short fiction :: take care of her

“Deliver this,” the bearded man said.  He placed one heavy hand on Ava’s shoulder as he pressed the rolled parchment to her palm. “As fast as you can.”

Her mother was struggling against the bed sheets and the torments of some unseen demon.  Purple and red splotched her face, and sweat made her hair stick to her head.  Myrna, Ava’s older sister, stood there, dabbing Mother’s forehead with a wet clothe.

“Will this help her?” Ava asked. The parchment crinkled as she squeezed it.

“Just go, Ava,” Myrna said.

So she scurried down the stairs, burst out of the front door and went.

Wagons crowded the cobble stone street.  Nervous horses stamped their hooves against the ground as broiled faces screamed at each other.  Those who were not fortunate enough to have wagons and horses, or even donkeys and wheelbarrows, plodded down the sidewalks and through the congestion with their belongings strapped to their heads, and shoulders and dragging behind them.

“Move, damn you!  They’re coming.”

The whole city surged toward the Western gate in one massive flow.

“Excuse me.  Sorry. Please move.” The confusion swallowed Ava’s voice.

A woman grabbed her and bent down to meet her eye to eye.  “You are going the wrong way.”

“No, I have to deliver something.”  She tried to tug her arm free from the woman’s grip.

“I can’t let you.  It’s not safe. You have to come with me.”  She started to pull Ava in the opposite direction.

“Let go.”  When the woman didn’t, Ava sat down and let out a piercing, sustained scream, just as she had been trained to do.

Faces from the crowd turned toward them.  People dropped the reins, dropped their positions, and came for the woman.  Just before the first person reached her, she let go. Ava stopped screaming, and the people blinked back to awareness, back to the moment and their plight.  Everyone returned to where they had been, and continued onto wherever they were going.

Ava squirmed through the press of bodies until she arrived at a glossy black door of a flat grey building.  The door had no knocker, or knob.  There was no chain dangling from a hidden bell.  She slapped at the door with her hand.  She rapped it with her knuckles.  After kicking it, yelling at it, and resting her forehead against it, she sat down on the sidewalk again and faced the door.

There was chaos in her mother.  Chaos was overrunning the city.  A few blocks to the East, red lingered in the air like dust.  The people all around her looked crazed, but the cries coming from there sounded lost and defeated.

Her breath shook her.  Silence was approaching, and that red dust.

Ava’s reflection in the door stared back at her.  Her dark blue dress and black hair were indistinct, but her pale skin and the parchment stood out stark and crisp.  She unrolled the thin hide.  Black marks scratched over its surface.  Unable to read them, she showed the words to the door.  Leaning forward, she gathered herself on her knees, and pressed the parchment to the black surface.  The hard stone grew fluid and viscous, like oil suspended.

Men were marching down the street.  Their armor still glinted, even though much of it was covered in red. Grey gazes snagged on her, but she melted through through the door and into a narrow dry corridor.

The parchment was gone.  So was the door and any notion of outside.

An elderly man dressed in white robes stared down at her.  “Welcome,” he said. “We will care for you, until the time comes.”

“But I had to deliver the note.  To help my mother.”

He smiled a small smile.  It was the kind of look adults get when they were about to reveal something disappointing and life altering.

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i always wanted to, but never did (reflections on change)

At dinner, with a random cadre of people, I learned two restaurants I had always been meaning to check out had closed. “No!” I thought to myself, feeling a peculiar sense of loss, as if an almost friend had been taken away from me. The restaurants were there for years, and I had passed by them for years, always meaning to check them out, but never actually doing it.

