The One-In-A-Million Boy

He said, softly enough that she might not catch it, “I was a rotten father.” Ona nodded, noncommittal. “There are worse things.” “Like what?” He really wanted to know. “Being an adequate mother.” She took a swig from her coffee mug. “Rotten fathers are a dime a dozen, who even notices? Whatever kind you were—and I’m sure you weren’t as bad as you think—you probably did the best you could, and nobody expects much more out of a man.

—Monica Wood

News of the World

Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.

—Paulette Jiles

The Summer That Melted Everything

Dad was telling every one of them to get out of our house. I’d never seen my father so angry. Years later, I would find myself dog-earing a page in a book about the ocean. On the page a painting of gray, wild waves. I have since torn that page out of the book and set the painting to frame by the side of my bed. I suppose it is a painting of my father from that night he raged like waves in a storm.

—Tiffany McDaniel

A Gentleman in Moscow

Presumably, the bells of the Church of the Ascension had been reclaimed by the Bolsheviks for the manufacture of artillery, thus returning them to the realm from whence they came. Though for all the Count knew, the cannons that had been salvaged from Napoleon’s retreat to make the Ascension’s bells had been forged by the French from the bells at La Rochelle; which in turn had been forged from British blunderbusses seized in the Thirty Years’ War. From bells to cannons and back again, from now until the end of time. Such is the fate of iron ore.

—Amor Towles