By Nicholas Olson
We are in here. Here is where I come to pull you out of the scattered debris of who you are. Who you are is a collection of tattered trades and 45s whose dust crackles can be pinpointed to mishandling thirty years ago: an old liebe whose needle-placing skills left something to be desired. Your beard houses vermin and you scratch at it, at them. I try to smile.
I ask you how you are and you conjure that Beethoven fugue with da-dum and trills as premature moonlight pulls you into the pepto pink Chicago sky behind you, through the windows, where there are people who walk and drive and look in as you look out. Here is something for you:
a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.
a state or period of loss of awareness of one’s identity, often coupled with flight from one’s usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.
Did I get that from the Google? (When you say it, it becomes ze Googre.) Your peeling fingers swipe my screen as the other hand twirls the trill. How are your kids? They are fine, fine. Beethoven’s French name was Louis, you tell me. Louis van. Not as imposing as the Ludwig. His nephew tried to shoot himself. In those days it was a crime. Ludwig/Louis had him placed in the army to remove him from serving the time. You flick flaking skin from your forehead onto your lap and it piles.
Your father used to listen to old Große Fuge as the smoke rolled out of the factory across the strasse. You’d ask what they were making there, why all the smoke. It was like extra clouds being manufactured: cirrus, stratus, cumulonimbus, then little dragon puffs from candlelight stories when you could hear the Sturmbannführer’s boot heels clacking on cracked pavement. You ask me to show you Facebook and I find your daughter. She has 517 friends.
You want to walk, want to breathe in the lake’s briny fake-sea smell, so I go with you. The water is the color of the factory clouds and you tell me to be silent. We listen to the music of the water, you and I, du und ich, and I help you unlace shoes, peel socks off crackling feet. You go in up to your ankles, knees, neck. The tide comes in high and gathers you, swallows you whole, breaks you down into your composite parts.
I watch you disperse, watch till day cracks open the sky and I can hear the fugue you asked for, the one your 45 never played. I go home when I know you aren’t coming back.
– Nicholas Olson earned his BA at Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently lives in Chicago where he’s writing a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, Eunoia Review, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Foliate Oak, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at nicksfics.com.