“That always seems to happen, right?” someone asked. “There are these cool places, and then they disappear before you have a chance to get to them.”

layers of changes

After I thought about it, the fact that a restaurant had closed became less of a surprise, while my reaction to it became more of one. Why should I be so shocked that something has changed?  After all, the most constant and true thing about life is its mutability. Everything, all around us, even inside us is in a state of flux. Our bodies die in microscopic pieces, and are created anew. The food in the ground sprouts, grows, ripens and decays, sending its potential progeny into the universe to do the same. Asphalt succumbs to the elements and wear, radioactive isotopes decay.

old & new

Change isn’t just about decay and loss. Part of the circle is transformation. The next step in the dance: creation. The example of chrysalis is often paraded about in such discussions. (And how utterly incredible is it that a caterpillar literally dissolves into a sticky gooey mess, undergoes some sort of genetic rewriting, and emerges into this creature with wings?)

The struggle is that the human brain seems to be programmed to prefer constants. We map the world, and commit it to our hardwiring. That coding guides our actions and reactions. As convenient as that is, we have to stay flexible, which perhaps at its heart is about accepting things do not remain the same. And to see the beauty in that.

A Story About Nothing

The car idled.  “Aren’t you even going to look?” Bobbie Lee asked.

“There ain’t nothing there.” Betty folded her arms over her chest and nodded.

Bobbie Lee let out a puff of air and shook her head.  “I can’t believe you.  Why on earth would you come all this way if you weren’t even going to take one little peek?”

“To get a moment’s peace.”

“What? Now, Betty, how many times do I have to tell you to speak up.”

“Peace, woman.  Just one moment of peace.”

Bobbie Lee’s eyes widened.  Her mouth snapped shut and she sat back.  Her head jittered on her neck like a bobble dolls.  The moonlight snagged on the peaks in her skin, which was as crinkled as forgotten wrapping paper after Christmas.

Betty knew she didn’t look much different.

Bobbie Lee sat there for a long while before she turned the key.  The car sputtered into silence.  The lights dimmed.  She turned those off, too.  Her finger, grey and ghostly, drifted in front of Betty, pointed out the window at that damned doorway.  Then she fumbled around in the dark.  Metal clanged on metal and the door creaked open.

“Are you even supposed to be driving at night? Dr. Ottman passes just about anyone these days.  Really, it’s a godawful thing.”

Bobbie Lee said nothing.  Instead, she pried herself out of the car, and hefted the flashlight with both hands. A narrow band of light emitted from the thing.  Bugs attacked it.

Betty jumped at each muffled thud and hard crack of bodies hitting the glass.  “Crazy old biddy.” She popped out her dentures, floated them in her mouth as she glared at the dashboard.  An owl hooted outside, and she couldn’t not see Bobbie Lee shuffling past the car and into the ditch.

She snapped her dentures into place, and threw her own door open.  The air was tepid, stirred only by the racket the crickets and moths made.  When she was standing by the car, she finally looked up at the field.

The door was the first thing she saw.  Aside from the fact it wasn’t attached to anything, it looked standard for these parts.  A weathered grey thing, with four panels and a bronze knob stained a dull shade of rust.  It looked normal aside from the second fact it was glowing.

Bobbie Lee limped through the field, made her way around the tumbleweeds and razor bush.

“Stubborn old witch.”  Betty dragged her feet through the dirt as she trailed after Bobbie Lee.

***

Bobbie Lee was from these parts.  And she wasn’t, too.  It was the time she spent following her Air Force husband around from New Mexico to Arizona that changed her.  The first time Betty had met her back home, the woman mentioned the doorway.  It started out innocently enough.

“Have you ever been on Route 207?”  Her catalogue-bought blouse and matching skirt fluttered with her movement as she lifted her arms up and, birdlike, settled her feathers.

“Plenty,” Betty said.  “Not that there’s much out there to see for the trouble.”

“There doesn’t have to be much. There just has to be one thing.  One significant thing.” Bobbie Lee stared at her so long, she thought the woman was having a fit.

“You stroking?”

“Have you seen it?”

“Seen what?”

“The door on 207.”

