Fiction
Fiction

Communion

Gregory Spatz


 

This was in the between time, before I’d told either of my parents that I was no longer attending classes. The dropped due to non-attendance slips would not arrive in their mailbox until later, close to the end of the semester. Real good, I’d say if one of them called to check in. Loving college. I’m learning so much. And Larry’s a hoot to work with! Later, before they stopped altogether, these check-in conversations would take a more desperate tone, beginning with bursts of tearful not-quite-jubilation—I was alive still, not six hours across the state from them and dead on the beach, crashed under a bridge, panhandling with the drunks and Lummis, turning tricks, whatever it is they imagined for me—and ending (especially the ones with my father) with some form of restrained disgust, What’s the matter with you, anyway? How much more of our money do you want? Has it really been so bad for you? Is it fair to say I didn’t know?  That I couldn’t answer, not because I didn’t care but because I had nothing to say? 

 

But this was before all that, while I was still telling them what we wanted to hear, and believing for myself whatever I felt like believing: I was starting my own painting and maintenance company, first of next month, sooner if I could. I was looking into some grounds-keeping side jobs I’d heard about from a friend. Dusting off my intro to physics notes to go sub down at Sehome or Squalicum—rock the high school juniors with my explanation of quarks and quantum anomalies…retro-causality: The divine miracle of transubstantiation is not a miracle after all! To see is to quantifiably change what you see! I’d head over to the airfield and find out about finishing my pilot’s license. Tomorrow. Call that lead singer from the chick band who’d wanted to kick it after her show at the Shakedown and chill with them a while. Drive the van, do sound. Eat handfuls of speed and stay up all night to get us to our next show...

 

Real-time I worked weekends and evenings for an old army friend of my dad’s who owned a bunch of properties around Happy Valley and Fairhaven—odd jobs, yard work, painting, raking, appliance maintenance, basic plumbing. Whatever I didn’t know, he’d teach me. The rest of the day I slept, and at night, afflicted by the anxieties I didn’t have a name for, I’d crash out the front door and wander. Out to the water and back. Across town. Past the university I’d… The art building where I…  The library...  

 

Here’s how I remember it: End of the day. Light fading to orange, a sky full of back-lit pastel cumulonimbus clouds as the sun fell into the Pacific, and I’m up on Larry’s ladder—the good one, with the rubberized treads—wrists sunk in a slick mess of decayed leaves, pine needles, dirt and decomposed vegetation, the variegated sparkle of light on the roof shingles making me feel as if I’m about to be pulled up through a field of static, over the top of the tenant’s gables, into the sky. I didn’t wear gloves then, not to compensate or prove some tougher than tough bullshit, but because I really believed one should experience things first-source, to the fullest. No veil between yourself and whatever the experience might be. So if I’m cleaning your gutters, if I’m snaking your drain line, I want to know I’m cleaning your gutters and snaking your drain line. Otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the point in living? There’s always soap for later. Soap and a hot bath. And just as I lean out as far to my left as possible for a last handful of muck, before backing down, sliding the ladder to a new section of gable and gutter, I hear her below: “Pie!  Whiskey!”  Some combination of cues in the air—the light, the sounds of traffic intensifying with the evening rush on I-5, that field of sparkling static about to absorb me and float me into space—I’m still sure, hearing it in memory, that she’s addressing me. Inviting me in.  “Whiskey!  Pie!”     

 

Not the strangest offer I’d ever had, or the most appealing, but it was a time in my life when I was ready to accept anything as purposeful and intended.  She was inviting me in. Me! Because she’d seen me arriving in Larry’s truck with the ladders and my arm out the window and thought hot or whatever.

 

I went down, wiping my hands on my overalls, tugging the bill of my ball cap, and around the corner to find her at the front door still, leaning out, an arm on the door jamb, one bare foot propping the door open. Orange dress in a pattern that looked like flames gathered around and engulfing a bare leg.

 

“Hi.”

 

The look on her face also is stuck there in my memory, both ways, right and wrong, how it seemed to me before I understood—preoccupied, animated, overly-kind—and after. Like the time I ran into a glass door as a kid, the moment approaching the scene and not understanding how everyone inside was separated from me by a wall of glass, and the moment after, stricken and in pain as the ground hit my back and the door flew open and people came to stand around in a circle asking questions and pointing to the blood on my face.

 

“That sounds delicious,” I said, though it didn’t. Sounded mostly undigestable.

 

“What does.” Like we didn’t speak the same language.

 

“Whiskey. Pie. What have you got?”

