Artist, Dorothee Lang: Lang is a writer, web freelancer, and traveler, as well as the editor of BluePrint Review. She lives in Germany, keeps a sky diary, and always was fascinated by languages, roads, and the world, themes that reflect in her own work. The road photo above, “Tramuntana,” is from the Northern coast of Mallorca island. For more about her, visit her at life as a journey.
* * *
The Shoes, the Girl and the Waves that Washed Them Away
Sandals—white, from Spain. Sneakers—for the gym, virgins to the street. Pumps? Do they still call them that? Black leather boots from Paris—knee-high and never worn. The girl crams the shoes in the powder blue suitcase, a present from her mother in case she felt the need to travel. Six years later, the girl feels a need. It’s four in the afternoon. Spencer will be home any minute. If she doesn’t leave now, she’ll run into him on the subway. He’ll want explanations: why she’s crying, why the suitcase, why he isn’t enough (why nothing ever is), and why she isn’t wearing shoes.
The airport crawls and yaps with children laughing at the barefoot lady clutching her suitcase like a little girl. She’s in line at the Last Minute window, booking a flight to a place she’s never heard of. Her mother once said, Girl, as long as you can say where you are, you’re not lost; so the girl chooses a place she can’t pronounce.
She spills the contents of her purse onto the desk, fishes out her Visa and points to a place called Belmopan. Are you sure? the man behind the desk asks. No, she says and swipes her card. Eleven hours later she’s landing at a tiny yellow airstrip buried in a scrap of jungle. The other American girls at the hostel squeak about a party on a grass island at something called The Roaring Minute Creek. Why’s it called that? she asks, but the American girls aren’t listening anymore; they’re in labor, giving birth to a mischief of pink, yawning mice.
With her suitcase, the girl walks out of town to The Roaring Minute Creek. She wades to the tiny grass island where brown men are dancing—a rhumba of rattlesnakes. What’s your name? someone says and hands the girl something to eat. Pumpkin, she thinks. A brown hand gives her a baby and disappears. What’s in the suitcase? the baby asks. Spencer of course, the girl says. New York, choices (Do they still call them that?). By midnight, every body on the island is a wailing baby—except the girl and a goat. Don’t you want to be a baby too? she asks and grins at the goat. It grins back—its teeth pumpkin orange—and says, Goats don’t get choices.
The next morning she wakes up thirsty and brown. The babies, the goat and her suitcase are gone. The island is bare except for herself and an abandoned pair of shoes next to her like an X marks the spot. She slips them on, stands up and laughs. They’re too big, but she can already feel her feet plumping. Belmopan, she says. Bel. Mo. Pan.
Christopher Allen has his left foot in Munich, his right in London. Think Colossus of Rhodes but cuter. Softer. His fiction has enjoyed many online homes including Wilderness House Literary Review, The Smoking Poet and Referential Magazine. Allen’s creative non-fiction has been featured at Connotation Press and in numerous print anthologies including the best-selling series Chicken Soup for the Soul. He blogs about his obsession with seeing planet Earth at I Must Be Off.
She wasn’t naked when I met her, not to look at anyway. Moonlight hair, shadow shroud, fat buffering her soul. We squirted paints, pinched sable brushes, muttered shyly about lacking talent as she disrobed. We saw her as no-one had back then, sketching with sharp pencils, greying her ample form, ghosting cardboard smooth and beige. Driftwood on a shipwrecked beach.
People looked, once they knew, but who expects such absence? Except they who create them. Posters taped to lamp-posts, descriptions roger’d through static; no mobiles back then. Body snatched and seen with evil eyes and twitching fingers.
She reclined, whipped cream belly spooned over tapioca thighs. Eyes closed, baring skin enough for two. She wouldn’t lie flat. No further than a broken spectacle leg. Hair of adulthood hidden as if scared, curled into her lap. No playing dead, not today, not since.
Deodorant stank in my throat. I sniffed caesium white to displace it, smeared pale in soft curves as I fingered her throat.
Unquiet but still, both body and room. She spoke as she couldn’t then, near death’s furtive fingers in his five door coffin, her trunk cramped in his. Next time she lay prone, flat as pre-teen chests, eyes skyward, open or closed, unused, her heart would still too. Though hearing her voice tales of kidnap and woe, she would not be victim.
Gill Hoffs lives in Warrington, England with her husband and son though her mind wanders all over the place. Her work has won several prizes and is available widely online and in print. Currently researching a non-fiction book about daring rescues in Scottish waters, she’d love to hear your [true] tales. Email her at email@example.com, check out her website, or find her on facebook.
He stands waiting where the ground splits, a skating azure seeping through the blinds. Sleepers’ souls are turning into cubes, pressed into shape by walls slowly moving in. As the houses exhale, his eyelids start to burn like granite tears on the pavement. He will not pick them up—he has waited too long and lost the strength to bend.
In twilight he opens his hand to show me a piece of stone. It has his face, then mine; then it glows and singes his palm. The lines disappear and he has no more fate to follow, only flesh.
“Is it your stone?” I ask.
“No, it’s yours,” he says. “Now take me home.”
Every night I crave the gun in my stomach. When he sat beside my carmine drapes, his face tattered by shadows, I wanted to butcher myself to pull the trigger. Only then would he know the turmoil I lived and still live.
I have not seen him again.
After the storm I hit the rooftop to tear dead leaves off the plants. I inherited them from the ghost couple who haunted the place, until they ran out of songs to keep the plants happy. I pace in muted songs and hold the plants when they avert their eyes.
Raindrops are dripping from bamboo sprawling to shield.
