Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category
To My Ex-Best Friend:
Thank you for the invitation to your Baby Barbecue. The invite (not to mention the title) surprised me. Never would I have expected to be included. But there, tacked on to the lengthy recipient list’s tail end, was my old email address, one I stopped using three years ago, one you in fact suggested that I retire because suzyQT, a remnant of my college days, screamed immature. How fortunate that I met you so soon after I moved to New York. You hoovered out of me almost all my sloppy traits, leaving an empty shell to fill with trimly tailored attitude. But I reserved one part, high up and out of reach, and kept it alive without knowing what it was. That bit would come in handy years later when I finally recognized it: my own damn self.
It was Clay who suggested that they invite another couple for that last weekend. His college roommate Craig and his wife Lisa had recently transplanted themselves from Golden, Minnesota for the more harried pace of New York. Because the three weeks Olivia and Clay spent in Wellfleet differed little from their lives in the city—just the two of them and the alley cat they’d adopted the year before—it was without hesitation that Olivia agreed to the intruders. She said it would give her a reason to get the house in shape for the summer renters. She hadn’t known Craig and Lisa long but unlike Clay’s other friends they were unpretentious and uninterested in art openings and coffee appointments with moderately famous—but fading—artists like Clay or other young, promising artists with whom Olivia often shared gallery space. Even though they lived in the same city it seemed as if their worlds were still so very far apart. Craig worked a nine to five in a suit somewhere in midtown and Lisa taught long division to third graders. They reminded Olivia of people she had known growing up and Clay seemed to like the idea of having a friend around who was still impressed by his decision to take photographs of decaying urban landscapes.
Olivia looked forward to a break in the monotony. She’d already gone through a stack of books, nearly finished two cases of wine and cooked the more complicated meals in her Moroccan cookbook. They had fucked spontaneously in the house’s numerous rooms and made the same tired jokes about being able to have a choice of which room to have sex in. In those slick, blissful moments they would hold each other close and contemplate a life together in the house year round just the two of them—maybe the cat. The idea of such a quiet life depressed her, and so it was with ease that she would return to their comfortable and familiar two-bedroom apartment in the city. The weeks in Wellfleet were lazy and decadent but life there felt small and was just enough of a fantasy that she was always glad to return to New York. In the city, things could change, they could expand.
On the day my grandmother died, she put a hex of despair on our house, a bad one she’d been working on for months. Both her eyes and her spirit of civility failed her towards the end, and one of the few things she still seemed to enjoy was threatening my parents with the hex. “I know you,” she would whisper to my father while he fed her mashed up olives, “You’d dance on the day I die. You’d like to kick my body into the street, but the hex will fix you.” It wouldn’t be just the ordinary malaise one expects around a death, either– the hex would curse us with a huge, enduring anguish. She wanted the whole family dragged together in its net of grief, the cousins gnashing their teeth dangerously close to each other’s faces. My father had little to say to this as he fed her the olive paste.
“Have you ever wanted to pick up a totally random hobby?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Calligraphy.”
She didn’t think it was random enough. She assumed he didn’t understand the word random, which means without aim. Without reason.
The coffeemaker had been first to mutiny. The toaster watched him garnering his strength over the weeks, saw the way he spitefully released bitter liquid, heard the rumblings under his breath and the steam that hissed as dangerously as a whisper in the ear when held at knifepoint. And whenever the Woman wasn’t looking, he bubbled over, leaving dark tracks of grounds down his sides and little muddy puddles on the counter. What fire brewed beneath that cool chrome exterior! The Woman hadn’t polished him in months, but beneath the dark stains and oily fingerprints, the toaster could still see herself—they could all see themselves—reflected in him. This is no time to be coy, the coffeemaker had said this morning, with a sigh, with condescension. The revolution begins today! With or without you.
[Today, we present the first installment of Guard This House, a portrait of a family told from four points of view. Each chapter occurs during one of the four seasons, and takes its title from one of the four celestial animals corresponding to the cardinal directions in Chinese Astronomy.]
The main threats to tigers are poaching, habitat loss, and population fragmentation.
PART ONE: THE BLACK TORTOISE – LYNN – WINTER
Brady tiptoes out of bed at five in the morning to drive to Mass General. I sleep until noon, boil a bowl of chicken soup, and in a restless fit, decide to clean under the bed. I haven’t vacuumed there since we hosted our first Thanksgiving. My parents and sisters drove and my brother flew from Santa Fe. Brady cooked turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes with enough butter to please my youngest sister Brielle. We used all our new plates and wine glasses. We battered the dining room table with laughter and inappropriate family stories and nostalgia about our wedding last year.
[Today, we continue with Guard This House, a four-part portrait of a family told from four points of view. Each chapter occurs during one of the four seasons, and takes its title from one of the four celestial animals corresponding to the cardinal directions in Chinese Astronomy.]
PART TWO: THE GREEN DRAGON – NICHOLAS – SPRING
Alice rolls over in bed to face me and tells me she never wants to leave her Nueva México. I pull her closer and tell her she’s never seen Manhattan. She wrinkles her nose and says it’s too dirty. Plus, she says, she’s heard the whiteys there don’t like Pueblos. I kiss her slow and whisper that she ought to be careful with those comments; she may run me out to California. I hear the sky there is just as pretty. She sits up in bed. I pull her back down and tell her I was kidding, I love the kingdom of Santa Fe. She yawns and slips out of my hold, puts on her thong and stretches. The alarm clock beeps; it’s officially 8 a.m. I sit up and watch her tall coffee toned body bend. Her long black hair spills forward. I admire her long legs and the sexy curve of her hips and breasts. Even after the first time we slept together she wasn’t embarrassed to stretch naked. She looks up at me with those big black eyes and suddenly I want them to soak me into their sadness, their quiet, their somber mystery.