In April 2020, at the height of the pandemic in New York City, Andrew, the assistant director of a funeral home one mile from Elmhurst Hospital, the “epicenter of the epicenter,” meets a legendary Coney Island witch doctor (Lelya Dorche), who makes him an offer that could better his chances of keeping his COVID-positive elderly parents and his severely asthmatic 13-year-old son, Miro, off the ever-expanding list of virus mortalities. To keep up his end of the bargain, Andrew will have to find his way to Bulgaria (no small task considering that there’s a ban on passenger flights to Europe) to secure 10 liters of a rare Macedonian pine sap, a key ingredient of Lelya Dorche’s proven remedy.
The Lower East Side Tenement Reclamation Association is the winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Novelette Prize, selected by Meg Ellison.
This magical realist tale follows the travails of a burnt-out teacher from Queens who spends his time obsessing over the fact that he has been cheated out of living in his Grandma Rose’s Lower East Side apartment and is thus priced out of his “More Recent Ancestral Home” of Manhattan.
In The Lower East Side Tenement Reclamation Association, David Rothman weaves a rich story about real estate, family, and memory. Daniel, the protagonist, is haunted by the memories of his childhood experiences in his grandmother’s apartment, a home that he desperately wants to inhabit. One day he discovers a hidden relic on Rivington Street: a tenement reclamation office run by an eccentric centurion named Hannah. When Daniel inquires about the chances of reclaiming his grandmother’s old tenement, Hannah is not impressed. “Things don’t work like that, you rude, young schlub!” And so begins Daniel’s journey to take back his past and to secure an affordable space for his family in downtown Manhattan. This is a journey full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and an ending that would make even the most thick-skinned New York real estate agent shake.
Guided by Voices is the second-place winner of the Glimmer Train August Short Story Award for New Writers.
In the wilds of Upstate New York America, a Belarusian immigrant finds himself torn between the ideologies of family, Joseph Smith . . . and lo-fi indie rock.
Originally published in Glimmer Train, Spring 2011