“Bobbie Lee, you’ve lost your mind.  There ain’t hardly a thing out there, except desert and armadillos.  And I don’t pay no mind to run down, old wrecks of buildings.”

“This door is not like anything you’ve ever seen before.” Her voice took on a strange lilt, became full of breath.

“I’ve seen doors before.”

“You’ve seen doors without a house?”

“Easy.  Hardware store, over on First and Main.”

“You’ve seen a door, in the middle of the desert, standing upright without no house around it.  A door, and nothing else.”

That’s when they knew Bobbie Lee was crazy.

***

“Look.  Just once.”

Betty tapped her middle finger against her purse.  “I thought you’d let go of this madness.  We all think so, you know.  Madness.”

“I am not crazy and if you’d take two seconds of your precious time to look out the damned window, you’d know it.”

“Have you seen yourself lately?  When was the last time you ran a brush through your hair, let alone wash it?”  Betty turned to Bobbie Lee, who sat in the driver’s seat of the Buick, and looked the woman over.

Bobbie Lee’s faded straw-colored hair was clumped into mistletoe bunches in some parts, and stood out perpendicular to her skull in others.  Her face was coated with grime, which congregated in her wrinkles like earthworm trails.  Alluvial fans of dirt spread out from her nostrils.

But nevermind her head.  Her feet were an ever-loving mess.  A homeless person couldn’t have looked worse.  Scuff marks gouged her house shoes.  Of course, the fact she was wearing house shoes out in public in the first place was a damned good sign Bobbie Lee had well and truly lost it.

It looked like she was wearing dirt socks.  Then there were the cracks in her heels, as intricate and layered as the Grand Canyon.

“I’m not crazy,” Bobbie Lee said.  She didn’t fuss with her hair.  It was like her body didn’t exist.  It was like the only thing that mattered was the door.

***

The buzzer buzzed for a good five seconds.

“That is just plain rude.”  Betty finished the stitch and set aside her reading glasses.  Another buzz vibrated through the house.  “Oh, for the love of—”

Again.  This time even longer.  Knuckles rapped against the window in the door.

“Coming!” Betty hollered.

Bobbie Lee’s shadow stained the curtain hanging over the window.

Betty twisted the skeleton key.  Click, click, click. “My Lord, Bobbie Lee.  Didn’t the devil deliver you himself.”

Bobbie Lee smiled.  Her teeth glowed, that was how dirty her face was.

“You have to come see it.”

“See what?”  Betty’s skin was already full of fire.

Bobbie Lee looked at her.  “You know what.”

“What in the Sam hell have you been up to?”

“It changed.”

“Bobbie Lee.  It would be nice it you could make some sense.  Just once in your life.”

She drifted through the door, and put her hands on Betty’s shoulders.  “I make as much sense as a person needs to make.  Now are you coming, or not?  It’ll be dark soon.”

Betty pursed her lips.

“I’ll drive.”

Just as much dirt coated the Buick as the woman.

***

Bobbie Lee must have been standing in the same place for days.  Two shallow holes, which didn’t match the surroundings, marred the place where she had come to rest.  She stood a couple of feet away from the wooden surface.

Once Betty arrived at the door, she realized Bobbie Lee looked at it without blinking.  Her right hand opened and closed, and every once in a while, her arm would twitch.

“You thinking about opening it?” Betty asked

“How can you not?”

She shook her head.  After all these years, here she was, standing in front of the door in the middle of the desert.  The woman hadn’t been lying.  It glowed around the edges, but no light came through the keyhole.  The doorknob was normal, only reflected the soft blue light whispering from the edge.

Betty shuffled around the door, stood behind where it should have been.  Instead of the door, all she could see was a rectangular swath of desert.  No road cut through that part.  No car waited in the dark.  There was no Bobbie Lee, either.

She reached out into the perfect scene.  Aside from the subtle change—so subtle she wondered if it was real—in the temperature, there was no difference between it and the real desert.  She walked through it, even, wandered a good ways into the scene.