 

And then the smile dissolving as she leaned forward shaking her head, door held open with her butt and both hands on her knees, gapping the dress at her neck line, not addressing me. “They’re my cats,” she said. Boom! Glass wall. She wasn’t laughing, quite. Scolding? Not that either. The kindness and sing-song quality in her voice as she continued, cats slipping up the steps, inside, one an orange black and yellow calico, the other black with a wedge of white on its nose, were not for me exactly, but the words were. “That’s Pie,” she said, still not looking. “Because of the creamy white slice on his nose. The girl…that’s my Whiskey. We called her that because when she was little she wobbled on her feet like a drunk.”

 

She had to have been ten years older than me, maybe more, the skin around her temples and wrists richly veined and sprinkled with pale dots like inverted freckles or some kind of snowy residue from overexposure to sun. She would be cool to the touch, I imagined, with an aura of dampness, like she’d just come out of a swimming pool. By the time our eyes met I… Maybe because I was stuck trying to figure out how Pie and Whiskey still meant pie and whiskey but also referred to brother-and-sister cats, I also have two ways of remembering her: one where the irises are pale blue to go with the white freckles on her wrists and temples; the other, cinnamon-rust to match her reddish-brown hair and a husky, strained quality about her voice outlining certain words.  

 

“I can offer you ice water?” she said.  “Would you like some water?”

 

“Chrysanthemums,” I said.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

I pointed. “They must look great when they come in. And the hydrangeas.”

 

Inside, there was a smell of curry simmering but no pot on the stove, and right away I had the sense of things gone wrong—gravely amiss. Broken. What or why, I couldn’t say, nor could I point at anything to confirm the feeling—packed boxes, busted windows, crockery in pieces, dead plants—I just knew. And knew that I’d never find out the source of the sadness either. The same way I had a sudden glimpse of myself, alone at that kitchen table, middle of the night and too wide-awake to lie beside her, writing my goodbye. My Dear Jane (it turned out to be her name, even).  What would I say? I had only the image: myself from behind, shoulders rounded over the table, writing. Goodbye

 

“Lemon?”

 

“I don’t mind.”

 

We stood a few paces apart, not speaking. The light softened orange to red as it fell further over the top of her house and I drank. In my mind, still, was that field of sparkling static on her roof absorbing me heavenward. The cats swirled around her bare feet, butting their heads at her ankles and shins, diving for the floor and writhing up again. The floors were warped old linoleum, a pattern I’d seen around town in other of Larry’s properties—off-white with little gold tassels like bundled scepters interspersed with asterisks. Very 50’s. Very Jetson’s.

 

“They think it’s dinner time,” she said.

 

Ice grazed my nose as I swallowed. I watched the muscles in her neck flexing sympathetically. “Thanks,” I said, when I was done, and held the glass for her to take. I noticed everything in that moment too. The squared tips of her fingers and bitten cuticle edges, the condensation on the glass’s surface separated from the ice cubes within only by a curve of glass. “Guess I’ll have to take a rain-check on the whiskey then. I’m not much for pie, to be truthful. And Larry doesn’t like for me to drink on the job.”

 

She smiled with a snuffling noise like something was stuck in her throat, and turned from me to put the glass in the sink. That sink had years of crud backed up in its trap. Too shallow to be of any real practical use anyway, and draining slower all the time. You just had to look at it, and at her, the way she set that glass there, to know. Larry was a decent boss but cheap as hell where his properties were concerned. Don’t fix it, just make it work again, his motto. He’d disassemble and reassemble those pipes with all the same fittings before paying to bring in an actual plumber.

 

“I’d better get back at it before the light’s gone.”

 

***

 

On my way home, I saw them searching in the bushes by the sidewalk. From my Psych Lecture class: the heavyish girl with blue and orange streaked hair who dressed all the time like a tripped out Raggedy-Ann doll in patched denim skirts and too-tight shirts, metallic tinted leggings, gaudy jewelry, and the boys she was always with—Smith and Smythe or something. I could never tell them apart. Same height and hair color, interchangeable clothes except that one of them (I could never remember which) had some decent ink, little bubbles and spirals and sperm doodads wrapping around his forearm and extending to his wrist. At the beginning of the year when I was still attending classes, I’d sat near them sometimes, looking for a way in, socially, thinking we’d all get to be friends, and wondering (because I figured it was key to knowing them) who was fucking whom. Eventually I decided there was nothing really that interesting going on, and that they were all three posers from the same Central Washington farm high school acting like they knew more about the wide world than they did, and hanging onto each other for safety.

