Wilson Koewing ~ Six Shorts


There is no gray, at least that I’ve wit­nessed, more depress­ing than the sky on those short win­ter days in the south where the sun nev­er ful­ly comes out. In Ireland, in the sum­mer, it can be a ter­ri­ble gray for days, but there is always rain and every­thing is green, and a vibran­cy exists. When I was there, I fell in love, but that is a dif­fer­ent thing and noth­ing now. Ireland could be dif­fer­ent in win­ter. I don’t know. I’ve nev­er been. I have been in New England in win­ter, and that is also a depress­ing gray. Though that gray is deep­er and often with snow and rain. I grew up in South Carolina but now live in Colorado, where the win­ter isn’t depress­ing like one might think. There is plen­ty of snow and dry cold, but it is most­ly sun­ny even after it snows.


The Deer

The deer was dead on the side of 26 just out­side Asheville. There was some­thing odd about the deer that I noticed as I passed. It didn’t look real and I don’t know what it was that com­pelled me to turn around, but I did. I parked in a lot of an aban­doned busi­ness as close as I could find and walked down the side of the inter­state. It was hot­ter than all hell; North Carolina in June. The asphalt was melt­ing. I walked up and looked at the deer. Flies were buzzing and there was trau­ma to its mid­sec­tion. Blood and all. But there was some­thing about it that didn’t seem like it was a deer that was once alive. I walked back a ways and sat under a tree behind a guardrail with­in view­ing dis­tance. I sat there for hours, and noth­ing hap­pened except cars pass­ing. I went home. The next morn­ing I woke com­pelled to see what had become of the deer and I went back. I sat in the same spot. I played chess on my phone and sat there for hours again. Nothing hap­pened. Two more days I did the same thing and the deer stayed there. On the fifth day I went out there, right as the sun drift­ed off, about 9:30 PM a black van pulled up beside the deer. A man dressed in slacks and a white shirt with a tie stepped out hold­ing what looked like a remote con­trol to a remote-con­trol car. It had a lit­tle joy­stick and he pushed it and the deer came to life and stood up. It was ani­ma­tron­ic. The man opened the back of the van and a lit­tle ramp low­ered and he con­trolled the deer into the back, shut the door and drove off.


Texas Lake

We met at a strip club in down­town Denver. She was, strik­ing, to say it mod­est­ly. I didn’t hit on her or act unsa­vory, which I imag­ine is why she hand­ed me her phone at the end of the night and asked me to enter my num­ber. She left town the next day in her van for a two-week road trip. She was one of those who had tak­en up that lifestyle. She sent a pho­to of her pad­dling a canoe on a lake in Texas. It showed her, in less than a tenth of the frame, the boat, the lake and a small, fluffy black dog. How lit­tle of her­self she’d cho­sen to put in the pho­to let me know she was a spe­cial sort. Only her face, chest, legs and wrist, which had a tat­too I didn’t remem­ber. I was leav­ing town and I knew I wasn’t ever going to see her again. What I want­ed, so bad­ly, was to jump into the pho­to, to instant­ly be there with her on that lake. To pet the fur­ry black dog. To touch the water. Feel the sun and the wind on my skin. To hear her voice again. To see how she han­dled some­thing as odd as me sim­ply appear­ing. To lay down togeth­er in the canoe. To jump in the water, icy per­fect, plunge until my lungs near­ly gave out then reemerge.


