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Little Worlds

Sara’s building tiny huts made of mud that she hollows out with her thumbs and then covers with sticks from the wood chip pile at the edge of the playground. She’s trying to create the village like the one she’s seen in pictures from the National Geographic that rests on the coffee table in her living room.

Jason is squatting next to Sara, helping, which means doing nothing but telling her the village looks great.  Now and then, he glances over at the boys playing king of the hill on the chip pile, wishing they’d let him join, then he looks back at the huts and thinks how it must feel inside them, dark and quiet, like his room at home.

Arnie stands on top of the chip pile, beats his chest, and roars like a lion, for no one appears to be able to knock him over without getting knocked over himself.  He thinks of himself like his father, a police officer, looking over the playground, keeping everything in order.

While Jackie, the only girl on the pile, pushes her way up the hill, undeterred when the other boys gang up on her, as though the pile of chips is theirs alone to fight for. She looks at Arnie and thinks of her father, who is always correcting her, always telling her no, then calculates her move, how if she grabs Arnie’s ankles and pulls just right, he’ll tumble down and she will rise up.

Nathan Alling Long’s work has won international competitions and appears on NPR and in various journals, including Tin House, Story Quarterly, Witness, and The SunThe Origin of Doubt, a collection of fifty stories, was a 2019 Lambda finalist; Nathan’s second manuscript was an Iowa Fiction Award semi-finalist and Hudson Fiction Manuscript Prize finalist. They live in Philadelphia and teach at Stockton University.

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