This opening excerpt of Sonny Buttar’s The Bad One is the first-place winner of the 2023 CRAFT First Chapters Contest, guest judged by Rebecca Makkai.


There is a story our parents told us, only once. When they received their immigration papers from America, they considered leaving one of us behind in Pakistan to live with relatives, believing that one child would be easier to take care of than two. Leaving a child for a time, or forever, with a relative is not unheard of in the culture I come from. Once our father was successful, they would send for the one left behind. Asma asked, “Which one of us were you going to leave?” Ami shifted uncomfortably. Abu said, “The bad one.”

I remember everything about the memory but his face. No amount of wracking my brain can conjure whether he was smiling or serious. We were outside on the patio, a large concrete slab at the back of our house. It was a summer evening. The sun had slipped, leaving us in the shadowy cool embrace of the house. Abu was grilling barbequed chicken legs, holding tongs in one hand and a spatula in the other. The tape cassette player played songs from a recording of Pakistani radio. It couldn’t have been our first summer because there is the picnic table – they were so proud of that old thing which gave splinters if you slid down it in the wrong direction. Ever since we had seen townspeople eating and dancing under the pavilion at the summer fair, dinners outside carried an air of joy. We felt like we were doing something special. Just a recently immigrated family from Pakistan in a small country town in the middle of America having a typical Sunday-night barbeque. There was a sense of pride, like we had gained admittance to a secret club. The Being American Club.

Read the rest of the excerpt at this link:  The Bad One