 

I saw them, and I knew. It was like this intense planar heat through my shoulders and the back of my neck, encircling and then exiting through the top of my head and causing my arms to prickle all the way down to the wrists: Whatever they were looking for, I was going to find it. I was going to walk right up and look at the ground and say, “There.”

 

“Hey. What’s good?”  I pushed my bike onto the curb and over the sidewalk toward them. “Lose something?”

 

The boy with the more disproportionately cropped hairdo—Peter, I suddenly remembered; his name was Peter; the other one was Matthew and both of them were last name Smith—squinted my way, still bent, hands on knees.

 

“Peter lost his contact lens.”  He rubbed the back of a wrist under his nose and went back to searching.

 

So the other one was Peter.  This one was Matthew. 

 

“It’s right there,” I said. 

 

“Where?”

 

I dropped my bike and went to stand beside the girl, breathing her shampoo and cigarette smell. I’d always assumed, the way she dressed for attention and carried herself, she must want to flaunt her semi-unattractiveness as a kind of pointed fuck-you to the world for preferring girls with thinner waists and more angular lines and kneecaps and muscles that showed. Now I wondered. I saw the bumps of her vertebra leading out of sight under the ragged collar of her shirt and remembered a night not long before, walking up Magnolia toward downtown, probably two-three AM, a streetlight flickering on suddenly as I passed under it, and there at the edge of the illumination a girl like her, alone in her parked car, crying. Both hands on the steering wheel and just sobbing behind the windshield, cheeks covered in mascara. For a second, remembering, I had the urge to put my hands on her shoulders—whatever it took to make her feel good. It wasn’t her, though. But the way I remembered, it might have been. Instead, I narrowed my eyes and searched out a reflective glimmer, a flash anywhere in the half-light through the fuzz of my eyelashes. “Right there,” I repeated, pointing, and leaned like I was following my finger through the leaves and spider-web encrusted underbrush straight to it: tiny, blue-green semicircle, halved-ovoid of sight-giving plastic. “There,” I said, pinching it up and holding it in my palm for one of them to take. “Here.”

 

“Thank you!”

 

“Thanks!”

 

“Wow, are you like a fucking genie or miracle worker or something?”

 

“We’ve been looking for hours.”

 

For the moment I could do nothing but believe whatever they might say or think about me. I won’t lie. It was good, imagining myself possessed of superhero, magical powers. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said.   

 

“Whatever the fuck. That was just like super rad. You found my fucking contact lens in the fucking dark! Can I just say…you’re like my idol from now on? Like for the rest of the week anyway, you get whatever you want?”

 

I nodded sagely, afraid one of them would now want to kiss or touch me, and felt the heat drip away a beat at a time, like wax falling out of the way of a flame, down the tips of my fingers, draining from wherever it had originated in me. The sidewalk where we stood was humped and buckled, split from below by the roots of ancient trees.  Under that were the gas, sewer, and water lines laid in the forties and fifties by guys like Larry and my dad, but older, lots older now. State-of-the art technology for an era so out of date no one even thought of it as having technology. Machinery, maybe.  Any day now those lines would blow—seep water, sewage, explode into towers of blue-hot flame, vaporizing everything in sight, catching fire to the rest. And here we stood like nothing in the world was going on. Like the most amazing thing was the miracle of finding Peter’s lost contact lens. 

 

“Forget it,” I said. 

 

I pushed my bike back out to the street. Gave a backward wave and pedaled on. 

 

***

 

Over the doorway to her bedroom she’d hung a shroud of sheerest cotton—gauzy, membranous—so she could sleep with her door open to enjoy better air circulation with no risk of neighbors catching glimpses of her through the hall windows at the back of her house. At first, seeing her through it, I couldn’t understand and thought I must be more drunken than I knew—a weird, trunk-to-cranium, sight-obliterating kind of drunk. She was like a ghost. Product of inner- and real-vision fused, so beholding her was seeing and not-seeing simultaneously. Then I understood and went through.  Gauzy milk hazed hues turned to the shades of skin that were her—tanned, pale, freckled, flame of pubic bush, and through it all the ripples and seams in the skin along her hips and under her breasts. “Relax,” I said, slipping up from behind to hold her. “Am I right? It’s been ages. This is what you needed. Right?” I held her and waited, the sides of our faces aligned and touching so I felt her breath hot and cool under my chin.

 

“OK,” she said. “OK.”

 

Still I waited.