Fantasy, Boston

If I lived in Boston, I’d call and ask if you want­ed to wan­der to Back Bay and eat at Salty Girl on a pale Wednesday after­noon, sun threat­en­ing. I’d ask to meet at 3:45 but arrive at 3:30 to find you already there with a gin drink seat­ed at a good table. I’d ask if you’d ordered any­thing. And you’d say yes, six from the Puget Sound. I like start­ing with com­plex fla­vors, but min­i­mal salti­ness. A Peroni would land to my left and you’d have no response. I’d take a sip, cold and crisp and imag­ine us, for a moment, like a bird’s eye shot from a movie. Rising, ris­ing until the block becomes the neigh­bor­hood, and the city becomes a dot beside the ocean. Then slam back to hear you say, what were you just think­ing about? And adjust your glass­es. I was think­ing about how hap­py I am to be here, I’d respond. Oh real­ly? You’d say. The meal would prove a rev­e­la­tion, like all meals at Salty Girl are. Hours lat­er, in the wan­ing dusk light, we would wan­der Back Bay duck­ing in dif­fer­ent bars, you sip­ping cock­tails and me beer, the inevitable slow­ly hap­pen­ing, a fin­ger brush­ing a fore­arm, hair tucked behind an ear, lips licked, lin­ger­ing eye con­tact and com­fort­able silences. That first kiss. Forgetting any­one else exists. The jan­gling of your keys open­ing the door. The pound­ing of my heart as I wait for you to invite me inside.


Ruined by the Flash

I was invit­ed sail­ing with my lawyer, and we drove out to the New Orleans Yacht Club, which is, I would say, in Bucktown. Though that might be dis­put­ed because the neigh­bor­hoods become con­fus­ing out by the lake. If there is any­thing to know about Bucktown, for cer­tain, it’s that there are sev­er­al seafood restau­rants there that rival any in the world.

The man who owned the sail­boat was named Stew.

It’s all about pink dump­sters,” he said as I stepped on.

He had friends, who, in a show of togeth­er­ness, paid a month­ly fee to go out on the sail­boat. Stew was in on the ground floor of a demo­li­tion busi­ness. What they did was go around New Orleans destroy­ing old build­ings and hous­es in places where peo­ple want­ed to build new ones. Their logo was a woman oper­at­ing a pink bull­doz­er, and it was plas­tered across all the pink dump­sters placed around the city to put the destroyed mate­ri­als inside.

I talked with Stew, try­ing to under­stand why this made sense, but came to real­ize it was just a great mar­ket­ing idea, and that there was no par­tic­u­lar depth to be found inside of it.

As the sail­boat slid out of the slip, smooth across the water’s glass, a calm­ness set in and not too far out into the lake, Stew dropped anchor and there we all were, drink­ing and gaz­ing in dif­fer­ent direc­tions, in pos­ses­sion of affec­ta­tions that might have made it seem, from a dis­tance, as if we pos­sessed some­thing that might be called depth.

The same could be said about Lake Pontchartrain, but the truth is most of the lake is very shal­low. It is also, tech­ni­cal­ly, not a lake, but an estu­ary that con­nects to the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s water is brack­ish, though a dilut­ed brack­ish that prob­a­bly tips clos­er to fresh than salt.

It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how many ter­ri­ble things rest on its bottom.

I took a pho­to­graph of my lawyer, in pro­file. Behind him, the city sky­line jut­ted into the cloud­less sky.

 I jumped in the lake. The water felt like a bath that was almost over.

I back­stroked away from the boat until it became a dot. I thought some­one might yell but no one noticed I was gone. I swam back and climbed in.

There was a dis­cus­sion going on about women. The sort of awful talk you can only wit­ness when men are alone together.

Destructive, but titillating.

While offen­sive words and phras­es spun togeth­er, I escaped to thoughts of a woman from Australia I’d recent­ly met out­side of The Chart Room, which will always be my favorite bar in New Orleans. She was a hos­pi­tal admin­is­tra­tor on extend­ed hol­i­day. A ter­ri­ble error had been made and though it was a surgeon’s fault, the respon­si­bil­i­ty fell on her shoul­ders. That was why she was on extend­ed holiday.

Her name was Hayley, and she was in her ear­ly 40s. She was dark­ly fun­ny and had a goofi­ness that made it easy to see the child who became an adult. But it was a qui­et wis­dom bred of lone­li­ness that drew me in; the strength to be so alone and so far away from where she was born.

We said pre­cious lit­tle out­side the Chart Room, she seemed more inter­est­ed in bull­shit­ting with me and my friends, but I received a request on Facebook, and nights lat­er I asked if she’d like to come over for a drink. To my sur­prise she asked for my address. Thirty min­utes lat­er she arrived in a cab. She had a bot­tle of wine and I fum­bled around my kitchen until I found a rust­ed corkscrew and two glasses.

