Poem: Storks

Portrait of Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.

I walk downstairs and find

that the house is mine.

It seems that I have bought gray floor-lamps,

baskets, and roses. Gray clouds press

a headache on the ceiling.

The walls weep. I fumble

for the phone, and the cough

of my lighter startles

a fly on the granite counter.

I contract; I am on a sterile bed,

surrounded by latex and nylon.

Big strong doctors with answers

buzz through the halls like a sneeze.

To contract is an interesting thing.

In biology they call it a positive feedback loop;

one’s uterus begins to contract, and the body

pushes back harder and contracts stronger.

Which is the opposite of

what one would think it would do.

The body wants things out; foreign objects

rejected. The sun turns

into pink lemonade.

The phone coos plastically

in my ear. It slams into

the receiver in a way that startles

me, the phone, and the fly. All I wear is

the draping smoke that lingers

in the humidity in here.

The neighbors wrestle outside

with hoses or inflatable pools

or babies. Always humidity. Like

swimming through concrete.

A hormonal cardinal pecks at my window

with her offensive orange nose while I smear

gray on my eyes. I remember my family dog

rolling in mulch like it was Chanel No. 5.

I make my bed and think about

how very important it is that I make

my bed. Like those monks or priests

that break their necks making

those intricate sand-drawings that they dump

out later, to prove

to their followers or to themselves

or to the sand that everything

must come to ruin, but that everything

still must be everything.

I once dated a wannabe-priest who had lips

like two sofas. I thought that to corrupt a man

of the cloth would be an apt challenge.

He held his rosary beads in the sunlight and explained

what they required of him.

He ended up going to seminary in dry Arizona.

My coffee is moist and steamy

beyond its principles. Clouds

pressure-cooking my head

all the time. Steam won’t come out

through my ears, although I tell

it that that is a feasible exit like I’m a goddamn

flight attendant. My hair

seems to coil and rise up on top of

my head like feathers.

I take a silver-back wallet

from my pocket and count

its green tongues. I grind them with a

mortar and pestle, and they turn white.

A wire hanger sits beside the hospital

trash can. Cars spew rain on the street.

The average fly lifespan is 24 hours.

Men snore all across the block while their

wives stare at beige ceilings. Earth turns.

The coffee cup shatters

in the sink. I look at my cigarette’s

lit end and consider the orangeness of the

heat pressing out from behind the gray.

The world is all ashes and moisture pressing together stickily.

Red nail polish drips on granite.

An electrical outlet behind the couch is

faulty, and it is connected

to a butterfly lamp. A lamp

with butterflies sealed inside the linen.

The moon rolls across

my eyes, blood red.

I hear my own scream; something is terribly wrong.

A fly buzzes against lightbulbs, wings

coated in dew. Morning comes like

Aphrodite; she brings flowers,

and they have wilted like

a diabetic dog.

Owner without things. Storks

fly from Japan to Puerto Rico,

bright and white. Orange love burns

in private beds. A big strong doctor with

answers wraps me up and tells me

that it is okay, that blood runs. Blood dries

on plaster walls and trash cans.

Miles away a dump truck roars.

The electrical outlet suckles

on the lamp cord; all life consumes.

I sit with my head

under the coffee table, so comfortable

in the black, my fingers

in my ears, blocking the sound of

hot blood pumping and thrashing

pumping and thrashing.

Moist earth presses up against my knees.

It wasn’t my fault when day broke

on a blood-red corduroy couch,

its iron and ashes and moisture.

My white-powdered nose

poured, and the garbage truck

sang. The girl on the swing, pink dresses

rise and fold while cherubs

watch disapprovingly.

Surging and thrashing as blue,

electrical manpower overrides.

The nylon couch catches a small flame

by the hole that the old cat dug.

My hair was tangled in the couch’s rusty

staples as I twisted. Manpower overrides.

Heat grew in my cheeks as the

couch rocked orange. I couldn’t hear the

thrashing. My dead hair tugged

at the upholstered silk, ripping.

How young air is. A fog of smoke settled

like a doily over my curls.

