Thursday, April 07, 2005

[short short story in progress]

Better Living

No guests have arrived, but the party has already started for Daniel and Linda, who ate shrooms ninety minutes ago. On the roof Daniel melts smores on the Hibachi. Linda’s hands, despite repeated washings, smell like chopped meat from making endless hamburger patties. “Oh, all the perfumes in Arabia cannot sweeten this little hand, etc etc,” she says to the mirror in the bathroom. The girl in the mirror has huge pupils that make her eyes look like the black dots that comic book characters have for eyes. Walking into the kitchen, she poses dramatically in the doorway and says to the room, “I feel like Hopey from Love and Rockets. And I’ve never even read that comic book.” The big gray cat, positioned on the table amid the rolls and salads and bottles of vodka and tequila, looks at her quizzically. “Don’t you look at me like that,” she chastises him. “I know you know what I’m talking about.” She thinks that she and the cat have some sort of simpatico at this point, they are of similar mindsets and worldviews. Except she can’t imagine sitting among the food without her stomach churning.
It takes about three hours to climb out the window and up the fire escape ladder to the roof, thinking hard about how to coordinate the complex hand and leg movements necessary to complete this task. Once there, she marvels at the splendor of the wholly artificial sunset sponsored by Dow and whatever other chemical companies pollute the air over Jersey City. There is nothing as breathtaking as a chemical sunset in Linda’s experience. The particulants in the clouds filter the sunlight, producing a dark orange that fades up to purple, resulting in a vivid pinky-ginger color that always reminds her of this vile but gorgeous-looking hard candy her grandmother used to have around the house at Christmas time. It looked liked curled ribbon, she thinks it was called ribbon candy, but this isn’t making the impression on her brain that it ought to. It doesn’t feel right, and thinking about food, no matter how exquisite, makes her stomach heave in deep throbs. Daniel floats by and hovers, holding a smore near her face. The chocolate drips loathsomely over the graham cracker and onto his fingers, which are grimy gray from stacking the coals. She waves her hand slowly and makes a face as if being pestered by a ponderous mosquito. “Ew. I hate food. Right now.” In an instant, Linda is on her back on the soft sticky black tar roof, arm flung over her eyes. She has thrown herself there. Her mind gets lost in an Amazonian jungle, giant dewy green fronds folding over her face. Hours, minutes, but really seconds later, she sneaks a peak westward at Daniel’s shoes, inches away from her face and attached to Daniel. The shoes are flaming, or at least the pattern is, these are Hot Wheels-style Chuck Taylors, a little worn in the back, the colors fading, the rubber pulling away from the fabric where the ball of the foot bends the shoe. His pants fall to exactly the correct spot. The edges are slightly frayed. The radiant sunset is sweepingly dramatic and makes brilliant halos around everything she sees. She shades her eyes and looks up towards Daniel’s face, a beautiful confection of Irish-American angst and southern civility, softened by whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The air, heavy with Hibachi fumes and melting tar, glides gentle fingers on Linda’s sweaty skin. Roaring cars sound several towns away. Party guest Bob is down on the street below, calling her name. She hears it on the edges of her brain. Finches twitter. A chunky bumblebee slurps from a puddle of orange soda a few feet from Daniel’s heartbreaking sneakers. Her Hello Kitty watch ticks away one second. Like the time a Ulysses butterfly landed on her hand at the butterfly tent at the Bronx Zoo, she is paralyzed, afraid to breathe, unwilling to let this moment go.

4 Comments:

Blogger eurotoaster said...

Those shoes are "heartbreaking?" I never would have thought of that. Very nice work.

I don't even know if it needs the "in progress" caveat. It's short and sparse, but, you know, I like things like that.

Having ready this, today can't be a total waste, even if I never get moving on my own "story in progress."

*Your blog doesn't allow anonymous comments, so I had to sign up for a blog to say this.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

i'm sorry! i changed that.

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