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by Iris N. Schwartz

I went to bed white, woke up black. I stripped the pantry of Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima.

My mother went to bed white. She woke up Hispanic. Together we read Isabel Allende until dawn.

My father descended into sleep, still Jewish; he arose Amish. He went to bed anxious, only to wake up anxious — and plain.

My family and I went to sleep in a mostly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood with state-of-the-art safety technology assuring worry-free nights. We woke up across the street from the subway, in a Bronx housing project, scared out of our wits.

My best friend and her family went to sleep in a predominately black, middle-class residential area with a decent security system, reinforced with gates on most doors and windows. They woke in a historically white, upper-middle-class neighborhood. After a breakfast of pumpkin latte and red velvet bread pudding, they left, periodically glancing over their shoulders.

My female British Shorthair curled up in her cozy bed in my room after midnight and slept until daybreak, to awake as a male Akita. He now awkwardly removed himself from the cat’s too-small accommodation, leapt onto my coverlet, then sprang onto the carpet, and began biting and clawing the cat bed.

A despot-in-waiting wolfed down two Big Macs, drifted off to sleep on Egyptian cotton sheets. He woke along the U.S./Mexico border, crammed into a cage, turning burnt orange under an unforgiving sun.


Iris N. Schwartz’s fiction has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Blink-Ink, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Fictive Dream, Gravel Magazine, Jellyfish Review, and Literary Orphans. Her second short-short story collection, Shame, contains Best Microfiction 2018–nominated story Dogs and was shortlisted by North of Oxford for recommended reading summer 2019. Her debut short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth (2017), was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes.