done at that point so he turned down the heat. Food's almost done, he said to her.
Me and Horace were in bed, she said to him. We were always in bed back then. It was the weekend and that's what we did.
He got plates out from the cabinet and set them on the counter next to the stove and the skillet full of Bachelor's Surprise.
And that old house, she said, was swaying back and forth and it woke us up. I woke up and I said, Horace, I think we're having an earthquake. And he jumped up, scared as hell, and screamed, Damn it, we got to get outside, and ran out the door.
He spooned out some of the Bachelor's Surprise onto the plates and pictured Horace screaming and running out the door. Food's up, he said.
He was naked, she said. We were always naked back then, that's what we did on the weekends, and he ran outside and was screaming some more and running around.
Food's ready, he said.
She got a plate of Bachelor's Surprise and she took a fork he handed her and scooped up a bite and chewed it. She told him it was good and continued with her story. And here's the best part of it, she said. There'd just been an earthquake, right? So all the neighbors are coming out of their houses and looking around to see what was what. And there was Horace, naked as the day he was born, standing by the grill and screaming and screaming.
He took a bite of the Bachelor's Surprise and swallowed it down. He took another bite.
Oh, she said between bites, that was the best. We were both spooked as could be at that point. We stayed up the rest of the night, drinking and worrying there was going to be another earthquake. What's that called? she said.
What's what called? he said. He was finished with his Bachelor's Surprise.
The ones that come afterward, she said. They're earthquakes too, but they're never as big as the original ones.
Aftershocks, he said. He was scraping his Bachelor's Surprise down the drain and thinking about getting a drink from the fridge. He was thinking about getting a drink and then maybe putting some clothes on. He wanted to go for a walk. He felt like maybe the house was swaying a bit and it made him uncomfortable and it made him forget about wanting to have sex.
Aftershocks, she said. She was almost done with her Bachelor's Surprise and she uncrossed and crossed her legs again. I read that somewhere, she said, thinking about maybe wanting to have sex again.
Split Lip Contributor Jared Yates Sexton's story "Behold, I Come as a Thief" will be featured in the 2013 Best of the Net Anthology
Visit Jared at www.jysexton.com