e c l e c t i c a f i c t i o n
(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole story!)
To Death (Spotlight Runner-Up!)
"A toast," the Russian shouted, standing. He interrupted conversations around the table. "I have a sister who is an artist, a sculptor in Moscow. She once told me, 'Art is life.' Me, I have my feet on the ground. I am a businessman. To the dear lady painter anyway. May she live long and paint often."
Death is on his mind today, but not the deaths of those millions in the past. Speaking about them is so taboo that they have become background radiation, the same intensity at all distances and thus inaudible, just like the entreaties of the beggar woman selling tissues on the overpass or the static of traffic and car horns. He is thinking of his own death.
More often I imagine myself young. The ocean is rising. I'll find a tough woman to love. We'll have two sons. Chase sunsets. Take telescopes on Ferris wheels. Teach the boys math and music, how to hunt and grow food, forage and fight. Hose mud off of them. They'll keep the apartment standing, running, inherit the tenants.
Before they get Austin epinephrine or steroids, anything close to the standard of care, Kathleen knows he won't make it. She yells orders. They need to intubate him, start an IV. Her voice is quick and shrill. "Move, God damn it, " she shouts uncharacteristically at a nurse who looks like she's walking underwater, but it's really Kathleen who feels stuck, like she's standing in tar, like someone's dragging on her ankles.
Apparently now there were things I was also forbidden to know. No doubt my parents would eventually ask why I was sulking ("self-reflection" was, to my mother's way of thinking, just another word for sulking), but by then we would be at the hot springs and maybe I could get off by myself for a while.
Sometimes when I held onto the machines, I pretended I was still dancing. If you call what I did dancing. It wasn't ballet, and it wasn't Fred Astaire. You would just put your hands on the boys' hips and toddle back and forth like a junior high dance where the principal watches like a hawk to make sure the kids don't get too close to each other.
When she met the best engineer of dams at the railway station, her inside pleasantly warmed to medium rare. At the end of a two-minute small talk, she sensed that Mr. Winter, skipping the intermediate phases, was already overcooked.