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Useless Miracle

George Entmen just turned forty, and he can’t complain. As the James Lydecker Chair of Hermeneutics in the English department at Northwestern, he is honored in his field, beloved by friends and family, and ready to drift quietly into tenured middle age. But then he discovers that he can fly.

Sure, he can only fly very, very slowly; he needs to have his hands thrust out in front of him like Superman; and he only flies three or four inches above the ground. In fact, as he has to be prone to do it, he is, in flight, further from the sky than ever.

But why does this nonetheless amazing phenomenon drive so many people into a rage? Why do he and his family find themselves dodging livid magicians, exploitative friends, scheming billionairesses, thirteen-year-old boys who are sure they saw the wire, and, perhaps worst of all, angry hermeneuticians?

George’s friend Harvey tells him that, beneath all the chaos, his gift has to have a meaning. But to find it, Harvey says, George needs to understand one thing: “You’re not flying, you’re being flown.”

Barry Schechter is the author of the novel The Blindfold Test. His short fiction, poetry, and criticism have appeared in the Paris Review, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Review. He’s a lifelong resident of Chicago.

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