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The Short Form

“City of Clowns”

Daniel Alarcón


I was called to bring more beer from the fridge. I passed the cold bottle to my father, who took it without looking, intent on what his partner Felipe was saying. I listened too: “I always try to smack the maid real good,” Felipe said proudly. “And I try to break something—just so the family doesn't think she was in on it.” Everyone cheered this perverse generosity. My father too. I stood at the edge of the circle of men as they passed the beer around. I hardly understood it. Standing at the edge of circle of men, I thought of my own mother falling to the floor.

We read it in War By Candlelight.

Originally published in The New Yorker: June 16 & 23, 2003.