Literally a Quick Longread

He was on his office line explaining Isaac and Danny’s absence from morning classes when his cell went off, the special home ringtone that he never ignored. “Hang on a sec,” he said to the school secretary.

“They go out!” Bonita said without preamble. “No here!”

“Are the boys at school?” he asked the secretary.

“No, sir.”

An hour, Bonita guessed, when he asked how long they’d been gone. As was always the case when he and Bonita spoke to each other — neither remotely fluent in the other’s language — the information exchange was crude yet functional. It was she who’d phoned him to report his wife’s car crash, she who’d fielded the notification from the highway patrol. She who’d had only to say “La señora” and then wail to let him know.

Antonya Nelson crams a helluva lot of plot into “Literally,” her short story, in this week’s New Yorker.