Displaying items by tag: short story
Xavier swears they’re looking for us. I tell him we’re at a border and checking passports is what they do at borders.
His eyes fixed upon the line of cars ahead, he gulps water from a plastic bottle, forcing it down his gullet in three noisy swallows. Fifty vehicles, even more, stretch in front of us, along the straight road which leads out of Croatia and into Bosnia, stationary, except for when we all creep forward a few measly metres every minute or so. Behind us too. Turning back isn’t an option.
“Two lots of them,” he says, through a gurgling burp. He puts his hand in front of his mouth. “I don’t like this.”
In the distance I see the Croatian police in their navy blue uniforms, and beyond them the Bosnians in bright blue and yellow. They’re just standing around. “We’ll be all right.”
“I really don’t like this,” he says a second time.
“It’ll be worth it. Bosnia. Outside the EU. We won’t have to run anymore. We can start to think about our future.” I put my hand on his thigh. “I love you,” I say for the umpteenth time that day.
Making cloth Christmas ornaments was one of Amy’s saner ideas. It didn’t require her to get into a bikini and then in bathtub of Cool-Whip-like substance like that modeling job she auditioned for, thinking it would be grist for her short story mill—at seventeen she was determined to get a head start on success. “Look sexy, they told me. Sure, if you can keep from itching your cooch and slipping around like a goldfish trying to escape its bowl,” she said when I caught her trying to see the extent of the rash the cream-like chemicals gave her by holding a mirror between her legs. I’d brought her a pint of chocolate brownie ice-cream because she’d broken her ankle climbing out of the tub.
Only shaving her head for her “taste of life” idea had led to more dire consequences. The day after she found out using a No-Mo Hair Removal might leave her permanently bald, she got an invitation to her cousin’s wedding. The wig-maker laughed at her. So did I.
But the SDSU lesbians who hung out at the Starbuck’s on Thursday afternoons thought she was gorgeous and sent over complimentary lattes and croissants with their phone numbers. I talked her out of going out with a butch named Aileeen (she really did have three ‘e”s in her name) by reminding her people could get testy when they discover they’ve been used.
Anyway, to make the holiday ornaments–and allegedly our fortune as entrepreneurs—we went shopping for fabric. Amy said we should go to a discontinued dye lot wholesaler. I hated driving in the Gaslight District, or in downtown San Diego anywhere, because of all the one-way streets and that damned-stupid trolley, but I said okay if we could get a Margarita at the Bay Cafe afterwards.
Ten old men and women sat in cushioned chairs and argued, as they did each time the Council of Mages met. They debated topics that few people outside of their Order understood, and even fewer would care about if they did. These arguments were comforting to them, like old friends with familiar stories that they could laugh at, even though they’d heard the stories dozens of times. Each of them knew that there would be no resolution to these arguments, but that was fine, because it was the act of arguing that they enjoyed.
An eleventh person sat silent. Daerphantis was one of them, yet as different as a wolf is to a dog, and had no patience for their petty squabbling. Even as near as ten years ago, he could have silenced them all with a raised eyebrow and a curled lip, but not anymore. It had become difficult to control the magic, and took far more out of him when he did. They all believed he wasn't long for this world, and that one of them would take his chair soon.
"What are your thoughts, Daerphantis?" Alluvian asked and the rest of the mages quieted.
Daerphantis reluctantly focused his attention on Alluvian. He hadn't been listening to a word they were saying, but had no intention of admitting that and making himself look like a fool. "I think that I've heard enough of these tired old debates. Last time we met I tasked you with ingratiating yourself with King Yargon. I trust you've met with success," Daerphantis said.
Holly prayed for the 403 bus to crash. "Go and join the queue," her mother repeated, as their car idled by the sidewalk.
She prayed for it to happen at the top of Dane's Hill two miles back, with a long skid into the heather. Sore ribs, nose bleeds. Nobody should actually die, unless they were perverts or terrorists.
The 403 arrived in perfect roadworthy condition. In the waiting car, her mother’s impatient fingers tapped on the wheel. Mom didn't ask about the bleeps in her pocket that started at breakfast: eighty, maybe ninety text messages hitting Holly’s phone, each ping like a drop of acid. Holly gathered her coat and bag, and left the car without a word.
She messaged Sheryl as the queue shuffled forward.
"Where u at?"
The tightness in Holly’s shoulders eased a little.
Illustrations by Justine Knox and Julie Beer
Written in the Original Pragonese Language, believed to be approximately 2318 AD.
|Kal Trison staring out at Elevan
illustrated by Justine Knox
I have lived a full life despite the horrors I’ve seen. I belong to a race called the Pragonese. Distinguished by our red skin, elongated faces, and wide, bulbous eyes, we have lived in the rugged mountains of our Mother Planet since the dawn of our recorded time. We are well known for our arduous lifestyles. Anytime one navigates the steep inclines, caverns, and crags of high altitude terrain, he or she faces multiple dangers – falling, extreme-cold, rock-slides, and avalanches. We encountered these hazards on a daily basis. Building our homes, hunting for food, collecting rainwater – these are but a few of the tasks we carry out to this very day as alpine inhabitants.
