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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 Author Ernie Wang
“I feel any person who has to deal with losing the one person who is their world has every right to do whatever it takes to self-preserve, even when that includes deflection and denial.”
The Threepenny Review Passages North
There’s a tug on my skirt. I look down. “Hi there, young fella,” I say. “Hercules,” he says. I nod.
“I have a question,” he says. “Go on then, young man.” “Hercules,” he says. “How do I become strong like you?” I look at his parents. They beam at their son and smile like they already know. We’re at the corner of Frontierland and Fantasyland. From a distance, I hear screams at the top of Splash Mountain and calliope music from the riverboat making its way downstream. The smells of butter popcorn and churros wafting through the muggy afternoon air remind me that I’m hungry and I’ll be on my break soon.
In the far corner, I see Buzz and Woody ham it up for a large Chinese tour group. Cameras click, and the tourists point and shout furiously at them. Buzz and Woody take it in stride and swivel randomly and wave enthusiastically and do this jiggy kind of dance. Today, Zac is Buzz. He’s a good dude. He sees me, and without turning from the tourists, he lowers his arm and flips me the middle finger.
I kneel down and clasp the kid’s hands. He stands straight and puffs out his chest. I no longer have to think back to the script. I got this shit on lock.
More by this author
“The most innocent thing you can do is want to create”: Robert J. Dau Prize Winner Isaac Hughes Green
Learn about Isaac Hughes Green’s short story “The First Time I Said It,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
Learn about Amy Haejung’s short story “Maria,” which was selected for ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021.’
“We spend too much time thinking about how we are different and not enough time thinking about how we are similar.”
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“My focus was on the character and emotions of the immigrant: the loneliness, the sense of loss and disconnection.”
“I thought this exemplified two aspects of the Colombian spirit that interest and delight me: Any festive occasion can become an excuse to start a full-on party; and time is, as a manner of speaking, subjective.”
“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”