Monthly Archives: September 2014

OK Narcissus

 

by Kim Steele

 

Cory’s skin freckles in the sun. One day he will have so many more than he has now. I worry that I won’t know him then. I worry that he will die and be burned or buried and I will have been absent so long I will no longer know how they occupy his skin.

‘Maybe everybody is born with a specific number of freckles already written in their DNA. Maybe you’ll reach your limit one day and that will be that. No more freckles.’ I drag my nail along his arm and tick them off one by one. He shivers.

We are travelling on an overnight bus from Arequipa to Lima. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve left something behind in the hostel and keep shifting through the things in my backpack waiting to remember. Finally Cory moves my bag under his seat. ‘Whatever it was it doesn’t matter now,’ he says and reaches for my hand.

In the darkness I can’t see anything but our reflection in the windows of the bus. For a while I watch the woman in front of me rock her toddler to sleep. He fights it and opens his eyes each time they droop shut. When he is finally sleeping his mother moves him to the seat next to her and puts on headphones. She falls asleep quickly, her head vibrating gently against the window.

I watch myself watch Cory who is reading.

‘We might as well be in Chicago,’ I say.

‘How do you mean?’ he asks.

‘We could be on the red line. I’m sitting here watching you read just like always.’

Cory murmurs something and nods his head.

‘Why travel I guess, is what I am thinking,’ I say.

Cory chuckles but doesn’t look up.

‘My reflection is pretty beautiful you know,’ I say.

He meets my eyes in the window. ‘OK Narcissus.’

 

I take a Dramamine and lean back in my chair. The bus stops for gas just after one in the morning and a woman comes on with a basket of water bottles and Inca Kola. Cory buys us one of each. I hold the warm bottle of soda in between my thighs. I don’t like the taste but I want to and so we’ve been buying them all week.

‘It’s a shame that things will be different,’ I say.

‘They could be better,’ he says and bites into one of the apples we packed. 

I nod. ‘Eventually maybe. In the short term I’ll get fat and then I’ll be tired. We’ll both be so tired.’

Cory passes the apple to me. I watch myself bite in the window. I realize I am hungry.

‘I think we are too close to the ocean. I think it is just there, just right outside the window. We are on a cliff and if the driver wanted to he could drive us right off into the water.’

‘A spectacular way to die,’ he says.

‘I’d be OK with it,’ I say.

Cory watches my reflection.

 

Kim Steele is from the Midwest but currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter @KJ_Steele.

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

Novellas

by Richard Kostelanetz

 

DIE KUNST DER FUGE

He spent a week listening in sequence to all the versions he owned of J. S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge, crying every time the last triple fugue ended in mid-phrase, signaling the composer’s death.

 

LOCATION

After making many calculations that he recorded on a map in his hand, he stood securely on a spot from which everything important to him in the world was equidistant.

 

HARD CURRENCY

Anxious about paper money, my parents converted all bills into coins  that filled rooms of our house.

 

IN-LAWS

On the same day that he married his ex-wife’s daughter by a later marriage, his ex-wife married his son from his first marriage, becoming in-laws like no other.

 

SELF-DOCUMENTATION

Though he took a year to paint a picture, he shot each day a photograph of himself before his work-in-progress, expecting that these snapshots would then be exhibited chronologically besides the painting.

 

Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Reader’s Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.org, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.

Tagged , ,

Commute

     

by Fraylie Nord

 

It wasn’t rush hour, so there were no excuses. Just the masking odor of cherry soda and Lysol. That’s what happens when there’s a whole fish taking up a three-seater. Somebody found a party hat, took a picture, made it viral.

The ventilation system had undone itself with a groan. Everyone could still smell the fish smell. A man in pleated khakis pressed his knees into my knees, and I wanted it for no other reason than it was good to be touched.

I knew I was missing the staff meeting, but who cared. Today was the day I’d quit my job. I had a ticket to some documentary about black holes, 7 PM, but I’d ditch. I wanted a night in the tub. Windows open so the neighbor’s kids could see. So the sitter could screech. Those beeswax candles with their film of dust. I typed an apology email on my phone, clicked the screen to nothing.

The train was stalled somewhere under Chinatown. You could tell the conductor was trying to inform us about signal problems, about sick passengers, about an army of rats, but the intercom came through like stone on gravel. I had my head against the window. My elbow hiked up on the plastic ridge. There was the inscription Chelsea loves Mario (sometimes). Nobody, least of all the lovers, knew how to do it right.