Blue anxious life had its hand over me.

I pulled and bit at the couch legs to free

my hair but became enamored

by the light. The pink folds

of the couch faded away and

I could understand the blue.

Latex gloves pull at the skin

in annoying ways. Doctors’ long nose

hairs reach out to me, recede in, reach out.

White belly gives way to white bone.

The hospital bed becomes unattached

from its horizontal axis, becomes a free,

vertiginous thing. Breasts of ages

burn down from the sky.

Death is pink; it has always been.

Nosebleeds for thirty years.

Humidity cannot help this kind.

It is man’s nature, it breeds

vines over my neck, sprouting in light,

voracious and thirsty; electricity only wants to live.

Blood is mostly salt and water and

chemicals, conductive things;

man has his affinities. Our blue vines

entwine. Pumping and thrashing.

My tongue in powder on the coffee table,

paralyzed with the shock of man.

My bloody eyes curdle and relax.

Manpower overrides.

Contract. I understand the blue.

I smell latex. A dump truck mumbles

on down the street, towards the setting sun.

Storks fly from Japan to Puerto Rico,

bright and white.

I laugh and ask God:

to name is to love, but

can one name what cannot be loved?

Short Fiction

Birds Aren’t Real

Illustration by Ella Corder

Birds Aren’t Real

It’s 1:30 a.m. but the birds are still chirping. Nobody’s really sure why, and it’s a topic of thinly great discussion. Five post-adolescent figures hunch in a treehouse that was designed for 5-and-unders, and smoke fills the atmosphere. By the postures of their still silhouettes you can see that some hold cigarettes, some hold marijuana blunts in that funny way you have to hold a marijuana blunt, some hold both, in a twisted young-adult Venn diagram.

“I just don’t see how the government could possibly pull that off,” said Nosawiir Creim, squinting and blinking through the smoke tirelessly and not without a little melodrama.

“Listen, you don’t have to believe me, Creim, okay, but just don’t come crying to me when you find out Uncle Sam has video footage of you everyday of your life since you were born. I’m telling you,” Djuane Sham said through a troubled and phlegmy cough. “Through bird eyes, and there are quotation marks there, hanging, bird eyes,” he stopped and chugged a stray Aquafina bottle, “that have been secretly recording you since birth. Every step you take. Like that song by The Police. Ironically. Tiny little drones with cameras and highly-sensitive microphones the size of an eyelash. They’re everywhere man. It’s too perfect.” He turned his nose up at the avian territory of the sky and narrowed his eyes. Two identical drops of residual Aquafina-water slid slowly from the edges of his mouth down and outward around his chin. 

“Dude, Djuane, you’re talking too much. You know that when you take the third hit you talk too much. You know this.”

“Birds aren’t real, amigo, is all I’m saying, and I’m not the only one, either. I know that Poindexter, back me up here, Dexter, I know that she’ll back me up on this one. Esther?”

Some heads turned to the small, shadowed corner of the treehouse, where there sat Esther K. Poindexter, a delicate and somewhat sheltered kind of post-adolescent whose disposition was basically that she couldn’t cultivate a single nano-drop of interest in the government-birds discussion if she had had a large dose of LSD, nor if on it her life depended. She folded herself into the corner and cradled between index and middle fingers her very last Marlboro Red, watching it slowly burn and worried about wasting the burning tobacco but also worried about taking her time and enjoying it, because her bank account is so depleted and dry you can practically hear its joints rusting, and the conversation was tuned out as she worried about trying to not worry.

Esther looked around the circle in the dim light of post-night and pre-morning, looking at her friends’ faces. She liked to do this; it comforted her to do this. Analyze faces. She measured up their proportions, lined up their eyes and noses and lips, weighed out their numbers. Memorized their colors. She sometimes would go home at night after a smoking session she had told her parents was a late-night movie and feel her way through the dark house to the basement steps and go down and light a romantic but hazardous and really, for a light source, quite ineffective candle and uncover a fold-out easel and canvas she kept behind the AC unit and it had about a half inch of painted-over layers on it, the canvas did, but she would paint these faces meticulously and with great accuracy anyway, and sometimes she would stay down there for three hours or more, undoubtedly damaging her vision in the flickering candlelight, and paint faces as best she could remember them.

