Doctor Says I Can’t
Something to do with kidney strain. Now, absurdly, my feet are what move me. I look to the sky, clouded by people: executives floating to work in suits… kids soaring too high, backpacks dangling by a strap. Police officers hover ten stories up, analyzing the flow of traffic. When my neck aches from tension and longing, I return to the rippled shade of the sidewalks, which are in severe disrepair, as everyone in this city flies. I avoid fellow terrestrial travelers, who inevitably seek to combine their misery with mine. The path is dim—is cracked, unreal and lonely—but veined with a sunlight sifted down through gentle, weightless limbs.
The Elderly Rule The Isle
A dusty ring of rock on the Mediterranean. Fishing boats. Cypress trees that shiver in a salted wind. The aged here resolved to ignore what they belittle as ‘customs.’ They steal impulsively, are adulterous and speak their minds. The murders do not overly tax the limited judiciary, as the murderer often perishes as well, often in a ludicrous struggle. The cobblestone alleys of the main port are not a place to run afoul of geriatric gangs, for they attack in boundless waves, bristling with knives and cypress canes. These vicious elderly, who comprise a vast majority (a crashed birth rate, the youth deserting), appear to believe they have nothing to lose.
The Context Of A Star
Whenever a couple began to quarrel, they separately and together became aware of a massive blue star about twelve hundred light-years distant. They tasted as much as saw this star, and could above all hear its infinite silence. Upon its arced flares and liquid shimmer, time broke. They had access to annihilating heat, but the experience left them quite cold, not to say stunned and scraped-out. Afterward, they could no longer go on quarrelling, but neither could they retreat into polite conversation. Egos clipped, they wandered away from one other, mumbling half-apologies, to the farthest recesses of their house.
O Ye Of Brittle Faith
A gilded church in Bolivia was colonized by short-nosed bats. Panicked at a nun’s atonal organ requiem, they swarmed the altar to defecate en masse. Laicized, the ex-nun mastered virtual abduction, texting for ransom from hacked cell phones. In Florida, the cologne business, ‘Redemption’ (for men) her signature scent. Circulating Canadian quarters, she helped to shatter the fiction of money. Gold too. A limo arrived at the gates of her decaying mansion. An angel of pre-death climbed out, rang the bell, watched TV with her for a week. Bearing an obscure tattoo that made morticians paler still, the corpse was ultimately mislaid.
Ran Into My Doppelgänger—Again
‘Hey,’ I said. ‘God damn it,’ he replied. We were at the bar of the worst concert venue in town, a concrete box with prison acoustics, glassy dance-pop thudding the floor. ‘You know this is bad luck,’ he said. ‘Death and that.’ He was wearing clothes not dissimilar to mine but more expensive and freshly pressed. I craved his pity, if only to waste it. The attractive bartender slid him two vodka-somethings and waved away the cash he offered. ‘You know her?’ I asked. ‘It’s not about knowing,’ he explained, handing me a cocktail, sipping from the one he kept. ‘You ever try, you know, acknowledging that other people exist?’
Overtime In The Redaction Room
The Redaction Room is busiest on Thursdays, other types of days having been redacted. We cannot take breaks, as breaks were long ago redacted; fortunately, with a little foresight, fatigue was redacted first. Last month, our budget came down from on high, and it seemed we would have to lay off Sonya, our new assistant, but we hit upon the solution of redacting her instead. What’s curious is how redaction doesn’t obliterate the thing in itself, at least not right away: postcards lingered on refrigerators before vanishing completely, and gorillas have been reported in several zoos. Naturally, we shall have to address the larger question of zoos.
Les Petites Morts, The Insistence Of The
He dreamed that he couldn’t quit shoplifting; his wife said it had to do with guilt; the next day he shoplifted two books. He read much into the email subject line ‘Re: Re:’ Sick that his self might forfeit control, he dizzied at any balcony’s edge. He didn’t wear a wristwatch—he’d had five pricey models expire in five consecutive months. Hungover, he was a paper bag full of teeth. He had a knack for kiting, a puzzling need for it, an abandoning oneself to mindless instinct and empty success. If one area of his skin were touched, the rest would feel an echo. He had to confess: he liked to be used. He did consider himself a thing.
Plagued By Enormous Stick-Figure Men
There is little to be done about the enormous stick-figure men—those ballpoint doodles, tall as water towers, who stroll about our rural county, kicking through barns and flattening the tobacco. They are especially active just after dawn, causing the slow-witted man who delivers our newspaper no small amount of anguish. One tripped over some power lines and crushed the historic colonial house, crippling its heroic curator. Rumors of federal disaster relief multiply, though in a bitterly skeptical way. Students and spinsters condemn the mayor at village council meetings, which bore him, which leads to his drawing more stick-figure men.
She Could Only Have Had Hollow Bones
She was so light, so thin and translucent, you worried a finger might poke clear through. You drove up the super-expressway from Chihuahua to Bismarck, stopping rarely to pee on cacti. In Nebraska she pulled over for a hitchhiker, though a worrying dusk had spilled across the plains. The hitchhiker said he’d escaped an asylum. ‘Same here,’ she countered. The three of you were laughing, fading, spiraling up out of your ribs. You were weak, no more than the shine on your eyes. Finally, you became the uncertainty in a motel’s arctic air, with influence over all but the ashtrays, these being glued in place.
At Night We Leave Our Doors Ajar
In our building, which affords a lovely view of the bay, we’re not shy. We say hello in the elevator or at the mailboxes. We celebrate the summer holidays with barbecues in the inner garden. It’s common to come home and find a neighbor on the sofa, reading whatever is at hand. At night we sleepwalk, trading beds. Some mornings we wake to find that 6A’s tenant is in 6B, 6B’s in 6C, and so on (6H winding up in 6A). Some days we find ourselves rearranged beyond any conscious pattern. It is suggested that our bodies direct us to stages our souls have quietly demanded, rooms in which identities may almost be exchanged.
The Few Who Fit
In a dynasty thick with preemptive grudges, quarter-siblings, un- and re-adoption, only five ever fit their surroundings: Two cousins wearing bumblebee costumes, astray in the woods on Halloween, one telling jokes he had modified. A thrice-married father, pilot of a killer drone by whose nickname he liked to be called. A prodigy pulling up grass in handfuls, calculating how long, accounting for growth of 1/240th of an inch per hour, it would take to trim the entire field. The daughter, the sister, the woman who at this autumn moment stands beside the reservoir in Central Park, but carries everywhere a vaporous frame about her.