Standing in silence, she breathed deep and waited.

Nothing.

Not a damned thing.

She shuffled back through to the desert she knew, shuffled back around to where there was a door, a woman and a strange blue glow.

“Did you try it?” Betty asked.

Bobbie Lee shook her head.

“Have you ever tried to open it?”

She shook her head again.

Betty nudged her.  “Do it now.”

Bobbie Lee stretched her fingers, lifted her hand.  When her fingers met the brass, they jerked away.

“What? What happened?”

“It—Nothing. It feels normal.”

“Go on then.”

Bobbie Lee gripped the knob.  She closed her eyes, breathed and turned it.  She twisted it in the other direction.  “No.  Nothing.”

“Let me.”  Betty grabbed the knob, but the door was locked. “Well, ain’t that a bitch.”  She turned to Bobbie Lee. “After all those years—”

Bobbie Lee wasn’t standing anymore.  She sat in front of the door, rocked herself and whispered something.  A blankness had come over her face.

Betty looked away, at the car, at the sky.

***

Betty pushed through the screen door, and nodded to the women in the room.

“Don’t you look lovely,” one of them said.  “Is that new?”

“Yes.”  She glanced at Bobbie Lee.  “Went all the way to the city, and a fancy store to find it.”  She moved toward the card table, and the woman of the desert, but the others shook their heads.  Stern expressions crept over their faces.  “Oh.  Well, then.  Just thought I’d stop by and say hello.  I suppose I’ll be off now.”

“We’ll see you next time.”

Betty managed a tight smile, and drifted back outside.  Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Bobbie Lee deflating with a sigh.  “Poor old witch,” she said as she ambled to her car.  It couldn’t be helped now.  What was done was done, and there were other things to worry about.

The car roared to life, and together they made their way to Route 207.  Dusk had settled in, but she found the door with ease.  After all, she’d been out here nearly every day since she and Bobbie Lee had tested the knob.

She pulled off on the shoulder.  Hands on the steering wheel, she breathed deep, but her heart still fluttered.  A giggle bubbled inside her, and escaped.

The door had changed just last week.  It no longer glowed.  It was probably back to the state Bobbie Lee had witnessed for decades.

“Come on, little darling.” Betty called herself after a nickname her grandmother had given her an age ago.  She got out of the car and, with her purse hanging from the crook of her arm, she walked into the desert.

As soon as she reached the door, she grabbed the knob and twisted it.  This time, it opened.

The Music Box

(Dear reader, please imagine the narrator speaking with an accent typical of the Deep South in the United States.)

My fingers snaked through the air.  They reached and just before grazing the surface, they shied away and retreated to the warmth of my body.

I’d been at this dance on and off for about a week.  It was idiotic.  The box was just a box.  Dust coated it, thick as a second skin.  It was a plain box.  No scrollwork, or exotic designs curled across its surface.  Its sides did not curve with a gracious bulge.  The edges were straight.  Simple. It even lacked varnish or stain.  It stood squat and naked in just about its most natural state.  By all reason, it should not have been as captivating as it was; but there I stood again, barefoot in Granny’s basement.

My body swayed back and forth.  It’d happened the last time I’d come.  I had been ready then.  My heart had been steady, my breath measured.  My hand had been about to close over it, like a palm to a baby’s skull.

“Damn it, Child.  Don’t you know pickles from tomaytahs.” Granny shrieked down the stairs, and shattered the moment.  She said it like that, full of the South.

Well, at this moment she was gone getting her hair done, and then going out with “the girls” for bridge and roast beef.  Or maybe it was chicken fried steak.

She was gone now; that’s all that mattered. And I was standing before the box again.  My heart felt hummingbird frantic.  It raced.  It darted.  I couldn’t touch it like that, so full.  I don’t know why I thought this, but I had to be empty to touch it.