Djuane, Nosawiir, and Carlos were not from America which was an appreciated, colorful addition to her mental library of faces, her Epidermal Library, she liked to call it, privately. Djuane Sham was from Jordan, skin the color of Florida sand. Sharp nose but lips like Sylvester Stallone and teeth so parallel they looked fake. Black hair in ringlets to his shoulders. Dark eyes. Damagingly bad posture. Nosawiir Creim, Afghani, face in perfect sections, proportions exact. Teeth, however, were more mortal. Creim was wiry, but with kind features and soft black curls tucking around his face. And Carlos Aguacate III sat betwixt, with permed, Mexican black hair (Esther presumed this [the perm] was a determined attempt to fit in with the others and their long black Arabian ringlets) to his collarbones, and a sweet face, but his eyes were hard to measure out because of his glasses. Esther didn’t know if it was just in her head or if Carlos’s  actual eyes, through the glasses, had a glass-like quality themselves. And not just tonight in the clouded treehouse; like, all the time — his eyes looked like a mirror that when you jab your thumbnail to it you can see the inch of just space, occupied by light and whatever mirror matter lives in there. Just distant, offset, an inch deeper than the coffee-bean surface. Esther watched the cherry of the Red breathe between the tips of her fingers and slowly die. She threw it into the grass below.

“Poindexter? What’s with you?” Sham said, narrowing his eyes.

Esther looked up from the dead grass.

Sham shook his head and climbed down the treehouse ladder to take a leak behind the stand-alone garage.

Creim took a long draw on his Nic, the latest and greatest vaping product in the country.

Esther smiled goofily. “Nothing!” she drawled.

The others had stopped listening. Esther slid down the treehouse slide and got mud on her bottom, and said to no one in particular that she was going to squeeze the lemon also. The streetlights shone like jaundice. Or lemon juice. The streets were quiet, in a Benadryl daze, with only a few cats and meths roaming. Esther’s footfall was silent.

Headlights blinded her every minute or so. She wondered of the passing of time. Today was her twenty-first birthday. She wondered if a birthday made a sound if no one was around to hear it. Cars passed obliviously, like she was a Glad trashbag on the curb. She thought to herself that she hated her friends and their monotony. And she hated Djuane Sham who had forced himself upon her once at a party when no one was looking. She hated her family for their stupidity and their condescension and their alcoholism. She hated the town for its poverty and gaudy ugliness, a Dollar General time capsule, a Vatican of sad, fat, divorced, insurance salesmen.

She tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. A cat scurried away, leaving a trail of scabs and piss. She didn’t want to be home, and she didn’t want to be away. A life in between, a caravan. Headlights struck her eyes again as she rounded the corner towards home, and they lit up the steam on her glasses. Wiping them on her shirt, she thought to herself that she hated most of all her eyes and her thoughts and her body, and she thought that babies come into the world like magnets, drawn perfectly and decisively to a place they deserve, a town, a socio-economic region, and of course she lived in this gaudy ugly town, because nature is balanced. She wanted to kill her mother and bury her father and drown her siblings, and she wanted to sew her friends’ lips together. She wanted to burn with gasoline every cat on the block.

And then she wanted to go to her basement, stand in front of a portrait of herself, eat the entire canvas, and swallow inch-deep layers of acrylics and oil like SugarDaddys, and then flood the house with fire and screaming. She thought briefly of the boy who hadn’t noticed her in high school. As she was considering this, she put her glasses back on, but the earpiece stabbed her in the eye quite aggressively, and the western half of the world went black as she felt blood pour down her blouse, and she thought that maybe eyeballs can pop and leak like egg yolk. She reached down to find her glasses but couldn’t see the yolky headlights which came to blind her once more, and Esther lay in the street, a flat character.

