Cady Vishniac


Cady Vishniac is a Big Ten Academic Alliance Traveling Scholar at the University of Michigan and a Translation Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center. Her work has appeared most recently in Glimmer Train and Ninth Letter, where she won the 2017 Fiction Contest.



M listens to a radio special about child psychopaths while his wife sits in the passenger seat with her earbuds in, listening to her cheering-up music. They’re coming from Jordan’s middle school, which just opened for summer classes. The kid carried on like it was a labor camp, repeating that he may have gotten straight Cs, but he’d technically graduated eighth grade, hadn’t he? As he walked toward the building, Jordan flipped his parents the bird.

M’s still livid, so he says, “These psychopath kids sound like our son.” He’s loud enough that his wife can hear over her cheering-up music. Mostly, he’s worried about what the radio special says: personality disorders may be inherited. Harming animals is an early warning sign.

M’s wife takes out an earbud. “I’m not even bothered.” She’s a terrible liar.

A light turns, and M starts driving again. It’s a minute before he says, “I used to be pretty wild, too. Now I just feel bad about all the grief I gave Mom.”

It’s true that M feels bad. He was a year, maybe two, older than Jordan is now, hunting on the country roads outside Frederick. He’d come home late and his mom would screech about what he’d been up to. How he only had a permit and wasn’t supposed to be driving alone.

“I was gang-banging,” M would say. “Gun running. White slavery.” Then he’d go lock himself in his room, the way Jordan sometimes locks himself up, and who knows what that kid is looking at online.

The internet, M thinks, is like those country roads. Jordan won’t say what he finds there. He doesn’t tell his parents much, just as M never told his mother about the satisfying crunch of a doe’s leg under his rear tire, how often he’d back up to do it again.

It occurs to M his wife has not responded. Has she already put the earbud back?

“I said I used to be pretty wild, honey. Got it out of my system before we met.”

But her ears are plugged and she hears nothing.

This story was written at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, from a prompt given to us by the inimitable Nancy Zafris. I spent about five years hating any and all writing prompts, then I realized they make me a lot better.