Beside me were these two little kids, a boy and a girl, the boy in dungarees and the girl in a foam crown, the sort you discover stuffed in trash bins outside Great New York City Monuments.

‘Are you a princess?’ asked a woman, standing over them.

‘No mom, I’m a queen!’

The woman nodded and turned to the boy. ‘And what does that make you?’

The boy put his palms in his lap and looked at her. ‘I’m just a regular guy going to work,’ he said.

 

So the boy goes to work and gets a promotion. He has stolen the crown and has convinced his boss that he is King. King of fluorescents, King of the masthead, he stands on a stack of paper and gets tall. So tall that he’s knocking on the ceiling like a door.

He calls a meeting. He calls a meeting and says this is his ship now. And everybody says yes, yes, you look like the kind of King we need. So tall and Kingly like you’ve escaped from a giant’s deck of cards. Thank you, thank you. But you smell like a fish, to which he says yes, that is the true sign of the King I’d like to be. I am a King of hard-to-like things.

And then everybody claps in this way that’s believable, that’s real, so real that the floor shakes and the papers start to shift. He bows, clumsily, but nobody notices his arm doing this violent twitch. He bares the gaps in his teeth. He is King, and I am underground on my way to the tub, lights dimmed. I can see the face of a new man hovering over me, blank and round like the head of an eraser. The train moves slowly, and this time there’s a snake. It’s the length of the car, and nobody knows where it came from. It’s got diamonds on its back. It’s slithering around a pole now. The snake will be famous. No, the snake will be click-bait. That snake has it better than the rest of us.

Above me, the guy is pointing to his open mouth. A kind of origin story. It is a mouth I did not know he possessed until it was a cavern, so I make a fist and place it inside.

 

Fraylie Nord is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Tin House Flash Fridays, Volume 1 Brooklyn, The Billfold and elsewhere.

Tagged ,

Finger Painter

 

by Kristin Ito

 

You must be painting. Your hands are covered with a viscous rainbow of acrylics, the whorls of your fingerprints obscured under layers of paint. You are calm in your movements, but frantic in your mind, the way you were when I first met you, when you showed me how your fingers are your tools.

You stood behind me as we looked at your half-finished painting of the narwhal. I joked that the narwhal would be the next hipster animal, like the bird and the owl, to have its heyday and be slapped on canvas eco-totes and reclaimed wood. You laughed gently, and then explained why you chose the narwhal, the vision you had one night of its long white tusk bursting through a cityscape. You went on, oblivious to the way it changed you, to be talking about your craft. I watched your fingers; you moved them as you spoke though they were still wet with paint. You wiped them on your jeans, briefly, before touching me.

Later that day I sat at a cafe and noticed a smudge of blue paint on the inside of my thigh. I was wearing a dress, and the LA heat made my legs sticky with sweat. I rubbed the blue off slowly and imagined rubbing you out of my mind – a protective measure because I knew you’d forget me sooner than I would you.

You are probably still painting the narwhal. You were debating, you told me, on whether the colors of the city should be muted or harsh, to show the violation of industrialism on the narwhal. You asked for my opinion, but I told you I didn’t know. A city is a city, isn’t it, no matter what hue it is.

On afternoons like this one, when my brain feels like cotton and my body feels only thirst, your eager blue fingers try to pull me in. But you forget that I, too, am an artist. I take your colors and mix them with the umber of my summer skin, until you are a watered down, washed out rendering of someone I hardly knew.

 

Kristin Ito is a writer and copy editor currently living in California. She received an MA in English from Boston College and taught English for several years in the Seattle area. Her most recent piece appeared in Broad! Magazine.

 

Tagged , , ,

My Mother Took Me To A Place To Dig

 

by Alicia L. Gleason

 

As a girl I often dreamt I was digging a hole. It wasn’t the type of hole meant to bury roses for the winter, or to mine worms after a heavy rain. It was a hole wide and deep enough for me to stand in. It was a hole dug for me to be alone. As I dug, my muscles felt supple and I saw the soil was richly layered: shadows atop agates atop red soil atop grey. The air swirled coolly around me, a summer heat descending into the pit. This place was quieter than sleep. I dug easily until I hit a patch of hard ground. I cut the tip of my shovel into the earth and water simmered from the incision. The wound opened quickly, the pressure forcing the water into a high arch, a boiling geyser. As I stood beneath it, feverish, sweating, I thought: this hole will fill, and I will drown.

 

Alicia L. Gleason is a graduate of George Mason University’s MFA program, where she studied fiction. Her work is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine. Alicia teaches first year writing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Tagged ,