Short Fiction

Less is More

Illustration by Ella Corder

Less is More

A little-known fact about those attracted to amputee erotica, apotemnophilia, is that many who find themselves in want of the stump and the knoll feel, whether they admit it or not, a certain envy of the stumped and the knolled. A person sans-limb seems, to the limbed, a person released. Lou Addenduman feels this way, here, now, in the oaky closet of his bedroom in his parents’ house, vision somewhat altered from the confined oil-paint fumes in the dark closet, forehead dimpled and brain thus clasped in his tight reader’s-flashlight headband, which he is pointing towards the 9×9 canvas in his hands, hands he feels are a burden to him, an Other, an appendix thrust upon him by the diseased world or by the unpitying lackadaisical gods above. Indeed these hands weigh him down, see them droop towards the shag-carpeted floor. Lou looks down and doesn’t recognize these five-membered figures below his wrists. He has known since he was a young boy that something was unmissing.

But Lou knows he must carry the burdens forever, for they are the vessel of his art. Lou uses the wretched, foreign right hand to grant the final life-breath. “Beatrice,” he says aloud, and so names her. His eyes trail from her pouted lips to her peachy shoulder to her torso to her leg, for that is all she is; that is all she must be. In oil on the 9×9 canvas is a woman unhindered. The amputated woman lies naked, obliquely, on a bed of grass, with her wrist-stump on her hip, her shin-knoll pressed gently into the dirt. The detail of her finite features is Rubenesque. Her golden hair gleams in the sunlight. Beatrice’s eyes look somewhere past him.

O sweet serenity, o lustrous freedom! The joy of life unimpeded! Lou can imagine the air flowing past his own stumps, the soft grass tickling his knolls, he and Beatrice lying there, two halves of one whole, all supernumeraries eliminated, calloused skin touching calloused—

His mother calls him for dinner. He descends to reality and scrambles out of the closet, smoothing out his hair and taking a moment to maintain certain excitements. He cascades down the stairs and sits at the table and says, “Hello, Pops,” and his Pops reads this morning’s paper, even though it’s 6:00 p.m. on the nose. Lou’s mother scurries rodentlike around the kitchen preparing food, muttering about the faulty gas stove, and she keeps accidentally banging her hips into the corners of the kitchen island and instructing Lou and his father to not expect anything that great at all. His mother wears aprons and decorates the house with myriad “WELCOME HOME” and “HOME SWEET HOME” decorations from the craft store to reassure all who enter of the swallowing and intensive hospitality they are sure to find inside, and that that which they are entering is, in fact, a home. She scoops mashed potatoes onto Lou’s plate that reads, “FAMILY.”

“How was work?” he asks his Pops.

His Pops glares down at Lou over the newspaper a minute. “Son, it’s a chemical plant.”

Lou’s face sinks to his potatoes. His Pops’d worked for a chemical company for thirty years making acrylic cement adhesives out of 60% methylene chloride and 40% ethylene chloride which is currently the most common solvent cement used for polycarbonate parts using a joining pressure of 200 psi. Lou really looks up to his Pops, not just because he’s a dark, watch-wearing, 6’2” brute, but because he’s a skillful although somewhat unfulfilled expert in the Bonding Department at PolycarboNation, Inc., the leading adhesives manufacturer.

“Whatcha reading?” he asks his father, more eagerly.

Without looking up, he reads, “’Man found dead with each limb chopped into seven equally sized pieces.’ Now how sick is that? What kinda freak world we livin in?”

A chill runs down Lou’s spine. He says he just doesn’t know what to say about that. After dinner, Lou ascends again to his bedroom.

He spent years in this dark closet studying his subjects, mixing colors and slaving over every detail, subsisting on whole boxes of graham crackers. Summers and winters flew by in the rosy apricot colors of his Ladies. There were many regrettable instances of graham crackers being used in certain unprofessional ways, when Lou hadn’t yet finished a painting but couldn’t wait to lay his mortal eyes on the euphoric finale but refused on a moral level to rush perfection, and he’d sometimes then fall helpless to the rough seams and cauterized edges of the cracker.