My gaze bounced around.  I was in a secret basement room, complete with cobwebs and dead rats.  A broken down bed slunked in one corner, falling into itself sinkhole-like.  Lichen and moss covered some parts of the wall.  A hurricane lantern rested on its side in the middle of the floor.  Shards of glass spilled from it, like the guts of a possum on the road.  A rocking chair sat crooked in the corner.  All around it were snowdrifts of termite plugs.

There was a wash basin, a pitcher, and of course the ladder I had dropped through the trap door in the basement floor.

Looking up was like peering through a fog into a bit of clear sky.  The world there was fresher.  Life stirred through it.  The shelves were constantly depleted and refilled.  The one hiding the opening hung from a track.  I would have never known it slid back to reveal to a trap door had I not been leaned against while fooling around with Bobby Andrew.

Even still it wasn’t all that obvious.  The grain of the door and the rest of the floor blended perfectly, and the cracks just looked like the end of one plank and the beginning of another.  A naked bulb hung overhead up there.

This room, at some point in time prior to electricity, had been made, dug out of the earth.  And hidden.  It had purpose.

My gaze returned to the box.  As plain as it was, it was the only real personal thing down here.  Much as the other things had the stamp of human on them, the box itself seemed to breathe.  It was body.  It was soul.

I returned to it in full, took it in by sight, absorbed it through my pores.  Through the simple passive act of respiration, it came into my body.

The swaying started again.  I closed my eyes, and sunk into the rhythm of the movement.  There was sweetness here, in the stillness of this place, in the silence that was not quite silence.

An almost sound traced the outside of my ear, licked the rim of my ear canal.  I hadn’t stopped swaying, and my arms were raising, hands drifting, floating away from me like a bubble.

I felt the box before I actually touched it.  Electricity arched, sang through my fingertips and along my nerves until my whole body, from the smallest structure to the largest system, vibrated from it.

My fingers grazed through the dirt and grime.  The sound of flesh against wood rasped through the air.  My thumbs ran along the front edge, where the lid met the body.  They flirted with it, brushed over that lip once, then twice, long against the barest of gaps.  The hinge, noiseless, eased open.  The room oscillated and a low deep moan broke across me.

It stared as something animal and senseless, and moved to holding raw meaning in its arms. A rhythm emerged.  It reminded me of a rickety plywood shack we’d driven by once on a visit to Granny ages ago when Mama thought Granny couldn’t be trusted with me alone.  When Granny was full of hellfire and damnation and the gospel of Jesus.  The plywood shack rattled with music.  Through its one narrow window, the silhouettes of people swayed.  Their voices penetrated through the walls, through the metal and glass of the car.  The sounds they made were exalted and mean, low as the belly of an ant, and high as a satellite.  Their sound was full of the delicate light of the moon and bursting with the richness of pecan pie filling.

Song.  Song poured through the room.  It washed the walls.

I opened my eyes, expected to see blood pouring from the box, to see people struggling over its rim, spilling out and expanding into the room.  It was empty.  Its insides was as its outsides, except for a tiny pair of initials branded on the underside of the lid, near a corner where they could barely be seen.

A soft warm glow supplanted the dim light of the bulb whispering down from above, as if the lantern was upright, unbroken and lit.

Still the song continued.  It was a woman’s voice, deep and rich, full of life and longing.  The cadence of the song changed.  It quickened and jerked, like a rock tumbling down a mountainside, eager to get where it was going. There were words in the deep emoting of her voice which were lost to me.

Footsteps scratched overhead.  Voices got caught in the thickness of the walls, came through muffled, without shape or form.  But they sounded through the room like thunder.  Like a fist falling.  Like a threat on the edge of moving from word to action.

“These damned stations.”  The words were dim and diffused.

