Tell us about your scar. Does it hurt?
Only when I smile.
I suppose it has a story?
Yes, but not a very interesting one. I have another.
No. Another story. Would you like to hear it?
Please. Our readers would be most interested.
I was nine. There had been an accident.
An accident? Nothing serious, I hope?
A garbage truck had overturned on Bruckner Boulevard, and they were re-routing the traffic through the South Bronx. It was quite a torrid Sunday morning in July.
Not a good morning for garbage, I dare say.
No. I was seated half-naked on a curbstone picking through the bottle glass for diamonds and sharpening my popsicle stick into a defensive weapon, when a funeral procession came by—a line of stretch-limos with Connecticut license plates. One of them pulled over to the curb, the rear window went down, and a lady, a lovely lady in a black veil, asked me if I could give them directions to Woodlawn.
She was lost.
Yes, and did I think I could show her the way out of the South Bronx—and to Woodlawn Cemetery.
And could you?
I had given it a great deal of thought. She invited me to get into the back seat with her and give directions to the chauffeur.
I liked riding in that limousine. I didn’t want to leave.
Of course you didn’t.
It had air-conditioning. And a rather distinctive plum-plush interior. She let me out at the southeast corner of Jerome Avenue and West Gun Hill Road. In front of the Santa Maria bodega.
Such a sense of direction.
She thanked me for getting her there so quickly. She gave me an orange. And the Sports section to her Sunday New York Times.
For a very deserving little boy. You’ve grown since then.
“When I was a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13. Ol’ Saul certainly knew his frijoles.
I believe that was Paul. The apostle. He experienced a conversion.
He did. Saul to Paul. Presto change-o.
His frijoles. Very good. Do you mind if I use that?
Be my guest.
To your lovely lost lady. Wherever she is.
To all my lost ladies.
Of course. Does that include me? We really must take a raincheck for dinner. I could always use an extra man.
I’d like that. If I ever get out of here.
Charles Leipart was a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for What Wolfman Knew, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; What Wolfman Knew is published in the September 2017 issue of the Jabberwock Review; Tea with the Tin Man, a flash fiction, is published in the quarterly issue 82 of Burningword Literary Journal, July 2017. Frank & Mia & Me, a flash fiction, is published in issue 7 of Panoply Literary Zine. Charles is a graduate of Northwestern University, a former fellow of the Edward Albee Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. He lives and writes in New York City.
The Last Time I Talked to My Mom
She’d flown to Florida just to die, not that slow-
motion movie crammed with insights and coming-
to-terms, me on the edge of the plains hearing how
one brother and his wife went bedside, sang their
newest version of psalm twenty-three, another one
praying sweet Jesus how can I compete with that,
so you can see why she flew away.
She’d hired a cab to the hospital, told them, it being
the South, she was fixing to die, told me these doctors
they’re whispering cancer as if I can’t read the seven
signs, and they want to try chemo, as if that’s going
to happen, and anyway it was good to hear but I’m
going now and she just let the phone drop, so I
listened to her breathe for a while.
They called soon enough, saying it was a stroke –
that stubborn old lady, dying as she pleased.
Sometimes, She Says
It was my kid asking me and more than once,
so after she was killed, I decided just to quit,
though it was hard, having smoked for years,
and I loved it, I did, maybe out on the porch
a fall afternoon, someone burning leaves two
streets over, a high hint in the cool air, early
moon above the hills, or after sex sometimes,
like in the movies, where you’re the heroine
if not in this story, then another, wondering
how it might go, this whatever seems to be
happening here – cigarette moments to
ornament a tree with a little history, but
my daughter asks again and there’s a crash
that makes her brain swell into a thunderhead
soaking up ocean till it rains itself away, so I
tell myself, just stop, each time you choose
not to is a kind of prayer, and keeping that
it’s like lighting candles in a church, so
maybe it counts – only, sometimes on a street
a match will flare as another’s smoke whispers
of distant laughter, and yes envy and still the
anger over everything that’s lost, and is it lust
or deadly greed infiltrating my breath – this
banished pleasure, this near occasion of sin?
George Perreault is from Reno, Nevada, and his most recent collection, Bodark County, features poems in the voices of characters living on the Llano Estacado. He has received awards from the Nevada Arts Council and the Washington Poets Association and has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His poems have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and selected for fourteen anthologies and dozens of magazines.
“This started when I moved to Amy’s house,” Judy said, as she and James set out for their evening stroll. It was the same stretch of the East Coast Park that they had walked every evening, for the last forty-seven years. James was still in his work clothes, a navy-blue Coast Guard uniform. Judy wore a beige top over black trousers.
“A churning in the stomach. Heart hammering loudly into my chest, drowning all other sounds. It grows faster, like going downhill on a roller coaster. My hands shake and go cold. See…”, she halted and held out her trembling hands.
James looked at them sadly and said, “I’m sorry, dear.”
They came to their usual patch of sand and sat down with some effort.
“No, don’t be. The only time the pounding stops is when you visit. When I see you, I can breathe. And think.”
James picked up a handful of sand and poured it over her fingers.
“You must come and see Amy. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that we still go for walks. You know the way she lowers her eyes when she’s holding back something, she does that. “What did Baba say?” she asks. I told her to come here today and see for herself.” She leaned back to see if Amy was in sight. “There she comes”, she pointed to a blurry figure at distance, walking towards them.
James’s gaze followed Judy’s hand. “She is still angry. “Baba shouldn’t have gone after the little girl. The guard on duty was already there” she says. And she worries about me. Says I don’t sleep well ever since that day.” Her eyes started to feel heavy. “I don’t know…I look forward to sleep. Sometimes you come in my dreams. Of course, you’re always in this uniform.” The new Gallantry Medal glowed in the light of the setting sun.
“But there, it’s just the two of us. You don’t talk much, and when you do, you repeat the same things. That scares me more than anything”, she said, sucking in the warm air urgently. “And when it’s time for you to leave, the thud-thudding starts again, gently, from far away…I wish Amy would walk faster… and gets closer, and louder…why is she turning back? I reach out to hold you, but my hands feel heavy.” A flutter of alarm rose in her chest as James patted her hands firmly, deep under a mound of sand, and stood up.
“I call after you, but there’s no sound, only a wheezy sort of gasp. Once Amy heard it and came rushing into my room in the middle of night. But not you.”
“I’m sorry, dear”, he said, brushing sand off his clothes. He gently stepped over her buried hands and walked towards the water, footsteps in perfect rhythm with the deafening pounds that grew faster with every beat, and disappeared into the waves, again.
Nidhi was born and raised in India and currently resides in Singapore with her family. She is a business consultant by training and a writer by passion. She writes short fiction, poetry, essays and reviews. Her work has been published in Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore, Open Road Review, Mothers Always Write and Thrice Fiction and an anthology of fiction in Singapore. https://www.facebook.com/nidhi.arora.52206