His words drift above concrete, taxis speeding into neon lanes and last shards of the night, to breathe a mechanical glow around my ear. I see him vaporize into a vodka haze on the windshield. Then smoke, shattered glass, and his car floating to exit the scene.
“I wanted to hear your voice,” he says. “Maybe this is a better way to go.”
How can I tell him he is not deserted, when he is?
I turn up the music and slip into drone, rock it like a tunnel in canary. When that does not erase his face, I cup my breast with one hand and let my hair fall.
I made the photo black and white and sent it with a note: “Let’s go to the seaside.”
He waits for me beneath a gloomy sky. It starts to drizzle as I take my shoes off to sit on a rock. The surf chases, breaks and washes over our feet. He presses his palm against the rock for a moment to steady himself. In the rain his eyes are black emeralds. I hold my breath.
“Have you been to a beach of stones?” he asks.
“No. It’d be nice to see.”
“It’d be a lot for you to see. I can take you—”
“No,” I say. “Don’t name it.”
Nicolette Wong is a writer from Hong Kong. She is the editor of A-Minor Magazine and she blogs at Meditations in an Emergency. She is also on the editorial teams of Negative Suck and Dark Chaos.
We are four: my wife and I on one side, another couple on the other. I’ve known the man sitting across me for quite some time, but we haven’t always been so willing to spend our evenings at the same table. That wasn’t my fault, nor was it his; in the beginning we accepted not everyone was destined for friendship—just because our wives were friends didn’t mean we had to be. Then one day he invited me on his boat, two men beneath the hot sun fishing the deep sea. We set sail at daybreak and by lunchtime, while we filleted a portion of our catch and drank beer, we talked like old friends; we both wondered what took so long.
Later that day, he spilled over the gunwale of the starboard side and I laughed at him; not the nasty laughter given to those misfortunes that are welcomed, more like a devious chuckle that hinted a desire to have pushed him in the first place, but he didn’t laugh back. The look in his eyes told me he was drowning, though he uttered no cries for help. My first thought was to throw him one of the life jackets that lined the rail, but a second thought had me throw myself instead. I jumped in and hauled him to the ladder over-hanging the stern. I saved his life and had he gone over a few hours earlier, I’m not so sure I would have. “Thank you,” is all he said, then walked to the ice chest and pulled two beers. He downed them both, and then pulled one for me.
I’m sure it was the rescue that ushered in the affair.
His wife sits at the corner opposite me, close to him, closer than she needs to be, still afraid the slightest hint might reveal our indulgence, which ended a long time ago. Her hand often finds the top of his hand and rests there in unspoken assurance, but the notion is anything but silent.
Not long after the rescue, I began to feel he owed me so I took my compensation by taking liberties with his wife and felt justified enough in doing so. It was easy, for in her eyes I was a hero, someone who saved the life of her love. The affair lasted a year and then, without reason or warning, I ended it. She threatened to tell him, but I knew she wouldn’t and as far as I know, she never did. Now, I can sit at the same table and relish in those things that make her cringe and, with each, she places her hand atop his, but looks at me and in her face I see something I’ve seen before: I see the same eyes I saw from the boat. Like him, her cries for help are silent, but she’s drowning, just the same.
My wife sits to my left. God bless her she always sits to my left. She allows herself the comfort that comes from these friendships because she knows nothing of the betrayals. She’s happy because she doesn’t know she has reasons not to be; true happiness only comes from not knowing certain things. She looks at me and smiles and drinks her wine and I look back at her and smile and drink my wine; she doesn’t even know who we are. She thinks we are the same people our waiter sees; to him, to the others sitting nearby, we’re all friends, four people who enjoy spending time together. They know nothing and neither does she.
The bill arrives and he insists on paying, but only because he knows I won’t let him. He does this every time. His wife glances at me again as if she knows what I’m thinking, that he’s already paid enough. She’s wounded, resentful, and wants me to know it. “You should’ve let him drown,” she once told me. Doesn’t she see that I did? I’ll let her drown, too. I look back at him, waiting for me to take the check, so I do. I provide in the only way I can.
We’ll do this again next month at a different place, different waiters and different food. We’ll even order different wine. But for me, it’ll be much the same.
Foster Trecost started writing in Italy and he still writes, but now from Philadelphia. Sometimes he works paying jobs that involve corporate taxes. When he’s not doing that, he usually goes back to Europe.
The air had cooled around their words, leaving only the acrid taste of regret. She stared at him through the window, his face red as he raked the embers, hair blowing up and east like white smoke caught by Siberian winds. He jigged about, stamping stray flames into the earth, or perhaps just warding off the cold.
You need to move.
How will you cope alone, if… when…
You don’t have to look after me.
I don’t want you to.
She nibbled the edge of her cookie and watched him hurl apple tree branches onto the heap, green sticks spitting sparks into the wind. He didn’t want her, for real. He would prefer to fall and crack, or singe and burn, than have her command his home, his meals, his life… for whatever months or years he had left. He’d roast her before he’d thank her—like now, feeding a fire only to stamp on it, scorching the wind with his noise and fire. Look at me, master of elements. Look at you, fat girl feeding. Go home, woman.
Was she that bad—a monster in his mind? Was it her doing; the crumpling of his newspaper, the polluting of his air with her perfume, her voice, or her small chewing noises? Or was it history, all the shrieks of ‘stupid girl’ and echoes of slapped flesh now haunting him with vengeful possibilities?
Or maybe he just wanted to be king of his own castle a little while longer? To stamp away the heat and the cold, to find peace alone, master of his own domain. Maybe all he’d ever wanted was choice.
She picked up the phone. She watched him wield his rake and she smiled. White hair, white rage, white rooms. She told them to come on Monday; she’d have him ready.