Blue Five Notebook – (November 2015 / 15.22)
Artist, Christopher Woods: House, Evening, Old Chappell Hill Road. Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His published works include a novel, The Dream Patch, a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His fiction has appeared in a number of publications including Stone Voices, The Southern Review, Columbia, New England Review, New Orleans Review, and Glimmer Train. He conducts private writing workshops in Houston. His photographs have appeared in many journals, with photo essays published in Glasgow Review, Public Republic, Deep South, Shadowgraph, and Narrative Magazine, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery.
Things I Will Not Open
The small book he held
with both hands as if
he would drink from it
as if it overspilled,
his hand beside his thigh,
the question he covers,
the unquiet answer,
the door I would then
have to close between
or behind us, my eyes,
my mouth, my throat
the gate to a cry
I would not want to stifle,
the avenue of escape
or discussion, the window
beside an officer telling me
to come, the question,
the box inside another
box inside another box,
the shell he did not warm
in his pocket or at the tips
of his cooling fingers,
the way I wanted him
to drink, to be spilled
Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, The Louisville Review, and Nonbinary Review. Her chapbook Dear Turquoise is available from Dancing Girl Press. She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.
There is a murderer staying in the ice hotel. He sleeps on his ice bed which is covered in reindeer fur. He drinks Absolut vodka from a frozen shot glass. He cries to the walls made of the clear, pure, bubble-free ice harvested from the nearby Torne River. The snow cementing the ice block muffles his grief. It absorbs what he cannot bring himself to say: he killed his girlfriend when he caught her with another man.
The ice in his room shifts, sighs, drips. It is April 6, the end of the season. A dripping snow column beside his bed pulses with multi-colored LED lights, He is calmed by this, this lifelike column a beating heart, a gentle mother watching over him as he lies upon his bed. He finally falls asleep in a room that is twenty-four degrees Fahrenheit.
The next morning, the murderer goes on a tour to meet the indigenous people, the Sami or “reindeer people.” A group of men taking the tour are hung over and worried about getting to Heathrow. They make fun of the guide who fries reindeer meet before the fire in his ancestral tent. The guide tells them about his culture and the men ask him where he gets his clothes and the guide says his mother sews them. “Oh,” says one of them. “I would have said Saks.”
There is a woman with them too but she watches the fire intently. After they have eaten, they ride in sledges behind reindeer. The men are thrilled with the bull who is so fast, pulling each of them, they are tossed into the snow. The woman quietly rides in her sledge behind a cow. The murderer takes over her sledge when she is finished and doesn’t mind the pace.
He wonders if he could escape to this place, ingratiate himself among the people, learn the language, tend the herds. He wants to live among the reindeer with their large brown, wet eyes. Could he escape into the wilds of Lapland, where in winter the temperatures hover around zero and snow would not be shared with another for miles? He could change his name, adopt their belief in an animated world, exact his own punishment or wait for it to come.
As it stands, the ice hotel is melting. Soon it will no longer be structurally sound. He buys equipment in Jukkasjärvi and a pack of dogs using the remaining money in his account. The trees stand around him like thickly frosted decorations on a thickly frosted cake. He sets out on his sled, making his mark upon the snow, a mark that will be gone when the snow falls again that night, a wet spring snow but a blanketing one. Even the hotel will melt into the Torne River and be resurrected the next winter with no traces of anyone having slept there before.
* Some of the details regarding the hotel and tour are loosely based on Barbara Sjholm’s beautifully written travelogue, The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland.
Meg Sefton’s work has appeared in Best New Writing, The Dos Passos Review, Atticus Review, Connotation Press, and other journals. She received her MFA from Seattle Pacific University and lives in central Florida with her son and their little white dog Annie.
Boots in the Rain
Life-support had made him
primordial, existing only on O2
pumped through a tangle of tubes.
I signed some paperwork
and, click, no hum.
He gasped and wilted
to less than I remembered.
Then I passed out.
and the doorway framed
dripping sky and crooked transient,
thin hair plastered, off-the-rack suit soggy,
too big, wearing galoshes, no socks.
I surfaced as he walked away,
sloshing through puddles,
galoshes akimbo on the doorstoop.
Edison Jennings is the author of Reckoning, a collection of poems published by Jacar Press. His work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Slate, Southern Review, Connotation Press, and elsewhere.
As Mr. Mistry watched his son clean up the restaurant’s kitchen, he was reminded of a young Dara Singh, whose v-shaped wrestler’s build and swarthy leading man features, held both beauty and power whenever the actor was on screen. As a small boy, he remembered the black and white film, Tarzan comes to Delhi, where Dara Singh played the lead role and the stunning Mumtaz was Rekha, who in trying to save her father fell for the larger-than-life but still sensitive Lord of the Jungle. Mr. Mistry also remembered that it was there in the fuggy cramped cinema with the earthy smells of his father’s body odour and the pungent scents of cumin and mustard oil that he first laid eyes on his beautiful Desna. He knew then that the girl who grasped her auntie’s arm when the native tribe threatened Rekha with dire harm would one day be his wife and they would live together in wedded companionship that would last until old age.