Lou never told his mother and his Pops about his work for fear that they couldn’t appreciate his art. Sometimes they asked him about what he was doing all that time in his room. They saw him sometimes carrying in canvas or oils he’d bought with his allowance, and his mom’d ask to see one of his paintings. He would go upstairs, panicked, and quickly paint over a Lady a simple dog or tree or something, and his mom would cry and carry on about her talented boy. But he didn’t tell anyone of the many nights he would stand nude before the mirror and hold his arm behind his back and imagine himself burdenless. How could he explain a suffering from abundance? How could he tell of his desire to become without appendages, weightless?

And so, Lou became, in isolation, a man, creating a world of women whom he loved with every seared-off finger and bulging, calfless thigh, and felt like he really knew them.

Walking home from school one day, he saw stapled on a telephone pole a PolycarboNation, Inc., advertisement announcing an AdhesiFest in the park that day, for there was a ‘lene surplus this year. Lou smiled at the thought of an impromptu visit with his father. He descended a grassy slope to find at the bottom of the hill a huge tent beneath which hundreds of shoppers and children swarmed. Lou went from table to table looking for his father, and when he finally came upon the Bonding Department’s booth, he found only his father’s coworker, Jason Thwarting, who was thirty-three and had the demeanor of a shy college girl. Thwarting stuck out his five-digited hand and said, “Lou. Nice to see you.”

“You seen my Pops around?” Lou asked, taking the hand.

“You’re awful young to be here alone,” Thwarting said, sheepishly and with a drawl. “No, your father couldn’t make it today, problem with the new trainee in the department. Something about a little ‘lene spill on Mr. Addenduman’s Italian leather shoes. Your mom coming around later?”

The table was stocked with adhesives: liquids, gels, powders, aerosol cans, x-tra-thin tablets, sheets, EZ-move, dura-strong, industrially strong, and Toddler-Hang™, a name coined by Mark in advertising after groundbreaking research which showed the adhesive to be able to hold the weight of an average-to-stocky toddler on the wall without incident. Lou scanned the products. Thwarting scratched his head with his right hand and pointed with his left to the x-tra-thins. “Could sell ya these for a school project or something.”

Lou looked and saw Jason Thwarting from the Bonding Department’s left hand’s thumb, pointer, middle and index fingers: that was all. No pinky to be found; only a small nub the size of a bitten piece of a baby carrot.

“I’ll take four of each,” Lou shuddered. He watched Thwarting in awe as he bagged the adhesives, and then Lou forked over his allowance money and quickly walked home.

When he got home his mother was starting dinner. “Lou, honey, where you been?” she said as she darted around the kitchen. “Stir this for me.” Lou put his bags on the counter by the stove and grabbed the ladle.

“What’s all this? Is this from your father’s company?”

He watched the baby carrots bobbing in the soup broth. “I thought you might could use it, Mom.”

She tousled his hair and turned up the gas heat, telling him to watch the stove while she stepped outside to hang on the front door a plaque that read, in bold, white cursive letters, “BLESSED.”

Lou thought about Thwarting as he stirred: a real-life subject. Lou trembled in sweet recollection of the light’s effect on Thwarting’s nub not two feet from Lou’s own real face. He lifted a baby carrot out of the soup with the ladle and picked it up and held it gently between two fingers like a cigarette, and looked at it for a long time before leaning down and biting off the tip, and the clean sound of the snap echoed in the kitchen. His hands shook.