Hands still on the box, my gaze drifted around the room, to the hole in the ceiling.  It was as if it wasn’t open at all.  It was as if I was down here and trapped, with both the hatch shut and the shelves swung into place.  The footsteps were the claws of a predator pawing around up there.  Scratch, scratch, scratching.  Looking for edges, searching for leverage.  The wheels screeched along the track and I could feel the weight of them standing on me, could sense the flesh of their muzzles pressed against the opening, sniffing and snorting, drawing in the scent of her.

Her song changed.  The box shook in my hands.  Sorrow spilled through the room and her voice trembled. Then it grew quiet and steady and full of strength.

“Come on out, you coon.  I can hear you moaning down there.  That awful wailing y’all do.”  Laughter howled.

A fire of goosebumps lit up my arms, crawled down my back, his voice was that cold.

“There ain’t no Promised Land for you.  You ain’t got nothin coming to you ‘ceptin some punishment like you deserve, and some good ol’ work.  Now you’d best comply.”

With the future so clear, and the punishment, too, still she sang, as if she was singing the world into being.  Or out of it.

As the phantom sound of the hatch scraping open cut into the room, her voice grew louder.  Her words sparkled with clarity, though I still couldn’t understand them.  She was singing in French, or Creole.  Whatever it was, I could only sense the meaning, the intention behind them.

“Stop your Voodoo, Woman.”

My lips curled into a bitter smile, because hers had in that moment.  At those words.  A shadow of a ladder slipped through the opening.  Wood thudded against the hard packed dirt. Feet slapped on the rungs.  The ladder creaked.  Wheezing filled the room.  His breath filled the room.

Stay calm.  Finish the song.

Even with all those shadows, real and imagined, the only thing I cared about was her voice, her feelings, and the sense of purpose she had in the singing of her song.  She had to have had her flesh on the box, been facing it.  She had to have been gazing into as she sang, even as they broke through the illusion and entered into this space that was supposed to be secret and safe.

It was not possible, but her voice sounded like two voices, one lapping over the other, building, growing on top of each other.  Her sound magnified. It grew shrill until it was high and sharp enough to break glass and pierce of eardrums.

I could feel her there, ripping apart my ears.  I could almost feel blood trickling down my neck.

It stopped.

My hands shook.  The box in them shook.  It was no longer on the table.  I was holding it close to me.  Then my body played out a ritual it somehow knew.  I exhaled into the box, hummed a tune nothing like what she had sung, and at the same time like nothing that was within my knowing.  I closed the lid, wiped a space clean along the front of it.  There I delivered a kiss unto the box.  A promise.

The scene.  The intruders.  Her.  It was left unfinished.  A sketch.  Like her voice, shape without form.

In the next moment, the aluminum ladder clacked beneath me.  I clutched the box to my chest and climbed with one hand.  The ladder danced, leaned backward onto me.  I closed my eyes, hummed a melody in my throat, and threw my weight forward to reseat it.  She belonged there, in my hands and close to my heart.

The sounds around me changed from a hushed breath heard by pressing an ear to the deep womb of the basement, to the bright sounds of birds and barking dogs and the electrostatic drone and garbled talk of a television.

When I blinked, Grandpa’s old work bench appeared before me.  The box waited.  I wiped a clean cloth over its top, its sides.  With firm strokes, I ran the cloth along its underbelly.  I wrapped my fingers around its legs, freed them from the grime and dirt, too.

Then I found some beeswax and orange oil.  As I slathered it over the wood, the box seemed to sigh in my hands.  Once I was done tending it, I hid it again.  This time in my bag.  Granny didn’t need to know.  She wouldn’t understand anyhow.  I could see her now, calling on the preacher to deliver me from possession.  That was hardly the case.

 

When I came to myself again, I was standing on a bridge.  A boundary marker was a few dozen feet in front of me.  Canada, it said.

She was in my hands, still patient but growing weary of the box, which vibrated and strained. I eased the lid open for the first time since the basement.

