Marco looked at the empty space that his sculpture was going to occupy. What the hell did he have to say that would be worth occupying this space with? His collection of found objects that were going to be used for the assemblage lay in boxes and sat in bags all around him. He had metal and wood and plastics of all sorts. No paper. He had given up on paper and on vocabulary because words had only ever gotten him into trouble in life. But even without words, his sculpture was supposed to mean something.
The empty space before him was more profound than anything he could fill it with. He could add pieces of his life: the slights, the insults, the bashings in the head he’d endured at the hands of so-called friends who’d only ever left landmines for him to be exploded by later. No, they did not deserve any acknowledgment in his work. He could talk about his great loves, the ones who sliced him open, threw him onto funeral pyres, and, even worse, ignored him when he needed them, especially when he’d dedicated entire weeks to their problems. It was always the same thing: I love you if you are helping me, but if you need anything in return, well, then you are just out of luck. Yep, that was it. He was out of luck. He was completely out of luck. And what can one do when one has no luck left at all? What is there left when all hope of anything ever going right again has completely gone?
That is what he needed to figure out. That was what the void before him needed from him. It was the artist’s job to stare into the gaping maw of nothingness and pull from it something. That was a profound obligation. But now that he stared into that gaping maw, all he found was nothing. His ability to pull anything out of nothing was gone.
He picked up the bags and boxes and carried them out to the dumpster. He had nothing left. Without the objects, perhaps the silence could finally overtake him. Perhaps the noises that kept hurting him would finally quit, quiet. Quite.
He had left nothing.
Eckhard Gerdes has published books of poetry, drama, and fourteen books of fiction, including the novels “Hugh Moore” (for which he was awarded an &Now Award) and “My Landlady the Lobotomist” (a top five finisher in the 2009 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll and nominated for the 2009 Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel of the Year). His most recent books are a tongue-in-cheek work of creative nonfiction, “How to Read” (Guide Dog Books); a novel, White Bungalows (Dirt Heart Pharmacy Press); and a collection, “Three Plays” (Black Scat Books). He lives near Chicago and has three sons and three grandsons.
I pulled open the small drawer below the wall phone and saw a point of silver sticking out beneath the mélange of business cards, a sticky pad, and a strip of lime green cloth.
Sucking in a sharp gasp of air, I said, “I never gave up hope I would find you. I just put you in the wrong drawer.”
I gazed at the simple – yet elegant – letter opener that had “Made in Germany” stamped at the end of the haft where it joined the handle. He used it most of his life. Then it was my turn to slice open envelopes.
To catch more of the knife’s glimmer, I drifted toward the window, cut by the certainty that I would never see light reflecting from his eyes again.
Fay L. Loomis
Fay L. Loomis, a nemophilist (haunter of the woods, one who loves the forest, its beauty, and its solitude), lives in upstate New York. An active member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers, her poetry and prose have appeared in online and print publications, most recently in Peacock Journal, Postcard Poems and Prose, Watershed Review, and First Literary Review-East.
After my father’s third wife left him, he tacked up a paper target onto the center of the cathode ray credenza and pegged a picture of my latest step-mother over it. He towed the fridge into the sitting room, packed with Pabst. Beside it was a cinder block-sized container of BB pellets for his pump action rifle.
From an inflatable arm chair he took aim and shucked beers until the picture was pulp and the vacant cans were an avant-garde sculpture. I came out of my room to use the bathroom when an errant BB whanged off the television’s curved glass, struck me in my solar-plexus and fell harmlessly to the floor.
I never told anyone, but for a while I thought I was bulletproof. My father wasn’t. He let things get to him too easily. But genetic inheritance is hard to hide. Hollow-points ricocheted off Superman’s pupils. Lois Lane’s devotion never wavered. My action figurine bulged with immutable, plastic muscles.
Decades later, when my fiancée broke up with me, I thought about my father, dead from a discharge through his ear lobe more potent than a BB. If I pinched the same trigger he had, would the bullet still bounce off?
You’ve fallen a little in love with your oncologist. The wisdom in the creased skin around his eyes, the sureness of the neat part in his silver hair. The way he holds the chart with steady hands, his intense look as he scans the results. How he turns to you, and only you, with his knowing smile. “Tell me how you feel,” he says in the private language you always share in this room. You love his soft French accent, how he rolls words of hope off his tongue, murmuring as if you’ll be together for a very long time.
Karen Zey is a Canadian writer from Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Her stories and essays have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, The Globe and Mail, and other places, Karen was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015.
To-day, I thought of you. Who I’m kidding? Not a day that memories of you, of us—how we were together, slips past. How long it’s been now: a year, many years or was it in another time and place, an entirely different lifetime? I try some times purposely, pretending not to remember those times or you. But it only serves to row the senses, and brings the visions more clearly, more painfully. What was I thinking? That’s it, I remember—I wasn’t thinking at all. I was such a fool! And then you left, and the place—ah the place: our place, never felt so barren, and I was alone: then I began to think. Ha…that’s funny now. Some good it was then. . . thinking. It was too late. And now, well. . . it seems but a dream. Well, at least that’s what’ll tell myself. I was dreaming.
My intention was only to stop in the card-shop to say hello. But then Gia started. She inquired of things that weren’t her affairs, and being a past lover didn’t grant her an automatic reprieve into the subjects personal. As it were, I had only known her briefly one spring, and that’d been two years ago now, and it was only to take revenge at another. In the midst of her impertinent, adversarial inquiries, wherein, underneath, and perhaps understandable, lay a skosh of scorn—she made the mistake of introducing me to Helena, whose person seemed understanding and gentle; and I heard in her greeting: English spoken with the subtlety of German, and that was it. Helena’s blue eyes commanded the rest. The shop was soon to close, and Helena was the one leaving early that evening, and was all ready to go. And we left together: Helena and I.
Taylor Boughnou was drawn to the writers and thinkers of the ninetieth and early twentieth centuries. After years of a dedicated reading and writing regimen and journal-keeping of his thoughts and observations of his daily routines and personal travels, he began to write. He lives in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area, where he works as a wellness specialist.
I’m fifty years ago, at a party, drinking a martini and smoking a cigarette. I’m wearing my suit and tie and idly listening to little pieces of three different conversations. Wasn’t West Side Story a wonderful movie? How about the new president and his promise to have a man on the moon by decade’s end? Is there going to be a problem with this place suddenly appearing in the newspapers, this Vietnam wherever it is? People are dancing and the room is thick and warm. My martini is wonderfully cold and bitter. Someone puts a different record on the phonograph. They turn the music up loud.
I’m there and also here with you half a century later at the edge of a vast and darkened field. Rain has come and gone and we smell wet grass and a hint of autumn. If the clouds clear we’ll see the first of the evening stars. The wind blows itself out and the night grows still. A few minutes ago something unpleasant happened between us and we came out to the field because a little fresh air might wash the anger from our souls. I can’t tell if anything has gotten better. Maybe I’ve calmed down, but the truth is I am confused.
You’re here with me and the field stretches out ahead and those clouds aren’t getting any thinner and a drop of rain just hit my cheek and everything about us is vague and uncertain. The field is a continuation of the argument started back at the house. You hate how my mind forever wanders to somewhere far away. You want to know why I can’t change that about myself and the answer is there on my lips and at the same time is not.
Joel Best has published in venues such as Atticus Online, decomP, Crack the Spine and Blaze Vox. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and son.