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Issue 2 (Winter 2003): Cover Issue 2 (Winter 2003) Return to table of contents: Issue 2 (Winter 2003) View cover story: Issue 2 (Winter 2003)
PROOF: Issue 2 (pp. 48-49)

PROOF: Issue 2 (pp. 50-51)

PROOF: Issue 2 (pp. 52-53)

PROOF: Issue 2 (p. 54)

A short story
Acquired Characteristics

‘I thought about using one of the guys I date,’ Marj told Cecile. ‘But they can tell when you just want their sperm.’

By Alexandra Shelley

Excerpt: They’d already tried clubs with original names: Life, Mother, The Primal Underground. They’d tried lounges and after-hours joints in meatpacking warehouses. These places were filled with ex-dotcomers and severance-package bons vivants for whom the future was tomorrow morning, with women who looked like models but were investment bankers, with men who looked like investment bankers but were models. The men appeared xeroxed—perfect and a bit pale. And if they were interested in women at all, it was in the investment bankers, who wore beauty so competently and, with the help of a cigarette held up between two stiff fingers, wrist bent backwards, managed to look as indifferent as Egyptian glyphs. ¶The music was nonspecific: techno, trance, jungle. Sometimes there was a voice, but never lyrics—rather, an inchoate growl. Men and women danced close, butt to groin, an ungraceful excuse for contact. Some held glowing little rods and waved them slowly around, like creatures in dark ocean chasms. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. ¶For Cecile Dayton and Marj Alterman, it never did. Three months into their quest they’d finally abandoned these clubs and floated down the island of Manhattan. They were now well out of the Fertile Crescent, which ran from the Upper East Side across and down the west side to Tribeca and across again to the East Village. They had arrived at the Beaver Dam, a bar in a scruffy neighborhood near Wall Street. The Everything $10 stores were shut for Saturday night, and they were beyond the radius of Ground Zero disaster tourism. The only sound on the street was the jangle of a plastic bag of cans riding on the unsteady back of a mat-haired man. . . .

About the writer: Alexandra Shelley recently returned to New York City after spending a year working on a novel in Hungary under a Fulbright grant. A recipient of the 1996 Katherine Anne Porter prize for short fiction, she has had stories published in the literary magazines Confrontation and Nimrod.


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