Breadcrumb #524

CAT MULROONEY

Death. The body in its most natural state. The end of wanting. The quieting of the heart and its infinite cravings. Give me. Touch me. Love me back. See me. The body elegance of all that is gone. Exposed. Bones holding moonlight. Bones holding marrow like thin hives. Honeybees take sustenance here. Now, let me be hollow. Essential. Self. Death as downstream. In death, my body owes nothing. 

In love, it asks everything.

When a kiss opens up in the mouth. A kiss you’ve waited for and wanted your whole life. Mouth widens yes. Take it all in. The body would welcome death like a kiss.

But then there’s this. 

Then there’s her. 

Insecure about her square jaw. Her thick knuckles. Her body solid as a stone. Something I could lean on. Something that could bear my weight. Singing her body into mine.

Rhythmic. Percussive. Magic. 

I get off with just her breath on my neck. I get off on just the taste of her kiss. Tangled in her bedsheets. Her pelvis pressed to mine. Bone on bone. I lick the pale white peach fuzz on her jaw and taste metal. I hold her close afterwards because it always makes her cry.

The release.

The goodness.

The way girls like us don’t know what to do with that much tenderness.

Kindness makes us crazy. 

Love fucks us up.

I could touch a boy and never feel a thing. Embarrassed by their desperate bodies. 

It is different with her.

She measures the weight of my breast in her hand and calls it beautiful. She licks a river down my spine and makes me feel the currents. Water racing to the only logical destination. Yes. She presses into me and it is nothing but honeyspill to her wrist. Her touch of yes. Of sweetness. Of now. 

Water racing to the only logical destination.

Also, our words. The throb and hum of vocal cords. Before. Talk like breath. Talk like air. Empty and possible. Memories of no pain. Memories of not feeling like broken glass. I breathe her words in.

But calamity always comes to the sickhearted. 

Sicklehearted. 

Love erodes my heart from a fist to a thin fingernail moon. Obliteration. Shadow black. Nearly new. I am a horrific creature. I forget my name and hers. I forget thin fingernail moons left on my skin. Hands contracting around my shoulders. Tattooed scab reminders. Someone touched me long enough to leave a mark once.

Our vigil at the river. Waiting for shooting stars. We swallow ecstasy like candy. Bourbon chasers. Beer cherry red. Blood red. Her mouth red.

I am so naked I take my skin off again. Shed it like a birch tree and lay it down in the black sand dirt of the riverbank. Just a body dancing. Splashing. Water cold and cleansing everything. John the Baptist. Reborn. Holier than Jesus.

Women in the water. Riverstones in my mouth. I suck them clean. Birth them back from between my lips smooth and round as vowels. Silent as prayers and the still pools we swim in.

Blood songs. Blood swimmers. Her bonewhite skin painted with mud. Swirls around her belly. Serpentine coils around her throat. Long mudraked arrows on her thighs. I read her holy sigils. Mysteries. Litanies. Her thighs part in indigo water.

The meteor shower never comes.

Or that’s what we tell ourselves, too busy charting the planetary pull of the other. When she sinks, her hair fans out around her. 

Water so dark I can’t see her.

School of fish. 

Someday I will forget this.

Maybe I already forget this.

She grows gills beneath her sharp jaw. She stays under so long she’s no longer human. I want to call her back to the rocks with me. Come back to me. But, instead, I swallow one smooth stone so I will remember. Her scales flash silver in black water.

I swallow the moment down. 

Swallow her down.

Come back.

We aren’t trying to die. But aren’t avoiding it either. 

There is nothing else anyone can do that will hurt me. 

Nothing left to destroy. 

She is part girl, part fish.

I am part girl, part dead thing.

Two girls high at the river.  

The stone lodges in my belly. Unmovable. Like my heart. 

She doesn’t come back. At least not to me. She suddenly knows about breathing underwater.

• • •

Breadcrumb #414

CLAUDINE NASH

To: Phineas@taxbusters.com
From: Caliope604@worldnet.com
Subject: Additional W2s and an apology
Date: 05/01/2914  19:01

Dear Phineas,

As requested, attached please find the additional 1099 forms from my freelance work in Xenon Colony.

I also just wanted to apologize for staring so long at you and sobbing a bit like that during our meeting last week. It’s just that when you looked up from my amended earnings form, I suddenly felt a swirling spiral of lifetimes spill between us and it sort of took my breath away in one of those existentially-acute, time-stood-still-moments sort of ways. It was almost as though your eyes reached in and lifted some lost and dormant piece of me. I was quite taken aback.

I really value you as an accountant and don’t want to make you feel awkward or uncomfortable, but I just need to ask whether you experienced anything like that as well?

Thank you, and again, please let me know if you require any additional documentation.

Best wishes,

Caliope Finkelbottom

_________________________________________________________________________________

To:  Caliope604@worldnet.com
From:  Phineas@taxbusters.com
Subject: Re: Additional W2s and an apology
Date: 05/04/2914  09:31

Dear Ms. Finklebottom,

Thank you for providing the forms as requested. We will also need you to supply a 1099 for any dividends earned from your stocks in Graviton Industries.

Regarding the other matter, I have no recollection of the event to which you are referring.

Given my increased responsibilities with our Outer Galaxies office, I regret to inform you that I will no longer be handling your returns. My robotic assistant Ivan will be assuming my Earthly cases and can answer any questions regarding your return should you require any additional assistance going forward.

Sincerely,

Phineas Woodworth, CPA

• • •

 

Breadcrumb #412

ELIZABETH GAUGHAN

It is only after the 4-hour bus ride, and the 45-minute train ride before that, and the 20-minute walk to the train station before that, that you realize you've woken up in a city that is not the destination you were trying to reach. It was an honest mistake, you think, to comfort yourself, as you look at your surroundings. The Greyhound dropped you off in a strip-mall parking lot, and the stores are identical to the ones at the strip mall you were meant to be meeting your ride. But was that the right color trim on those concrete pillars? Was the parking lot supposed to be one big square like this one, or circular, curving toward the entrance where you were meant to wait?

    The dozen other passengers who descended from the bus with you hug their partners, their parents. They use their cell phones to call Ubers, or duck into the fast food restaurant on the corner. You think about getting back on the bus, but you don't know where the bus is headed next, and you don't have a ticket, and before you can consider this option further the driver is back on the bus, the door is yanked shut, the bus is pulling out of the parking lot, it is headed back toward the Interstate, it is gone. Slowly, the other passengers disperse, the cars disappear from the parking lot, and you are alone. Even the stores, with their blinking OPEN signs and mannequins back-lit by florescent lights, seem deserted. You imagine the sales associates hiding behind the clothing racks, peeking out at you.

Slowly, the other passengers disperse, the cars disappear from the parking lot, and you are alone.

    There is no curve to this parking lot, but you go and wait at the entrance anyway. You look around for any distinct landmarks, but all you can see, no matter how far you squint, is flat roads with cars driving fast, and stubby, square buildings no more than three stories tall. The sky is overcast. It is that miserable non-weather, chilly and humid at the same time. Your hairline is wet with sweat; wild bits of hair stick to your forehead, the back of your neck. Your skin feels oily and slick. Under your wool coat, your bones feel ice-cold; the coat is too hot for this weather, but tomorrow it is supposed to be colder, and the coat wouldn't fit in your suitcase. You shift your backpack on your sore shoulders, switch your rolling suitcase from one hand to the other. Even with no one in sight, you hold your possessions close to you. You think of sitting on the curb, but your ride could come at any minute.

    Maybe you had boarded the wrong bus because you went to the wrong pickup spot.

    The names of two intersecting streets had been printed onto the ticket. You expected there to be a bus stop, a sign, a line when you got there. But the intersection looked like any other intersection, cars blurring past in all directions, no clear place to wait. You asked someone standing nearby, a tall man in a suit, face shadowed by the brim of a fedora, but he only grunted in reply. So you waited, and then the bus came only a few minutes after the scheduled time, and you boarded.

    Or maybe you got the date wrong.

    Maybe your ticket was meant for the day before, or the day after. The driver had barely glanced at it when he collected it from you. It's possible he saw the destination but not the date. And by then you were curled up in the padded blue seat.

    Had the bus driver said something before taking off?

    You think he must have, but you were so tired from waking up early that morning that as soon as you slid into that coveted window seat, you pulled your backpack into your lap, looped your arms through the straps, and closed your eyes. You, who always triple-checks your ticket, your calendar. Arrives at the bus stop early. Asks someone standing nearby if you are in the right place.

    You must have known you were headed in the wrong direction during those first thirty minutes on the bus.

     But after pulling away from that intersection and winding through the busiest parts of the city, the bus had entered a tunnel that seemed to take several minutes to pass through. You knew, because even though your eyes were shut, the bus was drowned in a darkness that seeped through your closed lids. When it finally exited the tunnel, and the sudden brightness forced your eyes open, the flat grassy planes outside the dirty window where you rested your head could have been anywhere.

    You notice that the sidewalk running along the storefronts also runs down the side of the mall. Maybe there is another parking lot around back? You start to follow it only as far as you dare; you don't want to lose sight of the main parking lot. But the sidewalk ends a little way down, concrete disappearing under weeds and brown grass. Behind the mall: only dumpsters and a fence backing a busy road. You return to your original post. Above the sheet of grey clouds, the sky appears to darken. It's hard to tell for sure. You hold your rolling suitcase closer.

    One time, years ago, when you were barely a teenager, you babysat a little boy as a favor to a co-worker of your mother’s. As you sat together on the living room carpet building LEGOs, he asked, "Who are you?"

    "I'm the babysitter," you said.

    "Babysitter?"

    "Yeah, I'm here to babysit you today."

    That was when he frowned. Then a smile crept across his face.

    "But I'm not the boy you're supposed to babysit."

    "You're not? You look just like him."

    The boy shook his head.

    "You're the same age as him. This is his house."

    "No it's not. This is a different house. I'm a different boy."

    "Oh yeah? Then who are you supposed to be?"

    But the boy only smiled wider.

• • •

Breadcrumb #411

GABRIELLA EVERGREEN

 

***

It was a ritual, burning what was done to me. I watched the flames eat the lace elastic, melting it so it fell in drops and splattered the concrete, molten black drops of tar. That fire burned my rage, my guilt, my grief, my shame, my regret. It made my blood alive, awakened it from a brownish-red stain to a boiling, bubbling black oil. Fiery oil that coated my lungs and eyes and insides. My blood frothed and seethed, in the veins beneath my skin and the veins of the cheap synthetic lace. It consumed the fabric like a lizard, snapping up toward my face, then curling in on itself, fusing to the pavement, and hardening into black twisted spikes of disfigured material. I breathed in that acrid smoke, a smell I’d been previously unfamiliar with. It’s on my fingers and face and sleeves now, and I want it to stay there. I want that smell to provoke people to ask me why – I want them to know that I burned him. Burned his fingers and his nails. Burned what he did not ask, burned him because he did not stop.

***

I’ve always had a fascination with fire. When I was young, my father would take us camping. My brothers and I would collect dry wood to pile and set alight. I would sit and stare into the fire for hours, until the ash stung my eyes and they started to water. I created cities within the burning logs. I imagined the tiny people who lived among the embers, building their homes in the smoldering sticks. When one would snap off and fall into the ashes below, sending sparks into the air, they would integrate it into the city’s architecture. The hotter the fire grew, the more they thrived. I wanted to join them.

***

I watched that fire until the flames had nothing left to consume and extinguished themselves. I rubbed the remains into the concrete with the sole of my boot. Then I stood up, lit a joint, and breathed in a different kind of smoke. I walked away, back to the city I’d be leaving soon, the city that had once felt very safe. No one would know what had happened here.

• • •

 

Breadcrumb #398

OLIVIA MARDWIG

On the first morning in Budapest, I awoke on the top bunk in an empty hostel room. The ceiling was inches from my face. To my left, an open window where the hard rain pecked the glass like rice. At a long wooden communal table I was drinking tea. It was probably early, though the ever-present clouds made it feel timeless.

    Across from me was a man. The man was named Bill. An American, an old hippy, long faded blonde hair gathered into a ponytail. Wore a shirt from a California restaurant with a slice of pizza and the words, “Pizza My Heart”. He was thin and tall, spoke slow but energetically. We talked about a few things before we got down to what he called “the great tragedy of his life.”

    As a boy, in the summer, his family would go to a house by the lake. Somewhere West Coast. Sometime in the 60’s. From the long wooden dock he watched his brother drown, a twisted body in the open water. No boats. Nobody else around. He called for help and help didn’t come.

From the long wooden dock he watched his brother drown, a twisted body in the open water.

     I felt this loss personally, although I couldn’t tell you why. I had never met this boy. And if he had lived, he would be an old man now and I still would have never met the boy.

    Back then I was still too young to have a tragedy like that to share with Bill. But I did have something to offer. I told him the story of myself in all its brevity. Then, I got up to get ready for the day. Even in the rain, I thought I’d cross the bridge to the old city, climb the castle in the damp and mist and moss to the aerial view of the parliament building.

    When I was on my out Bill was still at the table, unmoved since I left him, as far as I could tell. He said that if I were a real writer, I would write my story down. Some days I think I might actually do it.

• • •