He dropped the carrot and ran bedroomward and opened his paints and summoned the colors to capture this divine scene; he could see the edge of the bone of the non-finger hovering in the cool crisp air. “Lou? Do these interest you?” Thwarting had said so innocently. Was Lou interested, he’d asked! Lou painted maniacally; he slashed and swirled with his brush, painting Beatrice once more, but now, now Lou could grant her all he’d ever wanted to: the sweet flame of reality. O, free woman! Tears ran down his face; he was unhindered, smoldering; and in the lucid flood of passion and the blood rushing through his ears he’d forgotten about the soup on the stove, and the baby carrot which he had bitten and dropped in his moment of euphoria had bounced off the counter to the stove and under the burner, and had subsequently caught aflame, and the fire spread through a small trail of oil which the carrot had left upon bouncing, and the flame crawled slowly up to the counter, and in the closet Lou was nearly finished with his great masterpiece, and the flame crawled up the plastic bag of adhesives, and outside Lou’s mother was pressing the sign up against the wall until her arms hurt, waiting for the adhesive to dry, and the flame finally crept into the bag and caught aflame the EZ-move ‘lene, which spread to the powdered ‘lene container, which spread to the Toddler-Hang™, which according to the label was notoriously combustible, and right as Lou’s Pops’d pulled in, tired and a little pissed off for having to stay late with the incompetent trainee, as soon as he’d parked and stepped out, at exactly the moment when the toe of his Pops’ damaged Italian leather shoe tapped the driveway, finally with one huge billowing thrust of gas and wind the bag blew, with all the ‘lene in it, and in a microsecond the gas from the stove exploded, and the house blew in one big blue and orange supernova, and Lou’s mother fell and the sign shot back and hit Lou’s Pops square in the groin and immediately broke to spell “LESS,” and Lou was shot from the closet onto the lawn, and felt a slicing pain in his left arm, and through a cloud of orange smoke he coughed and looked down and could hear his mother screaming and his Pops groaning, and looked down and saw his left arm was just a raw red bleeding stump, completely cauterized by the soup ladle, and his eyes and mouth were all wide, gaping zeroes, and the smoke whirred as his mother screamed and they all looked at the house and saw, through burning newspapers and shards of glass and fire, hundreds of blackening white squares, and Lou, bleeding, recognized these as all his paintings he’d squirrelled away upstairs and the faux-paintings of dogs and trees he’d forged for his mom, and with deafening horror he saw that the mixture of 60% methylene chloride and 40% ethylene chloride also functioned as a very effective paint stripper and thus worked to Lou’s utter terror to strip away exactly one layer of his paintings, simultaneously dissolving his masterpieces and revealing the underlayers of his faux-paintings, and his parents stood horrified at the scores of images of nude, amputated women scattered around the blazing house with their faces and bodies melting and dissolving, and Lou stood on the lawn, bleeding out of his left arm, face all zeroes in the orange smoke, standing aghast looking at the fire.

Short Fiction

Pete, Jr.

June 2019.

Pete, Jr.

The tranquilizing effect of a dog’s eyes, colloquially “puppy-dog eyes,” is well known. The forty-five-degree downward slant, the assuring dirt-brown hue, the occasional whitish goop in the corners of said eyes, goop to which the dog is so adorably, un-vainly oblivious—all dog-owners and -patrons are unimmunized to these.

An extra-lethal glassy and dubious pair of puppy eyes belonged to one Pete, Jr., whose coffee eyes and Mini-Moo-extra-rich-coffee-creamer fur made for an especially sedative and vaguely palatable ambiance.

Pete was one to roll around on the kitchen floor like an Olympic figure-skater when he was dreaming in an absolute sleep complete with tail-wagging and an inch of pink tongue hanging limply and obliquely from his mouth. He was one to heave his enormous bovine body through a delicate and thoroughly designed Tudor at great speeds, nearly but might I emphasize never once damaging anything, whenever he heard the faint tinkly ringing sound of dollar-store PetAgree kibble being poured into and thus resounding in his engraved ceramic bowl. The dog would sometimes chew rocks from the garden in blank amusement.

