6.05 / May 2011

Three Stories


The sky is gathered wool laying too close to their faces, their breath burning the small space between their lips and their disgraceful mouths. Even the lizard hanging on for dear life in the left hand corner of that hallowed room can recognize mistakes when he saw them. His iridescent skin pulsed like a shy girl blushes, cover blown. Those suitcases were never unpacked for a reason. On the radio, static obscuring already inscrutable words, nothing but mocking laughter was loud and clear. What they wouldn’t give for a weather forecast, something they could dress appropriately to, making up for indiscretions. Outside, feathers stick to the soles of their shoes and men tip their caps. Only the women, stout, draped in navy blue or black cannot forgive. Their arms are strong. We all get old, they tell each other, watching the couple, arm in arm, eyes downward, even behind dark glasses. For some, it arrives sooner than others, one says. They laugh, covering small brown nubs with their veined hands; their large breasts are heavy burdens, their purpose long behind them. The couple walks away in ridiculous shoes, not made for such ancient roads. Feathers swirl, not quite settling in their wake.

Local Custom

In the vineyard the host tells her the wine tastes like strawberries and almond, though there are none about. Local custom dictates she nod and smile, though her anger rises at any deceit, has a fuse that longs to be lit. The hostess shows her husband their dinner plates, made by street people, as she calls them. Artisans, her husband asks, politely, and her eyes flash. Ha! She says, you know nothing, nothing at all. A snake levitates in the vineyard, toward them. The host, wine glass in hand, makes a quick movement with a carving knife. The two halves jerk for moments that refuse to end. The wife tells them the plates are decorative only, and that it could be dangerous to eat off of them, habitually. But just once never hurts, her husband says, his voice husky, staring at the novel blonde of his guest. He offers her more wine. Flavors infused are just what he said they would be. One half of the snake shudders and leaps between the vines. She can feel her heart in her throat.

Bone in the Throat

She is taller than any of the locals, and rail thin. In contrast, her husband is an inch shorter, though broad and strong. She longs to feel protected in this place and wears cheap rubber flip-flops to be closer to his height. They are dirty from the dusty roads. The people in the village point to her feet and say she is the only American they’ve ever seen without money, she’s like a flat fish that has nothing. They will get nothing from her. During a religious procession in the streets, those behind her yell, telling her to duck. They make pushing movements with their hands. We can’t see over her big head, they call out. Her husband palms the back of her head, and quickly pushes her away from the crowd. The people around her begin to laugh. She thinks her husband is angry with her, but his notion is dispelled when he, protective, kisses her on the lips. People around them jeer and click their tongues. At a food stall, he buys two cups of warm wine and a grilled fish to share. Defiant, he feeds her the oily white meat with his thick fingers. She coughs, points to her throat, and gulps the white wine. Say it, for God’s sake, just say it, he pleads. She grips the sides of the table with both hands. He looks around to see if any one of his people, in the country of his birth, has just seen what happened and what they might think of him now.

Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in a variety of venues including elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, Eyeshot, The Los Angeles Review, JMWW and others. She was included in Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010. Her chapbook Natural Habitat was published by Burning River Press in 2010.
6.05 / May 2011