I participated in a “Word of the Day” storytelling challenge in 2014. Many American University students and professors were given two or three words, mine were coffee and balcony, and tasked to tell a story, using that word, in about 100 words.
All I can see is the top of dead trees. Every now and then, the top of a truck enters view and I go crazy. Trucks are the best, and trucks are a tease. How can I stay strapped down when big things are peering down and that red line by my handle won’t stop taunting me to see if the door is locked or not? I have asked what would happen; I was told not to. But I’m alone and curious and I need to know, so I slowly reach forward and—
“Shit!” Coffee burnt my step-dads tongue.
That’s not what I expected. I promise I will never try to open the door again.
The ‘70s really knew how to ugly up a place, and it doesn’t help me sell a house now, in the twenty-teens. They would install these obnoxious hanging light fixtures just low enough to hit your head, the most baffling wallpaper, and who is it that decided wasting half of the second floor with an indoor balcony was a good idea? The most interesting things you’ll see from up there are the stains soaked into your shag carpet. Each stain has its own story, but the realtor insists that they all have to be slowly quieted, killed, with chemicals and a few hard scrubs. One story refuses to die, yelling from the grave— the spot that has been rubbed cleanest, no trace remaining that there was ever a collapse. Things are starting to quiet down now, one sale, many months and too many chemicals later.
Poppy after orange poppy after poppy the earth laces its lack of ambition into the air as if to blind it. Do spores smell like death? No. Death doesn’t smell like anything. The smell clinging to the humidity in the air is a body decaying. Three billion years ago, maybe more, just a single bacterial spore is frozen in an ambitious comet, the remnant of a collapsed cloud of gases and dust cloaked with a thick over coat, vintage permafrost. After scheming for two hundred fifty-million years of lonely adventures, the warmth of a yellow star and a chance collision plant the seed. It is a devious sort of life that thrives on death, like a crow without a beak made for tearing into flesh that circles a bloated carcass, waiting for a tire to break the skin and continue the tradition of life after decay, after death, after sloth, after solitude, after passion, after purpose after life.
Poem inspired by and first line quoted from Dawn Lonsinger’s “The Lawn Aglow,” p. 66 in The Pinch’s Fall 2009 issue.
Everyone loves pizza night. Stevie gets to have stuffed crust, Mom doesn’t have to cook and, for me, Pizza Hut has some delicious wings. Stevie is already gnawing on his first piece crust-first before Mom comes to the table. She picks up her knife while taking out the Granny Smith apple hiding under her apron and quickly cuts it into pieces. She gives Stevie and I each half before he has time to finish chewing his two mouthfuls of food.
She stands up with her empty glass and puts her hands on her hips. “Now, Stevie, you have to eat that apple too, not just cheese.” He scowls and nods his head; I laugh and diligently pick the drum sticks out of the box of hot wings. They’re the best. A low hum starts to build until it covers the sound of chewing. “Ugh. The fridge is acting up again. We just had someone come look at it this afternoon and he didn’t find anything wrong with it. I think he might have taken the stuff I bought for a salad tonight, too,” Mom says while banging on the side of the fridge. “Oh, it stopped. Well, you still won’t get away without me making you eat something green, will you Stevie?” Continue reading Executable (short story)