Dale Stromberg ~ Two Stories

Ngantukisme

Lonely girl. Face bathed in the glow of your phone.

You were walk­ing to the super­mar­ket. A per­son walk­ing in front of you fell to the side­walk. You checked her pulse; she wasn’t dead. Just sleep­ing.

All around you, peo­ple began tee­ter­ing. Falling asleep on their feet. Cars rolled aim­less­ly to a halt. Some bumped into the curb.

At the super­mar­ket, cus­tomers and stock­ers and cashiers draped over each oth­er in the aisles. With no bet­ter idea of what to do, you left mon­ey by one of the cash reg­is­ters and car­ried your gro­ceries home.

Turned on the news. The anchor was asleep at her desk. The cam­era angle was fun­ny too.

Turned the faucet han­dle, but no water came out. Then the pow­er died. Walked out­side to see what was hap­pen­ing, but from every open win­dow came the sound of snor­ing.

Oh, for God’s sake,” you thought, a sick and help­less jeal­ousy bloom­ing with­in. “Am I going to have to do it all on my own from now on?”

Mouthful of Molybdomancy

A super­pow­er com­mon to all social ani­mals: invis­i­bil­i­ty. To van­ish, be alone.

I haven’t been able to fin­ish a song since the day it start­ed. The lyrics just stopped com­ing.

In the morn­ing, I asked my hus­band to put new bat­ter­ies in the kitchen clock. He need­ed to stand on the piano stool to reach, so he pushed it toward the kitchen with his foot. I swear I’d seen him do it just that way before.

At the super­mar­ket, two mid­dle-aged women in kimono walked past me. One said to the oth­er, in con­fi­den­tial tones, “He ruined him­self.” Without think­ing, I looked around at her and real­ized I had seen some­one in an iden­ti­cal­ly pat­terned kimono stand­ing in that spot years ear­li­er.

People were col­lect­ing mon­ey near the cross­walk out­side the Marunouchi sub­way exit. There had been an earth­quake, maybe in the Middle East. An old­er man in a taste­ful suit start­ed to argue with a girl at the col­lec­tion box. I don’t know what about. He lost his tem­per and upset the box. It felt so eerie that I had to sit down.

Three boys were stand­ing in the shad­ow of a pedes­tri­an bridge. Not talk­ing or mov­ing.

When our son got home, I found out he’d lost his kan­ji work­book again. Usually he ignores me no mat­ter how I scold him, but this time he burst into tears and ran to his room. I was mys­ti­fied, so out of char­ac­ter was this for him. And yet—not.

And this evening, in the light of the pachinko par­lor entrance, the dis­con­so­late girl sit­ting and cry­ing silent­ly: Hadn’t she been there before?

~

Dale Stromberg stud­ied writ­ing with the nov­el­ists Richard Bankowsky and Doug Rice, and has pub­lished short fic­tion in After Dinner Conversation, Rue Scribe, Sonder Midwest, American River Review, and else­where. He lives in Malaysia with his fam­i­ly.