Contemporary Fiction

My sister has twice tried to convince me that Daylight Savings Time becomes permanent this year. A common conspiracy, it seems: my wife and three coworkers thought the same. Some national miscommunication in 2023. That bill hasn’t passed, people! I insist, sending them all the same NPR article. 

My sister has a hot date with the bike shop boy. At breakfast, I ask questions. Still sleepy, she slurs her answers. I’ve been buzzing since 6 am, two cups of coffee like bees in my brain. She, despite the time change, is still late waking for work.

“Where’s your date gonna be?” I ask. 

“Elmyr.” She peels the shiny foil of a yogurt lid.

“That restaurant in Little Five?”


“Are you driving? Right after work?”


“Do you need help changing the clock back in your car?”


“Is your phone charged?”

“It died. I’ll charge it at work.”

My sister sucks down white creamy spoonfuls of yogurt. My wife packed the fridge with cultured dairy products: bricks of cottage cheese, French yogurts in glass jars, sour kefir sealed in high-neck bottles. We noticed these are the only things my sister eats consistently. 

My sister, blurred by sleep, knocks down the salt bowl. Salt spills on the tile floor. 

“Aw shit!” she says. “Bad luck.” 

“Hey, remember what Mama said. Our superstitions don’t apply in America. Only valid in the old country.” 

“Right. I’m late, probably.”

“It’s okay. You can go. I’ll clean the salt up.”

My sister opens up the shop on Tuesdays. She’s worked at that record store for two years, right after she dropped college. She’s had a crush on the neighboring bike shop boy just as long. I pray for his kindness. 

My wife finds me on my knees, scooping salt with wet towels. She holds an IPhone charger, tangled like white intestines.

“Is this your sister’s?” 

“Yep,” I sigh. “Her phone’s dead, too. She said she’d charge it at work.”

My wife is American. You can tell: she wears shoes inside our apartment. And she says “fuck” around her mother without fear. She, in our early days of dating, brought me to a household that didn’t eat dinner together, to a family that didn’t mind moans and giggles drifting from her bedroom even late at night. She calls my sister’s eating disorder by its name, out loud, to her face. 

My wife has heard my same spiel for two years: my sister wasn’t always like this. Back then, a fat and happy kid who giggled and farted every second, who stuck fingers up her nose and down her ears and splashed in puddles rainbowed with motor oil. A living body. Then, our mother’s sharp, surgical words slicing flesh. Then, anorexia so bad her college kicked her out. Then, a car accident shattering her kneecap, three ribs, clavicle, and left cheek. Then, COVID snatching her breath and fogging her brain. Can’t blame the girl for retreating into her head. All day at the record store, she bops with empty bug eyes to the Beatles. At home, more of the same. I only pray kindness finds her.

My wife and I work from home. Our days start whenever. She hands me coffee, and I point to her feet. 

“Those are the shoes that talk,” I say. 


“They’re Converse.” 


Mud cakes the laces. I imagine small flakes shedding onto the tiles I just wiped clean of salt. 

“My sister is going on a date,” I say. 

“Oh? With Rashad?”

“With the bike shop boy.”

“Yeah, his name’s Rashad,” my wife sniffs.

“Did she talk to you about him? What did she say? Does he seem like a nice person?”

“I dunno. Why are you so worried?”

“My sister deserves a break, don’t you think? She’s had a tough couple years.”

“Yeah, but to be honest, that was a few years ago. And like she’s an adult. She can make her own decisions.” 

My wife opens the fridge and shakes her head. Nothing but fucking yogurt here. Because she’s an American, I know she’s wondering when my sister will move out. What a concept they have here! Families separate like cells, multiplying households, spreading out rents and incomes, and for what? Some corporate-constructed dream of independence? I just pray my wife is kind enough to let her stay longer.

My sister’s car is old, and she’s a bad driver: the accident made her shaky. The sun slinks into inky night at 5 pm now, and when my sister leaves work, she slides a Beatles CD into the car’s old player, and sings along with rolled-down windows reflecting the red streaks of brake lights and long strips of plazas’ fluorescence. Her eating disorder is getting better. It really is. She has a few hours before the date, and stops at Publix to get groceries, because she knows how much my wife spends on her yogurts, and she wants to be a better roommate to us both. 

My sister’s phone is still dead. She’ll recognize Rashad even far away and in the dark, she thinks. She inches into a tight parking spot by Elmyr, where a tree inexplicably shines with silver glitter. 

My sister waits and waits, and it’s been a half hour, and no Rashad. Oh well. It was too good to be true. The car is in reverse and she putters backwards, and worries about hitting other cars. Tears bite the corners of her eyes. She wishes I was there to stand and wave and tell her if she’s about to hit something. 

Someone else’s older sister, a German woman with a maroon-penciled mouth and strict black puffer walks, and stops, and makes eye contact with my sister, and she waves and tells her she won’t hit anything, just back it up up up up OKAY stop! Kindness comes as prayers answered. 

My sister stumbles into our apartment in the dark, and I ask how the date went and she says he blew her off and I say oh well, do you need help changing the clock in your car, though? 


My sister realizes: the car clock was off an hour. She came to Elmyr early. Now, she is the one an hour late. 

My sister sighs. “Thank God this is the last year we do Daylight Savings.”

November 17, 2023 18:20

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