 

“I don’t even know what to do. Like where to begin…”

 

She wasn’t a shy kisser. Her mouth tasted of scotch and toothpaste and something else I couldn’t place. Fennel, maybe. A taste like the smell of clover. On the bed, I lay with an arm threaded between her legs and an arm crossed under her waist, mouth on her hipbone. Always, my favorite moment in lovemaking: those seconds leading up to and following communion. The convergence, magical melding point, past which… I rocked until I felt her hips open and kissed my way down.

 

And all night, through the sex that seemed never-ending, I’d forget. I’d stand from beneath her covers, head for the bathroom and stop dead, skin numb and tingling to the bottoms of my feet from having come so much and so uncontrollably, unable to figure out how the air in the doorway had turned solid and opalescent, thick with moonlight. Then I’d remember. I’d pull back the curtain, go through.

 

At times, touching her, I felt I was so close I could almost picture it—the thing, whatever it was causing her grief. I saw water, choppy and flecked with ice, lights winking on and off through it, and felt for sure I was coaxing her out somehow—drifting along with her and keeping her afloat. The picture kept shifting on me as it came into focus. Maybe I was dreaming.

 

Meanwhile, invisible forces were second-by-second working their own powers on me, opening cracks and fissures in the way ahead and locking down my future. All the result of choices I’d made weeks ago when I quit attending class. Of course. Now was just the apex of those previous non-actions looming invisibly, inevitably ahead: the midterm exams I wouldn’t take in the coming days, and midterm papers there was no way in hell I could write or pay anyone to write for me. The wave of all my non-choices waiting to crash over me and spiral me off to wherever. Or, as my dad would say: Natural consequences. Reap what you sow. You made your bed now you get to lie in it.   

 

Before going to her house I’d had a few minutes to really think about this.  Plot a course and make a last ditch effort to change my ways. Alone in my rented room off campus, staring at the dents in the wall and the water stains in the ceiling paint and collection of my dirty pots and dishes, glasses, mugs, spoons, piled on top of the books I hadn’t touched in weeks…

 

“Fuck that,” I’d said. I wasn’t lying in any bed. 

 

I still didn’t have a name for the thing driving me out the door, anywhere but confined in those four walls with the windows that didn’t open more than a few inches, and roommates sitting around downstairs at the game console, hooting and high-fiving, the dead bong and their purses and shoes and the half-eaten box of Domino’s Pizza cold between them. But I had a destination. Her house. Ms. Pie and Whiskey. I had to see her again and figure out what it was about her. What made her call for me without knowing. No, I had to go back to that moment where misapprehension presented unexpected new possibilities for me—hearing her voice, and coming around the corner of her house to see her there in the doorway. Pie, whiskey, sure I’ll have some. What have you got? No, I wanted to be in the moments right before that, not knowing anything and suspended in time, hand in her eaves, seeing the sun set fire to the top of her roof. No, I…

 

As I walked, I thumbed through my contacts and call log trying to think of anyone I could hit up for a favor. Buy a bottle to bring with, keep things friendly. People I’d known at home in high school; the handful of friends I’d made since moving to the western side of the state; old family friends. Larry. Angie, who also worked for Larry and whose place I seemed more or less to be taking on the crew. I knew where Larry kept a bottle of something—looked like Beam or Jack with the label half ripped off, in the tool box at the back of his pickup. But that would be thieving from the one guy for whom remaining in his good graces would guarantee me bi-weekly pay-checks. Not to mention, knowing Larry it wouldn’t be booze at all in there but some fatal brew for baiting and killing rats. Greasing a chainsaw. But I thought about checking. I went so far as to walk a few blocks out of my way toward where I knew he parked overnight sometimes, jingling the spare truck keys in my pocket. 

 

In the end it was unnecessary. She was already drunk on her darkened front porch, feet on the railing, like she’d been waiting for me. “Hey,” she said from the shadows. “Hey! You. You’re the kid from—aren’t you Larry’s handyperson, savior, whatchamacallit…? Larry, my landlord. You’re the one that came about the gutters, right? Gave me the bad idea to go buy some whiskey.”

