(Some with Bugs)
Saul used his mind for the smaller things in life, such as
perfectly wrapping a birthday gift--a fossilized trilobite--for his wife, or
using his newly acquired knowledge of feng shui to arrange his library, their
bedroom, the large workshed adjacent to the garage. He used his intelligence for
making love to his wife, growing grass lushly and organically, properly
composting leftover rinds and peels and coffee grinds. But for his job he did
not use his mind, nor did he want to.
Mellifluously whistling in the john wherein his boss, Ike, pissed in the
urinal next to his, Saul fretted about his own deviant tastes for
floral-smelling hair tonics, wide-cuffed polyester pants and acrylic ties made
to look like lake trout: "Ike, whyfore does my taste in cologne and
clothing divergeth so from that of the regular population?" he said, to
which Ike responded: "Henceforth I shall take note of your strange threads
and your stinky hair, my friend, whereas previously I noted only an occasional
flair for color along with an odor which, I’d once commented to my dear
Isabelle, ‘reminds me of feverish grade school girls.’" And so the two
disembarked from the urinals and returned to work, Ike in his fur-lined,
pulse-regulating, body-molding chair and Saul to the pivoting, steel, six-legged
chair he’d recently taken to calling Gregor Samsa. "On we go, Gregor!"
he said aloud, slapping one of the steel legs with a yard stick and leaning
forward as if countering the thrust of a gallop.
Wanda DeLoach understood the stars as a language, a kind of seeing woman’s
Braille, which she assumed would guide her to a life of fulfillment. As
confounding as Braille appears to a person who can see it--dots on the page,
bumps on the ATM machine--Wanda was comforted by these reminders of her sight.
The human mind, she’d often thought, is capable of translating feel to words.
To feel the night sky with the tips of her fingers, the crisp Montana night sky,
this is what was necessary for her to understand the contents of her particular
When the snow melted and the crocuses began shooting up through the ground
and all of his neighbors’ lawns were showing off their spring verdure, Harry
realized that he’d have weeds or nothing at all where his lawn used to be. It
was yellow with spots of dead brown and had obviously been poisoned sometime
between autumn and now. Beetles and ants had colonized this wasteland, the
latter spiraling over small mounds, the former gathering in holes shaded by
yellow weeds. When the sun dropped low at the end of the day, the ant hills
shimmered with movement and the beetles came out, lifting off like clumsy
biplanes, their wings droning almost inaudibly.
Jaynee lives on the fifth floor of a six story walk-up on East 9th Street in
New York City. Her building was built in 1897. The steps that spiral upward are
of the original slate, worn smooth, concavely rounded as though eroded by nature
instead of tenants. It is this geologic quality of slate, the way it wears down
and becomes softer to the eye, smooth to the touch, that makes it the perfect
witness to a hundred years of footfalls. It is able to absorb the humanity of
the place as steel-edged concrete never can. Jaynee, who is six-years-old,
understands this better than anyone in the building.
Look toward the sun and your retinas’ll burn up. Find a place to sleep and
sleep there. Rainy weather means good luck’s on the way. Change a tire in the
dark and you’re asking for trouble these days. If you torture insects when you’re
a child, they’ll torture you when you’re an adult. Believe in God and you
won’t fear death. Fear death and you’ll understand God. Fear God and you won’t
fear man. Always fear man. Treat others as you would have them treat those you
truly love. Make time to paint your place every few years, to grow an herb
garden, to trim your cats’ claws, to read an obscure but well thought-of book,
to learn how to satisfy your lover the best you possibly can, to visit vineyards
anywhere, to learn how to properly eat fish by removing the bones in an
efficient and elegant manner.
"I like finding flaws inside the souls of people who think their souls
are perfect," said Maxina, sipping her echinacea tea in this trendy East
Village coffee shop. "I can get in there by pretending I’m in awe of
them. ‘Oh, how you must torture yourself by caring so much about life and
love; can you, like, you know, actually enjoy yourself? How do you sleep?’ I
say to them. Once they really open up, usually by acting modest, disclaiming
what in their heart they know to be their God-given goodness, their profundity
of thought, their concern for, like, humanity, once they really open up I can
get a look down their soul hole."
The papers said he’d apparently broken in through the basement window,
having pried the bar over the course of two hours with a screwdriver. From there
he hid inside the boiler closet--it was very hot, the police said--until
everybody was asleep. Probably illuminated by the blue flames of the natural
gas, he opened the closet, crawled on his hands and knees into the wine cellar
and there consumed three bottles of Mouton-Rothschild.
She watches the children playing soccer, the brightly dressed community of
kids representing the various and diverse ethnic groups of her neighborhood. And
they all seem to understand how to play with each other and how to balance play
with the more serious components of kicking a ball around on wet grass, on a
windy day, while Boeing jets fly a few thousand feet overhead on their way to
the airport. She watches, wondering why it was that her child, Dori, was taken
away from her a month back, victim of a bullet shot from a car a few blocks
away. She’s not angry at God because she never believed in God’s existence,
but she is confused, for her mind is very logical, analytical to the nth degree,
and all deaths have a certain simplicity being that they are the beginning of a
ray. That ray, she thinks, starts where their life ends, consists of the
connecting of points, each an occurrence, cascading backwards in time to the
point of her daughter’s birth. And even before, it is her own life, the night
she and her husband conceived, and so on.
She is sitting beneath a tree that sheds berries, their crushed pips and
skins littering the concrete stands, rotten and cloying; ants and bees doing
jigs in the sugary must, it’s so sticky. Bees collide occasionally, or land
listing on the blackened concrete by her feet. For some reason there’s no fear
associated with these bugs. They’re drunk, having fun, being reckless. She
cannot understand her own sense of fallibility, for how could all these tiny
events, these nothings, she thinks, lead up to her daughter being in the exact
wrong spot for the wrong thousandth of a second during which time a .38 caliber
bullet entered the back of her neck, cleanly exiting beneath her right ear?
It always surprised Alan how bitter, pallid, and drained of healthy humors
these people looked up close. He’d always had the impression that celebrities
were great looking under bright lights, that that’s why, in fact, they WERE
celebrities. But at this party, on East 54th Street, he can see the caked powder
makeup of a man in his fifties, a writer/producer whom he saw on the Charlie
Rose show just the other night wearing a black turtle neck who, then at least,
seemed half his age with enthusiasm for a new movie about a fictitious
homosexual lover of William Shakespeare. On television he had been gesturing
strongly with his arms, smoking coolly. His eyes were the only thing showing his
age, only they were wise, slightly hooded and his pupils--they were a child’s.
Now this man lingers in Alan’s circle for too long, waits to be brought into
the conversation and his cologne is like a woman’s perfume, floral and
seductive. The man is wearing blush, Alan is certain, and is eyeing Alan’s
girlfriend, who seems a bit simpering tonight.
Greg Sanders (email@example.com) received a B.A. from the
University of Vermont in 1988, where he double-majored in math and English. He
attended UConn in 1990, enrolling in the actuarial sciences graduate program.
After working as an actuary for five years, he quit, and since 1995 has earned
his living in various ways.
His stories have been published in a number of print and
on-line venues, including Mississippi Review and Time Out.
A portion of his novel, Lamereaux, will be included in Blue Cathedral,
a fiction anthology to be put out by Red Hen Press later this year. Though his
home is New York City, he is currently in London working on his next novel, Grey’s