Her voice flowed into the air and drifted north.

see, purr, meow

Mr. Mittens stared out the window.  A bird, some finch or other, bounced along the branch just outside.  Sweet little bird.  Crunchy, tough, yummy little bird.  Mr. Mittens licked his kitty maw, and stared, and stared.

In the sliver of a second before he was going to pounce at the glass, Mr. Mittens lost his head.  He could still feel his tail twitching, his hunches wiggling in anticipation, but his head—  Well, that drifted through space, through galaxies.  It reminded Mr. Mittens of the time he’d played with a garden snake.  When it was tired of playing, he had dragged the snake, a full four times as long as he, through the grass in the yard.  It was a difficult task, but he loved the snake so, and he wanted to introduce it to the family.  It felt like that.  A long journey stumbling through the grass.

Mr. Mittens watched.  The stars did not twinkle out here.  They emitted, like pinpoints of lasers. Hot, bright spots in the cold space. They glared at him and he glared back.  What did they taste like?

His brain ached; it spit out commands in fragments of energy, neurotransmitting in spurts.  His tail was a memory, a ghost that lingered.  He gave a little meow bark.  How was he supposed to be a kitten if he couldn’t play?  Maybe his eyes could grow claws.  It wouldn’t be as fun, but it would be something.

One blob winked at him.  Mr. Mittens yawned.  He wasn’t tired.  It was this aura of light, this great eye in space; it did something to him.  The feeling coursing through him was better than curling up in a pool of sunshine.  “Brrryao?” he asked.

It extruded another ring of light, and the whole eye glowed pink, and blue, and green.

Mr. Mittens stopped moving.

A deep sound poured through space.  “Meow,” it said.

His eyes widened.

“Thank you for coming,” the eye said.

The tone of its voice made Mr. Mittens feel something.  It was like when a bird was gone, except for a few feathers.  Or like when friends didn’t want to play anymore.  Empty.  If he had had his paws, he would have kneaded the soft squishy overflow of the eye.  A sigh blew across his face, and stirred his whiskers.

“I am dying, little star.  I am called NGC 6543, and I get lonely in these final eons.”

Mr. Mittens closed his eyes, and flicked out his tongue, raspy, to lick at the eye.  He purred and the eye roared a purr in return.  They nuzzled for a moment, stared at each other, and came to an agreement.

The first star they pounced on burst sweet juice into Mr. Mittens’ mouth.  The galaxy was a nest full of them.  Captive toys.  Sometimes he used his eye claws, sometimes his teeth.  Each star was a wonder.  Each star had its own peculiar flavor, and when it finished playing, it tore holes in the curtains of space.  By the end, a huge drain sucked at the center of the galaxy.

“It was a good play,” NGC 6543 said, purring.

Mr. Mittens licked his kitty lips.  Yes.  It was.

He returned home soon after.  His head felt wide and diffuse like the sky, but his body— so tiny and small.  Constricted, he felt as if he was contained inside a box.  It took a great bit of effort to move away from the window, where his body had been waiting that whole time.  He staggered to the fireplace, where a baby star sputtered.

Once he settled next to the warmth, he felt something squirm in his teeth.  He snatched it with his tongue.  NGC 6543 glowed over his taste buds.  He swallowed it, he loved it so.

 

For those of you not familiar with Mr. Mittens Big Adventure, here and here are the triggers for the story.

‘ways to talk about the weather’ excerpt

An Ochre Sea Star wraps itself around my ankle.  It’s something like a hug, and something like a Vulcan mind meld, stripping down the layers of flesh to get to the heart of me.  But I’m part Sea Urchin. The spines come out, whether I choose them or not.

And this is the last thing visible.

 

Author’s Note: I saw ochre sea stars and sea urchins this weekend, their color rich like velvet. Since I didn’t have my camera with me, I thought I’d share this instead. This snippet was originally intended to go into a prose poem chapbook called “Ways to talk about the weather”.  Each poem-let was some sort of reflection on the visible light spectrum.