Peter Orner is a San Francisco-based fiction writer. His novels include The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and Love and Shame and Love, and he is the co-editor (with Annie Holmes) of Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives for McSweeney's Voice of Witness series. His latest is a short fiction collection, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge.
"Boys stand with road-sore feet holding cardboard suitcases. They stand clustered, but not in a group. They’re not together. They don’t talk into the wind; they only wait on the brake lights that so rarely happen. Still, every new car or bakkie or combi or lorry is a new hope, rising and dying like a beating heart glowing and then spending itself on the pavement, only to live again when the next one comes. Out there in their best clothes, trying to get to the school deep in the veld. At certain moments in the early afternoon the tar road looks like it’s burning. A boy kneels and sniffs. There’s always one who thinks he can tell how much longer it will be by smelling the road."
— Peter Orner, "The Tar Road," from The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo