Monthly Archives: January 2015

Gravity is the Enemy

 

(from The Echoes)

by Ranbir Singh Sidhu 

 

It was no different from taking out a pair of pants that have gotten too tight, she didn’t know why Ralph was making such a fuss, it wasn’t like she was shooting junk into her veins, which was all the rage, by the way, not like she hadn’t thought about doing that because let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about it, and if she wanted to, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t anyone, a woman should be able to get it on the NHS, get a prescription, just want a bit of a lift today, doc, feeling down and frowzy if that’s a symptom, why not offer junk, could do the world a lot of good, have you seen the way people walk down the high street, Ralph, with their stone dead faces and children screaming and carrier bags, why not give them heroin, why not give them coke, better than a book of green stamps and the football pools and a council flat that’ll kill you from the ugliness and boredom of it much sooner than shooting golden wonder into your veins; the only difference being, she continued, was that in this case she was the tailor, it was her widening the waist on the pants, adding a little room under the arms, putting a little play in the shoulders, yes, Ralph, me, my own self, and she wouldn’t make apologies for it, didn’t see the reason, it was her body after all, her head, her skull, no one had any right to say a thing to her, not even Jack, and she was married to him; and oh Ralph, you have to feel it to understand, she said, drawing closer across the bed and adopting, for the first time since the argument began, a tone of conciliation, because, she said, it’s not a drug, it’s not a thing I’m doing to myself at all, it’s a thing I’m doing with myself, with my whole body, think of it as me giving myself a gift, but not something I unwrap one day, wear for a week and throw away, this is much better, it’s like a new pair of eyes or another head, a whole head, think of all the things you could do with a whole other head, she said, I promise you, it’s not mutilation, it’s augmentation, and soon everyone’ll be doing it, from dukes and duchesses all the way down to the char lady pushing her trolley down the hall; it’s going to be a new world, Ralph, we won’t need words, that’s what they say, we’ll hold up colored cards showing our mood because what else is important, really, I’ll hold up a red card, say, showing I’m feeling a bit wild and passionate, and you’ll hold up a blue one, showing you’re not really up to anything, maybe a bit down, so I’ll hold up a purple card, showing sympathy, and you’ll hold a green card showing you’re feeling a bit more relaxed now you’ve got some sympathy and someone’s seen your color, and life will be so much easier because no one will have arguments because they won’t use words and it’s words that cause arguments and instead we’ll walk around floating a little bit off the ground, think about it, Ralph, we’ll be high, totally high, but all the time, no one will ever feel bad again, we’ll have moods of course, everyone has moods, they should have moods, but no one will ever feel really bad about anything again, just a bit bad, even if you’ve done something terribly wrong, say killed someone you shouldn’t have, you’ll hold up a black card and people will understand, they’ll understand it was a mistake and they’ll understand you feel bad about it, and because of that you’ll feel better almost at once and that’s what’s important isn’t it, to feel better, and in no time at all your black card will turn to a blue card; and it’s so simple, it’s amazing no one’s done it before, just a little thing really, you already touched it last night, and look what it did for me just by touching it, I’m not even sure it’s supposed to do that, but it did and last night felt wonderful and I’ve wanted oh so to tell you but I thought you’d make your serious face, your big serious black card face, that you wouldn’t understand, or at least that you’d pretend not to understand, because I think when it’s explained everyone understands, they only don’t want to say, they’re afraid, Ralph, and she told him that she understood why he would be afraid, it was natural she thought, because if he did it he was going to make a leap from being one kind of person to another, and all that was needed was a tiny little hole, a small hole drilled in the head all the way through the skull, to relieve the pressure on the brain, it’s cooped up in the prison of the skull, it’s solitary confinement for your whole life, why do you think babies and small children are so happy, it’s because their bones haven’t built a prison for the brain yet, it’s not shut away from being able to breathe — to breathe, Ralph! — oh how many years did she feel the pressure, her own skull weighing down all her thoughts, stopping her thinking, from feeling anything at all, all that weight, all that gravity, but she understood now, gravity is the enemy, she said, and one day soon everyone will know, everyone will be able to feel as free and happy and weightless and high as she is right now, and feel that way all the time

 

Ranbir Singh Sidhu is the author of Good Indian Girls and a winner of the Pushcart Prize in Fiction and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. His fiction appears in Conjunctions, The Literary Review, The Georgia Review, Fence, Zyzzyva, The Missouri Review, The Happy Hypocrite, Other Voices, Alaska Quarterly Review, Word Riot and other journals and anthologies. His first published photographs are forthcoming in Portland Review and F-Stop Magazine, and most nights he can be found DJ-ing at the Black Rooster in Chania, Crete. Visit him at ranbirsidhu.com.

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For Those of Us Who Would Take the Side of a Bar of Soap

 

by Jacob Guajardo

 

Working retail in the Midwest in the near distant future will not be all it could have been. A tech-scare will undo all of Bill Gates’ hard work. Brilliant men will roll their eyes at us from their graves; all their years of research will be squandered by a few years of rogue machinery. The death toll will only reach one hundred and thirteen, but this number will be enough. Production on all new forms of technology will stop; millions will lose their jobs, and the Midwest, with its fertile lands and honest people, will begin to thrive. The future is bright for farmers. There will be a surge of people to the square states, all looking for jobs and houses, excited to start families, to shoot them up like crops. It will mean sickness that will catch like gum to a shoe. Gum will have been outlawed for causing cancer, and will be a rare commodity. If gum gets stuck to the bottom of your shoe, you bet you will sit for hours on your couch scraping it off and finding someone to sell it to, because retail still does not pay well. Minimum wage will increase to fifty dollars an hour, but with inflation, fifty dollars will be barely enough to live on. No one will trust robots. I will tell everyone about the time I saw a tumbleweed plié past an ATM. Shopping malls especially will be way behind. Cashiers still tap dirty touchscreens and scan barcodes. There is still a beeping noise, though studies have found the beeping decreases levels of patience exponentially. The beep is so standard on every register that we are scared to do away with it. The Midwest is angry, but what can we do? We are hunters, gatherers, hillbillies, rednecks. We hang deer out in trees in our yards to drain their blood. We sit, knees touching, when there is room on the subway. We like to be close to someone. We are not made for retail, its long hours, its pricy garments and fanciful names for things that have names already. Who decided we should start calling sweaters, warms? We are not made to negotiate the price of an item for the hole in its sleeve. We are made to sew up those holes. We have been made so our brows stick out a ways, so the sweat will drop past our eyes. Does no one appreciate the imperfections in a bar of soap? My mother once asked me as I complained that, indeed, a woman today had found fault in the skin of a cherry scented soap. A chip, a scrape, a bruise in the soap’s flesh that would melt away under water, bubble up and disappear. Retail in the Midwest in the near distant future is not for those of us who would take the side of a bar of soap, but right now, it is all we have.

 

Jacob Guajardo is from St. Louis MI, not MO. He currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI where he is pursuing a BA in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University. His work has appeared at Hobart, Necessary Fiction, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere. He was rooting for Tiffany. Find him on Twitter @mrsaintjacob

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EVAN AND HIS YELLOW FIAT DISAPPEARED

 

by Scott MacAulay

 

Evan and his yellow Fiat disappeared while stopped on the Brooklyn Bridge. The fog was thick that morning.

Evan’s wife told the police he had been unsettled for weeks, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, but wouldn’t say why. She’d tried gently coaxing him out of it with kisses and hugs, and whispers of naughty things in his ears. She tried stamping her feet, speaking harshly, telling him even the cat was distraught.

The driver behind Evan’s yellow Fiat, Mrs. Yarlkowski, said she last saw it just before the fog turned thick as smoke and the traffic stopped. She couldn’t see the front of her own car then. About ten minutes into the standstill, the fog lifted enough for Mrs. Yarlkowski to see the yellow Fiat was gone. There was a car length between her and the next automobile. A Fiat is a small car and she could only guess its driver had managed to get onto the sidewalk immediately to her left and driven away, but there was a sidewalk guardrail between pedestrians and motorists and it was intact. On her right, cars were tightly jammed.

The police searched Evan’s house, his locker, his desk in the cubicle from which he worked for most of his adult life at the Liberty Insurance Company. In the desk’s bottom left drawer, beneath the remains of yesterday’s lunch, they found a child’s baseball glove and a yellowed newspaper clipping, both from the 1960s, but Evan’s wife and co-workers recognized neither.

The clipping told of a magician who, forty years ago to the day, said he’d make the Brooklyn Bridge disappear, but failed. In the photograph of the watching crowd was a little boy bent over to fetch his dropped baseball glove.

 

Scott MacAulay is a former educator and community development worker who now devotes his time to writing poetry and short fiction. His work has been published in The Antigonish Review, On the Premises, and Bywords Magazine. He resides in Ottawa, Canada.

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