As onerous as our lifestyles have been on us physically, they have been mentally as well. Witnessing one’s clan members immersed in loathing and intolerance towards another culture only serves to sour one’s soul, and the children of my generation, myself included, were spiteful to the core. In my old age, however, I have mellowed - my entire race has. Whatever resentment that lingers among my people is destined to die-out with the last of our older generations.
My hand shakes as I press the cigarette against my lips and inhale. The nicotine seeps into my lungs, my blood, my brain, smoking out the reverberations of a nightmare. My doctor calls it PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, A.K.A. hell. I sigh, and gray swirls stream out of my mouth and dissolve into nothing.
From the edge of the balcony, the darkness saturates the city like a stain until it seems the sun will never touch the surface again. The squeak of a shopping cart brings my attention to the homeless woman down the street. She settles into her usual crevice in the alley with the patience of someone who has nothing to do and nowhere to go. I stole a look at her face a few weeks ago, startled by the faraway look in her eyes like she no longer cared whether people tossed her coins or looks of disgust.
Welcome to the Baron's Foodatorium, the brainchild of a chewing-gum loving military enthusiast and one too many yard sales.
Come inside, sit.
Years ago (I believe it was a rainy afternoon in July) the government put its entire fleet of weather-control Zeppelins up for sale. Most of them went for scrap metal. Alas, one of these nuclear-powered cloud-ploughs was purchased by our Baron. Woe betide us all.
Take heed, for this is our recipe: Scoop a large dollop of money and a penchant for roboticizing anything not nailed down (and a few things that are), blend these into a paste and set aside. Take one crew of malcontents and bring them to the boil. Add the blended paste and mix with absolutely no knowledge of how to cook (literally, not a jot). Place all of these aboard a nuclear powered Zeppelin and stand back.
Allen Howard stomped on optimism-white daisies as he forced his way through the vast burdensome field behind his trailer. Allen thought he must look crazy, viciously scratching his legs and jumping over certain spots, as the tall grass always made his ankles itch and the field was a treasured enclave for snakes. He had begged his father every day to mow the field. Allen would sit at the counter eating his after-school meal of Lucky Charms. He would ask: “Are you ever gonna cut that god-damn field?” His dad would respond, just sauntering in from his night shift at Wal-Mart and placing his typical six pack in the fridge, “I’ll get to it”. But his father never did get to it. But none of that mattered now as it was the last time he would have to walk through the field, Allen thought.
“Fucking bastard,” Allen said to himself as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a cigarette carton. There were only three fat white rolls left. He reached the end of the field and stood on the side of the country highway, cars whooshing by him at sixty miles per hour, and he thought about how perfect it would be if he were to get hit right then and there. He thought about how the funeral pamphlet would read “Gone 2 Soon”. His father would cry and everyone would rub his father’s back telling him not to be sad, that Allen was in a better place now. When really his father would only be upset over the opportunity he had missed. The one afternoon Allen’s dad had yelled at a life insurance salesman: “Thanks for waking me up douchebag! I have to be at work in an hour! Don’t ever knock again unless you want your teeth knocked down your throat.” Allen’s father was never pleasant when he first woke up or when he got off work. Which put Allen in an awkward position as those were the only times that Allen ever saw his father.
Soft waves rock the floater like a cradle. The candles have burned down into pools of wax on the table. The seaweed casserole is salty and so chewy it takes me a minute to swallow each bite, but I don’t really taste it anyway. I am lost in a daydream where I’m surrounded by ferns, clutching at vines falling down from tree limbs, climbing up a mountain of springy earth. All this talk of Victoria has me lost in a green wonderland.
“After each day I get on Victoria, I write everything down. Wrote ten pages last night after we got back.” Uncle George’s faraway voice brings me back. I slump a little in my seat. I am back with my mother, my cousins, and the neighbors from a different floater, Lucy and Mike. We’re all having dinner together in “the cave,” my Uncle George’s floater. We call it that because it’s a big dome of bent reeds with no windows and just one little door.
By the time I made it the five blocks to X-mart, the light drizzle had turned into a downpour. My Chanel sweater was plastered to my body, my hair matted to my face, making it even more difficult to see in the growing darkness. As I crossed the street, a Honda screeched around a corner and swerved toward me. Fear knotted up my insides, twisting through my core the instant before the car knocked me down into a mucky puddle. I stared up at the front of the dented bumper, my heart racing. Sitting up, I realized I was oddly numb. My mom always said I was tough; I'd fallen down a flight of stairs once and the only thing I'd broken was the banister.
But this was a bit too much. I didn’t have a scratch on me. I was probably in shock and simply couldn’t feel the pain.
The driver stuck his head out the window. “You okay, honey?” His voice was slow and slurred, eyes droopy. “You really should watch where you’re going.”
I rose, almost too indignant to speak. “I should watch where I’m going?” Despite the chill of the summer rain storm, heat flushed to my face. My blood felt as though it was boiling. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you how dangerous it is to drink and drive?” My voice turned into a growl, not the kind of thing that was normal for me. “You could have killed someone.”