AB Intra

“Dead Catherine,” Elaine said, and they didn’t do it. They shortened the code. Used it for lesser dangers as well. Elaine would be talking to a man at a party, and she’d glance in Hannah’s direction. “DC,” Hannah would mouth, and Elaine would walk away from him. — PATTERSON

Maybe one day, I thought, I’d put it down on my resume. Morphine, Oxy, PCP. What good’s a Classics degree anyway? You learned things here. You saw things. Vics, Percs. I’d quit USC. A Ph.D. program. My interest mostly was in historic sea battles. — HOLLWIG

She remembered thinking that this must be what everyone means by falling in love, being happier than you’ve ever been anywhere, being happy in the basement of a research library at nine in the morning on a Saturday in Salt Lake — the smell of dust and aging paper, the overhead buzz of fluorescent light-tubes. — DURAJ

This advice had left the purple-afterimage dent that things at the dim edge of Daniel’s childhood understanding often made. Years later, even in Africa, he would keep in the glove box of his car a trail knife in a blond leather sheath, waterproof matches in a chrome tube, a brass whistle from his father’s Scouting days, and an energy bar. — NICHOLLS

But the pastor’s daughter accompanied me that golden, flowery afternoon across the street to the sanctuary, where we sat in the gloom at the dark piano while I stumbled through my thousand tongues, her ripening thigh resting inches from my own, her gaze directed into the far corners of that cavernous room. — WILLIS

I wasn’t into Captain Freedom stuff, nor would you find me marching in star-spangled clothing in a 4th of July parade. I wasn’t a soldier of fortune, gun queer, or so choked up about 9/11 that I had to serve my country. I just needed a job. — PREIZLER

I’d heard they were turning farmland to house clusters. It was fine by me, as long as it didn’t spread to Cottonwood. Like Jack used to say, enough people want a thing to happen and it will. Which didn’t explain Papua New Guinea. — JAHN

Mars was just as I remembered: strict and purposeful. Full of order and systems. There were schools and churches and houses. The churches were as big as Costco. When we entered a church, the congregation stood and turned and fired their guns at us. They seemed so grateful to have the opportunity to shoot their pistols. — VALLIÈRES

I have never been so carefree as I was in the months following, the weeks passing around me in a monastic zoetrope of disciplined study as I learned about Earp’s life and legend. As a young man, he too mistook his passivity and weakness for artistic sophistication. Wyatt had felt useless and alone in a broken world, which comforted me that I could remake myself anew as he had done. — SALEEN

He survived the first hard winter in the colony, the only quartermaster to do so, then remained behind when the ship sailed for England, ignoring the crew’s objections and insults, which ranged from “shrimp,” as he was not quite five feet tall, to “glib-glabbety puke-stocking,” a derogatory term reserved for the Pilgrims. — McGILLIGAN

Yes, everything bad you have ever dreamed about the ocean is true: that it is endless, that dark things want to hold you under, that it is so indifferent to you, even crabs and sessile worms will be bored, processing your swollen white flesh, even the mud will be bored, even the soft moaning sound of all that dark water pressing you down into soggy nothing. — HOOD

When Karen decided we shouldn’t get married, at least not then, we had already been saving money for a while, so we went to Africa. Karen had always wanted to. We stayed in a hotel in Nairobi with forested grounds, swarming with monkeys. The rest of Kenya looked a lot like California to me, and most of Nairobi like parts of Los Angeles where you don’t get off the freeway. — McADAMS

Of course, she’s not in the least interested, but, all right, something needs to be said, so I describe how I’m trying to isolate a short in our landscape lighting. These are the dying days of men explaining things to women, though when it happens it can still arouse the senses. — MATTES

Why wouldn’t I check on someone parked in front of the house, slumped over a steering wheel? Because of a shameful not-wanting-to so ingrained that I didn’t even register it consciously? I came here for a stretch of work, desert exile; I would be Claribel, ten leagues beyond man’s life, beyond all note of Naples or anyplace else. — SLAUGHTER