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!)
Benton City and the End of the World (Spotlight Runner-Up!)
Minutes earlier, when the stragglers from Horse Heaven Hills had been pulling off 10th Street into the parking lot, there had been no cloud in the sky. Now, in the gathering gloom, some farmers figured a flash storm must have rushed up from Walla Walla or blown down from Rattlesnake Mountain. As he sang, Pastor Moberly's gaze swung towards the long slender window to his left. He packed enough brainpower that he could keep singing the song without looking at the words and still calculate the convection convergences necessary to produce a thermal pattern capable of darkening the sun to this degree in the time it had taken him to sing 9/17ths of the hymn's first verse.
Ricky, a pink-haired fairy. The foreigners love him. They think his broken English is cute. He's stolen a couple of my regulars. I make enough; it's not the end of the world. Eventually, all fresh meat gets old. Nonetheless, he apparently makes HK1,200 per client, which is irritating.
You are soon to embark on a spiritual journey, and this card symbolizes that which you might become. The Hierophant is a more organic self. A more in tune self. A self that can intuit, purely intuit, when I, for example, am in need of a soothing massage, the feeling of your palms and peppermint oil along my spine. A you that can finally communicate with our only child, the boy napping behind you. A you that doesn't rise at ungodly hours to make deli-meat sandwiches with too much Dijon mustard, and then doesn't breathe all over me when he comes back to bed so that I wake up from the Dijon mustard breath.
That might have been it, Lorie going back to school and the money drying up, that started everything. A few weeks into her second semester, about four months after I came back, I saw it for the first time. The shift.
Gail doesn't take me to dumpsters anymore. Just as well. I must stay germ free. I move out of her place and rent a room in a nice house across from the hospital. The landlady says, "Say, you're the young man that saved that baby." From my room I have a good view of the main hospital entrance, can see who comes and goes. I invest in some binoculars, and I can barely see into the NICU when the blinds are open.
The machine paid out twice: once only a few dollars, but the second felt like 30, 40 even. She didn't stop to count. She felt the adrenaline seize her body up, and the happy excitement rushed in after it. She and Tony were in rhythm; she heard him grunt, crow, and curse. She felt the intensity building up. Soon, she'd leave for the tables. Slots got you warmed up, but they weren't a main course. Blackjack was her game, and she was already seeing the rippling of the cards, the dealer's kind smile. The moment just before you got hit, when nothingness, with the promise of everything, quivered within you.
His acquiescence in the probationary term of the meal must have reassured her that he wouldn't force himself on her hospitality, so she finally strode toward him and he rose to meet her. When they met, they embraced like men, thumping each other's backs in that awkward, congratulatory way. It was urgent she let him stay a while; he had nowhere else to go. The court had seized his trailer and his truck to pay the judgment in the wrongful death suit, and this woman he hadn't spoken to in years was the only person he had any tie to.
In the dining room Camille started photographing before their eggs were served. Eric watched her measure and weigh the light, consider angles and patterns of color. As always when she was working, she moved with the lithe grace of a big cat; she was stalking images, alert, intense but not tense, loose, completely in the moment. He envied her this ability to get totally involved in what she was doing. He knew the feeling just enough to miss it, like Salieri in Peter Shaffer's play, knowing enough of genius to recognize it in Mozart, and to recognize its lack in himself.
John Van Kirk
I met a retired French colonel at the Hotel du Coq Hardi in Verdun who told me, over drinks, how impregnable the Line was, with its great underground forts. I was not surprised by what he said. I had read recently a long article about the Line, full of photographs of its heavy armament and thick steel and concrete walls, in Life magazine. For some reason I thought of the Carolingian Matière de France, the tales of Charlemagne battling the infidels. Well, the French in 1939 lacked a Charlemagne, but if it came to a new war with Germany, they'd come through.