Reading Comprehension 23: Action Figures
Once, he was more powerful than a locomotive, this last son of Krypton. He rescued damsels from the clutches of mechanical geniuses in outer space. And defended the American Way in a time when the sky was bigger and candy tasted sweeter.
The world is oblivious to special powers, so his frail alter-ego fills a fortress of solitude with trophies of better days. A tiny city in a bottle. A broken robot. The brittle stem of a dandelion. Trophies keep the world secure. These are sentimental dangers.
He now stands five-inches tall, his face frozen stoic. Plastic arms rotate with a limited range of motion, legs wobble loose when twisted. Under his left foot: “Made in China.” Now, he perches on a shelf in front of a book about collecting antiques, and candy tastes less like chocolate and more like the foil that sheathes it.
Question: Who is “he?”
a) The author
b) The author’s father
c) You in fifty years
d) All of the above
Reading Comprehension 666: The Hungry Ghosts
When the women unfold into gorgeous birds; when the men peel back their downy pelts; when the children cloak themselves in hides of long dead antelope—it will be supper time and your ancestors will emerge from photographs in search of new clothing. Your grandmother is less a sentimental memory than a ghost, less a ghost than a woman hungry for peach pie and the fragile scent of nurseries. Leave a bottle of whiskey in the yard so she might swallow a quiet fire. Fold the Sunday paper into a siege of cranes, burn them so she might follow the smoke home. When a ghoul appears ravenous at your bedside and looks at you with eyes seething like the tide, she will tell you about family albums shredded by war, about birds with wings stripped of plumage, about beasts wailing at the sky to lure Heaven closer to the trees. She will explain to you what it means to be caged, and whisper precious between ragged breaths.
Question: What do hungry ghosts whisper?
a) These orchards are full of hunger.
b) Those houses are full of ghosts.
c) There are no such things as ghosts.
About the author:
W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His stories and poems can be seen in Puerto Del Sol, Crab Creek Review, Fairy Tale Review, Southeast Review, NANO Fiction, Blackbird and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop. He teaches at Grand Valley State University.