Stromboli’s Nights of Wonder

Photo: CS Martinez

As published in THE HONG KONG REVIEW, Volume III, No. 3, Fall 2022

I was struck speechless that afternoon in 1932 when I first saw Mr. Herbert’s Stromboli’s Nights of Wonder Carnival in a trampled corn field in Toledo, Ohio.

Even a dumb twelve-year old like me could see it was all fake, a jerry-rigged assortment of broken-down kiddy rides and game booths with worthless prizes. But at night, when the twinkling fairy lights were lit, the canned music blared, and popcorn and cotton-candy machines spewed enchanting aromas, I was bewitched, and I lived there that summer.  

“Who’s Stromboli?” I asked Mr. Herbert, a childhood friend of my father.

“Some guy I met in a bar. Sounds classy, right, Bernard?” he said.

The Contract

Photo: SC Martinez

Published in The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2022 Anthology Honorable Mention (

Ben and Celeste had fallen in love in Brooklyn at art school where they’d bonded over their passion for making art, printmaking, and personal reinvention after bad first marriages. They looked like brother and sister, compact and dark haired in their twenties. The previous spring, when Celeste discovered there were no college teaching jobs available despite her brand-new MFA, Ben suggested they start their own fine art printshop. 

“We’d own the presses and can make art whenever we want,” Ben said. “Artists and publishers will pay us to print their editions and we won’t have to rent press time. Everything would be under our control.”

“Sounds like a great plan, Ben. You think I’ll have time to make my own prints?”

“We both will. I promise.”