Leaving only Vapor

“I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

He sat up and stared. No, he has no name. Don’t bother asking, I already did. He prefers anonymity. Anyway, he sat up, shoved the cat from his lap. “Extraordinary, how?” He took a sip of the tea he’d requested, tea I’d had to order from China. Pu-erh something or other, aged in the skin of an orange. He drank four cups each time he came, sitting elegantly upon the sofa he’d convinced me to put on my credit card, paying it off fifty bucks at a time so that he could rest his brittle bones upon a soft leather seat.

“Oh…” I reached into the plastic sleeve and grabbed another Thin Mint. Yes, he preferred the tin from Harrods, but he’d polished them off last month and I hadn’t yet gotten around to placing a new order, despite his persistent reminders. “Well, perhaps extraordinary is too strong of a word.”

“I see.” Another sip of the tea. A resigned sigh as he reached for a cookie.

“My socks, for instance.” Continue reading

A Square of Cotton Against a Wound

At a loss at what to do with Phillip Jackson Levitt, the family had secreted cameras in every room, save the kitchen: Phillip, being a genteel man, had every meal brought to him upon a silver platter with a single red rose in a crystal vase.

They flew in Doctor Marcel Archambault from Connecticut. Discretion could be bought.

They settled him into a blue wingback chair, pressed a glass of California wine into his hand. Laura held up the remote and stabbed at it with her thumb.

A bedroom. The man Phillip in his bed, asleep. A crystal vase on the nightstand. A single red rose. Continue reading

Come Back Kid

I never could cotton to to my third granddaughter. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, or thinking at the minimal. Downright cruel of me, not to love a child whose veins course with my blood. Even ruder to admit to it. Stab your accusational fingers at me all you want but hear my tale first.

They called her Dakota, of all names, even though the family hailed from Pittsburgh. The momma, my son’s latest wife Bev, had people from Rapid City. Bev was into that generational stuff, going back in time, looking at old documents, unfolding private letters long-forgot, fouling the air with their dusty secrets.¬†Spooked me fair out of my pelt, that child did, what with them cold staring eyes and the whitest skin a person ever could have. Dakota’s skin weren’t porcelain. No. It was translucent, so translucent, I could see the veins spidering across her arms and her eyelids.

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Mistakes

Izza scratched at the scab on her knee. “Man was a stranger here. Looked out of place, all wide-eyed and knees knocking as he walked down the rutted street in his suit and tie.”

Nora nodded, encouraging her grandmother to go on.

“Children in torn jeans played on tilting front porches. Dingy whites clung to backyard clotheslines. His father had refused us sidewalks; in a way trapping us permanently in this ramshackle development.”

“The Estates,” Nora said.

“Man sold promises and dreams.”

“But he didn’t sell houses.”

“Lord, we’d waited for years for affordable housing; for homes we could call our own; for a place we could pay off slow-like until we eventually owned it outright. Didn’t own a thing until his son came to town. I remember how he walked down the street, glancing at the addresses spray-painted on the rusted-out mailboxes. Thirty. Thirty-two. Thirty-four. Thirty-eight.”

“Our house.”

 

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To Grow in Darkness

After, when the war had ended and an uneasy peace had settled upon the village, Galina returned to us. Thinner, yes. We all were thinner, of course. But taller, too. And wiser. Certainly wiser.

Without intending to, she became our leader. We needed someone to look up to. She was the best we’d had since Markus had been killed the winter before. Galina could use a bow. Could hunt and trap. Legend was, she’d killed thirteen men.

Lucky thirteen.

She divided us into groups without regard to family connections: Those strong in weaponry moved to the east side of the village and began forging axes, spears and lances for the next war that Galina claimed would come at any time.

Strong men and boys brought buckets of water forth from the spring to replenish the wells that had been allowed to run dry.

Gatherers were sent to the fields, to glean what they could from the ruined crops before expanding to the woods in search of mushrooms and berries and the herbs known to grow in darkness.

The rest of the village, the remaining nine of us, were to clean up the ruins that were our homes: broken earthenware, crude utensils and shattered doors. All were to be brought to the center of the village where we would mend what we could in the evenings after the sun had faded from the sky.

Galina herself would hunt for meat.

 

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