Don’t count down in cadence
Or set your memories on a hinge
Gardens are gardens
Because flowers like to congregate
And arms don’t really envelop you
It’s really a striation
A mechanical bliss
I should have told you this sooner
But I just recently realized
The universe is perfect
Despite your sucker punch sundae
With all those toppings
Don’t count down in cadence
Did you see that? That was the third nurse to go by. They’re rubbernecking, OK? They’re not used to seeing me with family. I get more visitors than most, but they’re all a certain type, you know. Well, maybe you don’t. You’re a sweet girl, I can tell. You don’t have that look. My girls are—how can I put it? Well, so. I’m sure you’ve heard all about blue movies. You know, they’re the kind for adults…very European…not movies for nice girls.
But you already know: I was never a nice girl. I was in a blue movie once. I went by a different name then, but don’t look me up. Or my movie. You may think I’m out of touch, but I’m no fool. I know about the Google. I know all about it. And a blue movie isn’t the kind of thing you want your folks to see, not that you’d recognize me. I was pretty luscious back then. I can say that now. I modeled myself on the Sophia Loren type when everyone else was blonde.
So I was a little revolutionary, and so was my movie. It was about a housewife who was carrying on with the Fuller Brush Man while her husband was at work. One day, he came home early to find the housewife (who is me) making love with the Fuller Brush Man, right there on the couch! I know you would expect the husband to be furious, maybe even furious enough to kill the Fuller Brush Man. But this is where the twist came in. The husband found the scene exciting! The girls tell me it’s called a fetish now: cuckolding. What kind of man, I ask you. Not my Tony.
If You Must Know
The reason I carry this shovel is you just never know. Like at the bank—I’m waiting in line twenty minutes to learn that I’m in the wrong line. The teller told me this then looked me in both eyes while her lips played dead at me. I was supposed to be in a little alcove off to the left where the windows let in the light off the snow, making the National Geographics glow like gold-framed windows to wonderful. I had no idea. I was afraid to look in case a version of me was sitting there already, the clever me with leather shoes and nice slacks, who knew all along that’s where I belonged. Thank goodness for this shovel I’d have thoughtfully brought with me and which I’d slam into the carpet there and then, digging up heaps of floorboards, concrete, spitting electric vines, gravel, pale orange soil, as the bank and that teller’s lips parachuted into the air above me and I dropped into a different, if darker, universe where things make some kind of sense.
People never leave Lundy. Like the frog content in its pot of water, life slowly boils up around you. Next thing you know, the nicotine walls of the living room are swimming in ambulance light, your body fat has grafted to the couch, and a medic busts in, tripping over stacks of TV Guide and cans of Diet Coke stuck to the floor, reaching for his nose to pinch it shut.
At age fifteen, Cloud thought, to hell with curiosity killed the cat, leaped from the boiling pot, and took his old man with him. Dragged the bastard down the state road like a broken lawnmower.
The sun was high and the air sizzled. It might have been the sound of the old man’s cheek on the asphalt, sticking and peeling in the breezeless heat, but Cloud didn’t look back. The mortuary looming on the horizon coughed black billows that reminded Cloud of his mother. She’d been a smoker all her life—firsthand, secondhand, three-in-one-hand. At thirty-five, when doctors forced her to wheel around an oxygen tank, the old man starting calling her his caddie, but nothing stopped her from lighting up.
The funeral director had hair like the shell of a shiny black insect. He gave Cloud the third degree.
“You understand this is not…typical,” he said. “This is atypical.”
On my way into town I come across the butcher’s daughter who drags her pet pig down the sidewalk and sings a quiet song: You are my pig-face, my only pig-face, you make me happy, when skies are gray…Behind her, the pig carcass bumps along. And though he has no eyes to plead with, and though he cannot lick or grunt without a tongue, Pig-Face is grateful for her love. It is a love so vast—she loves the very idea of loving—that when Pig-Face gets caught around the mailbox, the intimacy with which she untangles his stiff little hooves is enough to bring me to tears. This is not her original Pig-Face (her parents bagged him at the foot of her bed and thumped him into a dumpster long ago), but what does that matter, as long as there’s still warmth in the girl’s heart and rope in her hand and the possibility of tethering herself to a new and obliging friend. I am beginning to wonder if I am too stingy with love—if, last week, when the man down the street complimented my feather duvet, I should have thanked him kindly instead of hurrying away and wondering how he had seen inside my house. I wonder if I could find sunshine in all neighbors and strangers and even dead strangers and dead neighbors, and as I imagine a happier me singing all this down the sidewalk, I am struck by the bigness of it all. Love! Together, the butcher’s daughter and Pig-Face and I will teach the world to live sweetly. We start by offering you this rope.
Indistinguishable from the snow
they stand on and from each
other, they gamely eat the set-
out pellets, unaware of being
I see their
heads over the hearth of that
house, where I’s read by the fire:
a child’s story of a white stag,
hunted, prized for…I don’t
know what I thought then, but
now I know: For a beauty we
Jeremy and I are twins but not the creepy kind. And we have red hair but, and you are just going to have to trust me on this, not the upsetting kind. We’re identical and I think Jeremy looks a lot younger, but Dad said we came out side by side, both of us at the exact same time, whistling Dixie. When Jeremy asked if he was serious, Dad smacked him on the forehead and told him no one wanted to hear which one of us was forty-five goddamn seconds older than the other.
Jeremy and I are gymnasts but not the unsettling sort of redheaded, twin, teen male gymnasts. People don’t appreciate how gymnastics prepares you for sports like football, even if you never play those other sports, because you never wanted to anyway. Gymnastics teaches you how your body moves through space, how it can be thrown, how it collides.
This little gem is our 2012 Paper Darts Short Fiction Award winner, and was previously only published in print. You should totally submit your 800 words (or fewer) to our 2013 contest and get in the running to win $800, a custom-illustrated short story website, and publication in Paper Darts Volume 5.
I wanted you to save me from the tractor beam, and I hated that I wanted it. You stupid hipster boy who looks like a pine tree had sex with an Urban Outfitters. You’re the worst kind of fake hipster lumberjack because you’re more likely to write a story about an axe than actually swing one. Have you ever touched an axe?
Anyway, all I wanted was for you to please just tug on my leg and pull me down before the aliens pulled me up into their ship. Maybe it was asking a lot; I mean, you’d broken up with me just four hours prior, on my bedroom floor where I slowly sank from a standing position as you told me, “I’m tired of doing this.”
I called you from the tractor beam, hovering there fifteen or so feet above Pracna, facing the bridge. I don’t know which one, just one of them. But not the one that collapsed back before I lived here. The other one, the pointier one. I never remember which one’s which.
Little was expected of the Wright brothers by those who knew them best. The citizens of Waterford, Ohio, who watched them ride their front-basket bicycles, trailing feathers back to the woods so many summer afternoons, who gossiped in diners and grocery aisles and eyed them disapprovingly while cutting their hair or trying to teach them about the Civil War, these people knew one thing for sure about Orville and Wilbur Wright: those boys would kill any and every bird they got their hands on. As for what they did with them afterwards, rumors ranged from witchcraft to taxidermy, neither of which could be considered appropriate activities for boys their age. And who could blame these people for thinking such things? For never realizing how tight the tether of gravity had grown, red and raw against the boys’ pale skin?