But that wasn’t meant to be. And now, gazing at his goliath of a son who must also endure a love lost, Mr. Mistry watched with eyes filling with tears as Devadas gathered up the once white apron and tea towels stained saffron and persimmon with splotches of turmeric and cinnabar for the nightly soaking. In the morning, Devadas would comment that in the end the water in the bucket was always the same dirty grey despite how colourful it all began.
“Put those down,” Mr. Mistry said to his son. “I don’t want to go home. I want to go for a drink.”
Devadas towered over his Dad. The towels were still gripped in his flatiron hands. He smelled of earthy body odour and the pungent scents of cumin and mustard oil.
“Have I told you, you remind me of my father,” Mr. Mistry said.
Devadas tried not to roll his eyes. “Yes, Dad. All the time.”
“Well, you do. And it’s a compliment.”
“I’m not up for a drink. My feet are tired and” — he sniffed an armpit — “I stink.”
“There’s a new Spanish restaurant a few blocks down. It sells sherry from an actual oaken butt with a real venenciador from Jerez who pours with great showmanship. You like sherry.”
“No, Jenny was the one who liked it. I can’t stand the stuff.”
Mr. Mistry changed tack. “Kochadaiyaan is playing at the Rialto. A film and a glass of Pinot, then?”
“I saw it last week with Rishi. Remember? He thought the movie would cheer me up.”
“Letting me get on with my job. And not talking about her.”
Devadas was prone to dark moods just like his mum. At night behind the cinematic blackness of his eyelids, Mr. Mistry still saw the violet sari after all these years, stretched across the top of the kitchen door and down the other side and tied tautly to his beloved Desna as she knelt forward as in gentle silent prayer. As father and son stood in the empty restaurant, they both knew what could happen if sorrow was allowed to over salt the broth.
“I’d love your company,” Mr. Mistry confessed because all of a sudden their loneliness was unbearable.
When Devadas returned to his task of putting the pans away, Mr. Mistry said, ‘See you at home, son.’
And shut the unlocked door behind him.
Mr. Mistry learned to appreciate sherry when he visited Spain as a young man. It was before his marriage to Desna. He and Gaurav had dreamed of travel and Santiago de Compostela was at the top of their lists. His, because Mr. Mistry had begun his love affair with everything culinary, his dearest mate, because Gaurav had begun his own love affair with pilgrimages.
“The holy is all around us,” his beautiful friend used to say as they journeyed closer towards lands’ end, scallop shells hanging from leather cords and beating against their youthful chests in time with their earnest footsteps.
While Gaurav knelt before stone niches that held a saint’s shinbone or severed tongue tip, Mr. Mistry drank glasses of homemade apple cider misty as mountain mornings and learned the most delicate way to cook salt cod.
“The divine is here,” Mr. Mistry would say as he bit into a tender piece of octopus cured by the sun and Atlantic wind for fifty days.
Gaurav would wipe the juice that dribbled the soul of the sea down his bearded chin and whisper, “Miraculous.”
And during that summer trek with his beloved Gaurav who would be dead six months later from a terrorist’s bomb, Mr. Mistry discovered that a piece of desiccated liver from an ecstatic girl butchered for her belief twenty centuries ago and those devout who travelled hundreds of miles like salmon who returned to deliriously regenerate were more mysterious than any wondrous deeds of gods and goddesses and that life was meant to be diligently savoured like a fine Bordeaux cellared for decades or a childhood friend who walked with the simple joy of mystics in his heart.
Like a vision, Devadas appeared in the doorway of the Spanish restaurant. His face had so much Desna in its lines and contours that it made Mr. Mistry gasp and his heart skipped a beat and it felt like death and it was not completely uncomfortable. He ordered another sherry and murmured a quick prayer for the departed as he waited for his son to make his way to the table and like Tarzan save the day with his gentle silent presence.
Patrick Pink lives and works in Auckland and is an avid flasher. His work can be found in Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction. His previous micro story, Rose-Tinted World on Winter-Licked Sheets, was read on Radio New Zealand as a part of National Flash Fiction Day. A longer piece, Secondhand Suitcases to Saskatoon, will be in the upcoming issue of JONATHAN.
Catherine Pritchard Childress
Wife to Wife
My father admonished me
to remember you.
He couldn’t have known
how I would heed
his warning. I don’t
condemn your trespass,
I commend you,
don’t blame you
for wanting to stay
behind in a place
where you had friends,
I imagine your skeptical exit
from the gates of Sodom,
walking toward your life,
the view stinging
your eyes like desert sand.
A clouded image of Lot,
who didn’t fill your needs,
but satisfied his greed
when he pitched his tents.
Looking back was better
than blindly following
a father who offered
your daughters’ virtue,
kept his honor
locked behind doors,
conspired with angels
who lauded his intentions,
grieved his union
with an impure wife.
My father warned me
of the wrath
that changed you
to a pillar, scattered you
throughout that razed city,
but he didn’t know you
were the one
with power to cleanse,
couldn’t fathom teaching me
just how much you are worth.
Catherine Pritchard Childress lives in the shadow of Roan Mountain in East Tennessee where she teaches writing and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Louisana Literature, Connecticut Review, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, among other journals, and has been anthologized in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volumes VI and VII: Tennessee and North Carolina. She is the author of the poetry collection Other (Finishing Line Press, 2015).
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