 

I stopped on the sidewalk. Came closer and stepped through the hydrangeas and chrysanthemums. It occurred to me, stepping over them, she might not have had anything to do with planning or planting—might not even have been here as long as a season to see them bloom. “Yes,” I said, and, “at your service,” tipping an imaginary hat. I saw her teeth flash in the porch light and smelled booze, but couldn’t quite make out her face in the shadows well enough to read an expression. The trouble with you, my last girlfriend, the punk parachute jumper from Eugene, had told me during a final blowout confrontation session, You think conversation’s everyone else’s job. You’re good enough to stand around listening. But that’s about it. You think LIFE’s everyone else’s job. I thought about her. I considered there was a serious limit or blind spot in my methods, and that I was doing it again; I was still Jess, still acting according to formula. But what was I supposed to say that wouldn’t come off as totally cheesy or stupid? Just in the neighborhood... Thought I’d see if you had any of that pie or whiskey... It’s after ten o’clock do you know where your cats are? I’m sure there were lines she couldn’t bring herself to say either. Meanwhile we stood there in silence not quite seeing each other. A car passed. I watched after it. In the fading red taillight illumination she turned back into herself. Red-rimmed eyes, shoulders with the freckles and sun blistered white speckles, bare calves.

 

“You were cuter in overalls,” she said. Swirled the ice cubes in her drink.

 

I looked down trying to remember what I’d even thought to change into. Jeans, sandals. A T-shirt with an anime figure on it and my usual cord jacket with the hoodie. Minimal hair product. An earring. Nothing fancy. “I’ll try to remember for next time.”

 

“Listen though, I’m sorry about before…you know.”

 

“How’s that?”

 

She drew up her shoulders and seemed never to release them. “Being so ungracious.  You caught me by surprise.”

 

“I wouldn’t say.”

 

Another silence. “It was, though. And then you got me thinking how nice it’d be to have some sipping whiskey and just to sit out here in the night air a while. A terribly, wonderful bad idea. So I thank you for it! I do. And here you are again, just like magic... Fate.  Would you like some? For real this time?”

 

“I wouldn’t have come down off that ladder if I didn’t, right?”

 

“Well.” She stood and took a few weaving steps toward her purple front door, straightening abruptly as she went, hand on the door latch. “Wait!  Are you even old enough to drink? Never mind, I didn’t ask that. I don’t care, I don’t care. You’re coming, right? I want to hear all about the…” I didn’t catch the last part of it over the sound of the screen door slapping shut behind her.

 

Inside there were candles burning anywhere you could put them, bookshelves, end tables, window ledges—like she’d known I was coming—and the cats wedged together on the couch in a furry lump, head to tail. The smells of curry and misery had been displaced by burning beeswax and scented paraffin and some kind of lotion. “Hey,” I said. “Pie. Whiskey.” Neither looked up or opened an eye. One stretched a paw as if in greeting or recognition, toenails popping against upholstery, and rolled its chin up. It wasn’t like I’d come home or anything that corny, but there was a feeling, and I knew I wouldn’t leave until closer to morning.

 

***

 

Boom! Glass wall. Like when I was a kid, hitting that door. The other time was in the art class, my last day modeling, waking up on the model’s stand and not remembering where I was or anything about what I was doing. First things to enter my consciousness: My nakedness. Sounds of brushes and palette knives just under the classical radio playing some piano and flute sonata, very sad and still vaguely connected-feeling with whatever I’d been dreaming; the two dead lights in the middle of the lighting rack of hot gels, staring me down, like a pair of dead eyes; milk-house heater clicking on to displace the colder air that seemed to emanate from everywhere else in the room. How long had I been out? My legs were numb from ankle to mid-thigh, and my ass floated in a needly cushion of non-feeling. A while anyway. The clock at the back of the room was no help, eternally clicking toward and never advancing past 6:09. Students looked at me, parts of me, probingly; bit lips, squinted, mixed colors, looked again. The better ones kept their eyes fixed in a glazed mid-distance-seeing way that transcended vision, constantly flicking between me and whatever was on the canvas. Later I’d go around and not see much by which to know myself—half me’s, not me’s, partial me’s, disproportionate me’s, me’s with fuzzed outlines and blacked out eyes, me’s with the shadows obscuring shoulder from backdrop and elongating one hip. Taken together they gave me nothing to go by, and one by one they were like images caught in the bevel of a spoon. Like little figurative oil spills bent and swirling in the bottom of a single eyeball. Me? That’s me? How they saw me? Who was I, anyway? Did I even exist? Granted, this was a freshman art class—none of them was really any good yet. Still, it was disconcerting. Beyond disconcerting. I trained my eyes away from them and did my best not to catch any glimpses of their work in the wall mirrors at the back of the room either. Too weird.  Too impossible to assimilate. Especially now, waking up. I had to remind myself to breathe. Beyond the walls of perception and misperception was there really anything at all? See the subject in terms of color, the teacher was saying in her Russian or German or whatever kind of accent it was. Good, good. Color renders shape. Light renders color. And this is the whole secret of form—making the form glow as if lit from within by seeing everything as LIGHT. See how the arm is…like this. And this. Here.  Remember the golden mean. Like this. You see now? Color is FORM. Form is LIGHT. 

 

All this I remembered, sitting at her dining room table, Jane’s, that night, and trying to figure out what to say. Whether to say anything at all. How to say it. I wondered if I’d ever really picked myself up off that artist’s model stand—if I wasn’t still back there somehow, permanently stuck like the busted clock, trying to nudge my broken way forward. I’d never done another session. That was it. My last of three. Easy money.  Thrown away money, really. Cigarettes for a week, and a few pizzas. Maybe more sessions next semester, we’ll see. You call? My number here, yes, is the same. 

 

“Dear Jane,” I wrote. 

 

At first I’d thought I’d actually sleep. Two-three times I’d almost felt it coming—felt that hole at the floor of consciousness opening, myself slipping through. Drifting in with the weird dream shapes. But no. Snapped back out like the way that curtain in her doorway kept going from solid to opalescent to nothing—a piece of fabric I could pull aside, walk through. I waited until her breathing had steadied. Slipped out and went with my clothes into the bathroom to dress. Reflected in the medicine chest over her sink and the full-length vanity beside the tub, I saw myself in the half-light—pale legs and arms vanishing into pants, shirt, hoodie, jacket until all that remained was a face. Waif-like, floating in the shadows. Girlish. A face I mostly hated. And hands. 

 

“I wanted to,” I wrote.  Something warm and sleek butted my ankle.

 

Cat. 

 

Which one? I reached a hand for it, wiggled my fingers. Waited. Made noises I’d heard other people make communicating with cats, pursing my lips and sucking air with my tongue against the backs of my front teeth. “Here kitty,” I whispered. “Pie! Whiskey!” 

 

The sound I’d been hearing upstairs, waiting in vain for sleep or until she was out cold and I could leave without disturbing anything, came clear to me now. An intermittent galloping thumping-harumping noise and occasional reverberant elastic boing boing boing boing noise. It was the cats. Sprinting around and jumping from tier to tier of their indoor carpeted condominium cat-scratcher structure, and whacking at one of the cheap spring-loaded door stops Larry used in all of his properties—tiny, bendable baseball bats with rubber-ended tips, screwed into the bottom panel of the doors to save doorknobs from crashing through drywall—causing the inside of the hollow door to echo like a speaker cone. 

 

“I wanted to say,” I continued. 

 

I couldn’t think now. I wanted to say what exactly? It was like I was made of glass or light inside, all twisted and murky, sparks shooting off in prismatic bursts. I didn’t understand yet how this was a permanent condition, nothing temporary, and how no amount of explanation would save me from its ill effects. Months later, years maybe, I’d walk past her at the Hagens and not even know until after she’d chased me down, hand damp on my forearm—But you never gave me the chance to say a proper goodbye or even thank you! It was just…what you did for me that night? Positively splendiferous. A miracle. My first! Like you were some kind of angel. I mean it!  Obliged, I’d say, and back off down another aisle, watching my feet on the tiles and waiting for it to hit me, who she was, what I’d done…    


I looked up where I knew they were watching me in the shadows and waited for their shapes to come clear around their glowing yellow eyes—fluffed manes and tails and pointed ears. A scattering sound of nails tearing on carpet. Gorilla-sized nails, from the sound of it. More thumping-harumping and a rasping violent hiss. Silence. I stared through the dark willing them back; stared and didn’t breathe until I felt my skin crystalize, vanish and my eyes go dry. I felt what it would be like to be them, to be with them on the hunt. Every nerve and synapse attuned. Every muscle one with the spring. Any second now I’d join them. “Hey,” I whispered. “Hey!  Whiskey. Pie. Pie! Whiskey?”

JOIN NOW > CONTRIBUTE >

GET OUR UPDATES

Photo by Mike Melnyk

 

Gregory Spatz is the author of the novels Inukshuk, Fiddler's Dream, and No One But Us, and of the story collections Half as Happy and Wonderful Tricks. His stories have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Glimmer Train Stories, Shenandoah, Epoch, Kenyon ReviewSanta Monica ReviewIowa Review, and New England Review. The recipient of a Michener Fellowship, a Washington State Book Award, Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship, and a 2012 NEA Fellowship in literature, he teaches in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, WA.

 

This story was originally published in Issue #15 of The Literarian.