We sat in the liv­ing room, me in my reclin­er and her on the couch. At some point I asked her to sit in the reclin­er and she did. I held her, and we kissed. She seemed sur­prised by the kiss but gave her­self over to it entire­ly. We went to the bed­room and made love until the morn­ing sun shone through the win­dows. Outside, the birds were chirp­ing. On any oth­er morn­ing I would have found them annoy­ing, but that morn­ing, naked in the all-encom­pass­ing light, I found noth­ing to be annoyed with at all. The mem­o­ry is like an old pho­to ruined by the flash. One that would sim­ply be delet­ed now from a phone, but that might have been worth keep­ing, years back, when film had to be devel­oped to see the picture.

And that’s the way things went, until she had to go back to Australia. A leap she want­ed me to join her in, but that I hes­i­tat­ed on and didn’t jump. Our com­mu­ni­ca­tion became elec­tron­ic and slow­ly fad­ed after that. All I can say now is that I lost some­thing when she left that I will nev­er find again. But like all things that are demol­ished, there is a mem­o­ry of what existed.

The rem­nants, tossed into a pink dump­ster, all the things that can be remem­bered but can­not be seen.

I erupt­ed out of the mem­o­ry hear­ing some­one on the boat fin­ish a sen­tence with “in her mouth,” and said, “haven’t any of you morons ever been in love?”

A silence lingered.

The water soft slapped against the sailboat’s side.

Then every­one erupt­ed in laughter.

Stew tossed me a beer and I popped the top. I drank half in one gulp and said, “tell me more about these pink dumpsters.”

Well, man,” he said. “Where to begin?

And I didn’t pay atten­tion to a word after that. My mind was float­ing toward the hori­zon. Some dream of being able to not be there and step onto the sur­face of the water and walk. Thinking about board­ing a plane. Doing some­thing not destruc­tive, build­ing a future that couldn’t yet be seen.


In Tamarindo

It was in Tamarindo, on a men’s week/bachelor par­ty when a placid still­ness fell upon him, and it was so qui­et and pure that he won­dered if death was close behind. When that passed and the cocaine buzz wore off, he set­tled and start­ed to won­der if what he was expe­ri­enc­ing was all there was. He knew it was, tru­ly, but know­ing that was as sim­ple as under­stand­ing that exis­tence itself is awful. Which was no con­cept any great genius had dis­cov­ered. There were so many beau­ti­ful women on the beach, wear­ing lit­tle, and gig­gling per­fect and he knew, that way of describ­ing women, was frowned upon, but what wasn’t in 2022? Yet, that’s what he thought in his watch­ing them and if it was objec­ti­fi­ca­tion then it was done out of admi­ra­tion and fear far more than what­ev­er neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions the idea of objec­ti­fi­ca­tion held.

It was the rainy sea­son, but the sun was out. Deep clouds slathered across the hori­zon mak­ing the clar­i­ty of dis­tance sim­ple to com­pute. There was a curve, but you could see it as a cell’s wall if you approached it from a cer­tain per­spec­tive. Music was play­ing and the breeze off the ocean was con­stant and slight­ly cool. Locals sell­ing all wares imag­in­able wan­dered by every few min­utes like they’d been spawned from the cav­ernous cen­ter of a video game. They sold cashews, cig­ars, musi­cal trin­kets, sun­glass­es, neck­laces, and a vari­ety of oth­er crafts. Twin broth­ers walked up and down the beach pulling cool­ers behind carts and car­ry­ing pineap­ples to gut and fill with Pina Coladas.

He hoped a sto­ry would unfold, but the truth was that the being and the describ­ing was the sto­ry. And so many times in a man’s life that is the only sto­ry. No sto­ries that don’t come from the mind of a writer are clear or mapped out as one expe­ri­ences them. That’s the pow­er of being a writer. It is, per­haps the only way, at its basic core, to slow the end­less onslaught of time down into some­thing we can con­trol. Control, real­ly, isn’t that what it is that we all seek?


Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His short fic­tion is forth­com­ing in Olney Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Bull: Men’s Fiction and Gargoyle.