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Greg Sanders

Nine Vignettes (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 celestial book.



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 ( 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 Device.


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