Pete would spot a squirrel or other rodentlike Scurrier climbing freakishly upside-down on a tree limb, with only its sunflower-seed claws clutching the limb, spindly tail all ablaze, looking like dinner and triggering every deeply-buried predatory instinct in Pete’s genetic code, and Pete would get all excited and let out a ripping bark, I mean every rodent within five miles must have heard it and thousands of squirrel-pellets must have fallen simultaneously from trees and/or telephone lines and hit the suburban floor with a collective thud, just a ripping bark, and Pete would look directly at the squirrel and then back at his owner, and every monstrous muscle in his body would grip the dirt and refuse to leave and potentially subject his owner to even half a minute of danger or loneliness, and then Pete’d turn back and look at the squirrel, the ugly, gray, sparse, coniferous tail and the beady eyes and the claws still piercing the tree, not even running and hiding, just waiting to be preyed upon, dominated, and Pete he could not go, so he killed the squirrel with his sound; he ripped it to shreds in his bark and tore its insides like the squeaky toys he loved so much and which would not sate him until he had extricated their inner squeak-maker and had ripped that, too, to pieces.

But he would not and could not leave his owner. Looking up at him, there was not a force in the world, no matter how delectable the little weasel, that could ever remove him, Pete, Jr., from his righteous owner’s side.

How could he describe his love? How could he explain to you the gnawing, paralyzing passion he felt for this man with golden hair and a smile as straight and white as the picket fence in the pruned and groomed backyard? Lo, suffice it to say that Pete, Jr, would die for this man. He would starve, feel the stony cheek of the face of death, fight any creature, man, or god to the end to ensure his owner’s life and mirth. And what did he want in return? Just the slow, sleepy graze of the man’s hand’s back in performance of the ritual Tummy Rub over Pete’s taut pink stomach at night on the couch while he watched the man watch Frasier on the Hallmark channel on television. And also he did desire the accidental dropping of a little hamburger meat on the kitchen tile now and then, whenever the man wasn’t too busy and decided to stay home and dust off the old Black&Decker grill in the backyard in the soft, gauzy August-evening light.

Short Fiction


Illustration by Natalie Bizarreamie

Jeanie woke at dawn to watch the sun rise in the three-story east window. Her curlers took their teeth out of her hair, and it fell, silvering, to arthritic hips. She undressed and picked for the day a white gown. The water for her coffee grew to a boil.

She cracked two eggs and fried the first, placed it on a crisp slice of French bread and promptly threw both away. She fried the second, placed it on crisp slice of French bread and ate it slowly, deliberately. As her coffee pressed, the scent electrified her brain. She stepped onto her tall patio among busts and foliage and expensive lounge-chairs and chose one. The others were left unoccupied. The sun already warmed the air. She sat until the dregs of her coffee stared up at her.

She washed the saucer and dried it evenly and placed it upside-down on the white cloth beside the sink. She went to the sitting room filled with busts and foliage and expensive lounge-chairs and chose one. The others were left unoccupied. Paper and a fountain pen emerged, shy, from a little African wooden box. She wrote quickly, neatly:

On a boat in the gloaming with the wind in my hair. The moon blossoming next to a fading sun. Grapes and olives and white paper and oranges define the day, myriad small figures grow smaller as I sail along the coast. The sun bakes my skin, turning me the color of warmth as my lover fills my glass and kisses me lightly, my dear child, you are the blossoming moon and the fading sun and the color of warmth, halation, I love you and will love you, your arms are meant to wrap tightly my waist, the small of my back was meant to warm your hands, my veins whisper your name, they always have, I love you, I will love you, my sweet, grapes chill my tongue, sun warms my breast, the sea is our home, the Irish sea, a boat and a field and the moon and the wind, your heart calls my name, it always has, it always has. Your mouth is my body, my body is your mouth, your eyes shine, your arms are waiting, I love you, I will love you, your brown eyes are my name, my name is your mouth, your back is my breast, I love you, I will love you, a garden and children and white stone and blue water, the sea is our life, the sun is our heart, our shared heart, talk to me, speak to me, sing to me, I’ll sing for you, I’ll sing for you, I’ll sing for you.

She sat quietly for a moment, folded the page in half and walked to her patio once more. The page slid over the railing and down to the grass, where it landed quietly. She looked over the edge to see several hundred identical little white pages covered in fountain-pen ink from her little African wooden box. She wept. With full intention, she put one leg over the railing, and then the other, the wind blowing in her still silver hair and the now midday sun baking her skin, and she leapt and landed quietly among several hundred identical little white pages.