THE LAST ASTRAL ECHOlisten to this story
Through the car roof comes the last astral echo of our love. We sit side by side, seatbelts still fastened, chins tilted up to the place where a minute ago there was no moon roof. The whole sky, made visible now through the roof’s newly yawning mouth, shimmers with light spots where the stars used to be. “Look,” you say. “That big round spot must have been the moon.” We gape into the afterimage-ghostly, a reflection of its own absence. “Where did it all go?” I ask, turning to face you in the passenger’s seat, your face still tipped up toward oblivion.
You drop your eyes to meet mine, and I can see the light there has gone too. “Goodbye,” your eyes say. “Goodbye,” I say out loud. Goodbye love. Goodbye, love.
THE WHOLE WHEAT APOCALYPSElisten to this story
We were fighting over the wheat bread and then the hurricane arrived, eleven days ahead of schedule. We locked ourselves in a bathroom stall, a big one, large enough to accommodate a small rickshaw. We waited until the waiting became impossible, until we had to go out in the storm. The rain was terrible, lashing out against our plush skin, but not more terrible than the waiting. We found some sort of Jeep, unlocked, abandoned, not nearly as safe as the stall we’d left, but it could move, you see, we needed to be out in it, to move. We drove. You couldn’t see, I couldn’t see, but you said, “We’ll go slow, we’ll beat this.”
How can we beat this? We drove ourselves here, right up against the storm’s grabby mouth. We were arguing about the wheat bread, remember? I barely do. Was it the brand? Or did you prefer rye?
A CAUTIONARY TALElisten to this story
The young artist came home to find the lock broken on the door to her Astoria apartment. Her electronics, jewelry, her unfinished sculptures remained untouched, but her dog and two large orange cats were gone. “They’ve taken them for their fur,” she cried into the phone, over and over.
In the hospital, the nurses bound her hands with ribbons of white cloth. The young artist beat her fists against the walls until blood seeped through the bindings. The nurses strapped her arms to the cot, for her safety. “They’ve taken them for their fur,” she cried to anyone who would listen or not listen, to the passing doctors, the floor nurse, to hospital patients and volunteers who ignored or tried to comfort her. The young artist wished to break off her own hands that had or had not remembered to latch the deadbolt that morning, rushing off with her bag and portfolio and coffee to a meeting on which so much had seemed to hinge.
NO MORE ALPHABETlisten to this story
At the end, we ten remained. At first, we talked nonstop. We discussed space travel and cartography and Aristotle and dying. We entered into heated discourse on the rhetorical income of commodified language. We asked questions: How long must we bear our loneliness? And: What is the resale value of a sentence? And: How much would a single thought weigh on the moon?
Little by little, after several weeks together, our conversations began to turn inward. Our proclamations became stilted, became monologic. Because it sometimes hurt too much to speak, we suppressed our soliloquies into Reader’s Digest condensed versions. When the hurt was too much, our talk became thoughts, then fragments of thoughts. When we could no longer endure the silence, a thought fragment would escape from one of our throats in a wounded howl or a low moan.
Little by little, we began to lose our words. Our thoughts became apocryphal. Our questions whittled down to bone. We thought: Loneliness? We thought: Resale value? We thought: Moonish? Our words switched off one by one like generators shutting down in a great city at night. Soon, there was no more alphabet. We sat in a circle and peered into each other’s faces, unable to describe them. We looked with our eyes into other eyes without recognition. No one pondered the rhetorical purpose of language, or post-language, or dying.
“Thank you for calling The Claims Department. How may I file your claim?”listen to this story
One claims the carnival wheel won’t fit in the trunk.
Another claims this ketchup would taste better mixed with mayo and a lot of sweet relish.
One claims nothing is discounted today. Everything full price!
Another claims the pay phone belongs to the restaurant, and they should pay for what they did.
One claims this is the best oyster in Tobyhanna.
Another claims this is my friend’s movie. You should watch it.
One claims kiss me.
Another claims marry me.
One claims we would make beautiful babies together.
Another claims our babies would be ambidextrous and good at math. (Beat that!)
One claims this is an after school special.
Another claims they don’t even make those anymore.
One claims kids don’t even know what after school specials are anymore!
Another claims remember the one about the kid with a stutter who overcomes his shyness to become a championship figure skater?
One claims this is my favorite umbrella.
Another claims you are my magazine’s Human of the Year.