Three Very Short Stories
FABLE by Lena Bertone
I looked in the mirror and saw a horse: the long face, the deep cavern below each dark eye, chin pulling down like a pendulum. You’ll scare the child, I thought.
The house was dark day and night. I pulled the blinds shut every morning. For months, I slid around in socks and no shirt on. The baby awake for increments and then asleep again, attached to me like an animal and then tucked, ruffled, in her bassinet. I stood half naked in the fridge, wept with yogurt smeared across my chest. At night when I opened the blinds, I exposed myself to the backyard. It sprawled out into forest and ravine. Glass-eyed, I focused on the line of turkeys by the neighbors’ gate, gazed on two deer at the salt lick.
What are you looking at, deer?
When visitors came, I put on a stained shirt and let them in. Every one of them had a horse face! They’ll scare the child, I thought. They looked at her, contorted, made animal sounds. I didn’t know how she could bear it without screaming.
* * *
HER FAVORITE COLOR IS LIGHT by Angela Rydell
Nora thinks air and smell are one. You breathe in sweet or sour, musty or moldy or wet-dog or chicken-broth scented. You breathe out your own smell, and this is how animals know you. She’s five and reads the number one as white as snow, the number two as bluer than a dead man’s lips, the number four as orange-red like the tips of flames. Five is green as grass. Ask her to add two and five, and she’ll say a dead man’s lips and green grass equal a funeral that lasts seven hours. Her mother winces, reassures relatives and friends Nora’s just being silly, it’s a hoot, but complains of an ulcer and drinks something that smells loud at night to get to sleep, often lowers her voice to company or on the phone when Nora comes into the room. She’s stopped asking Nora how was preschool, cringes when Nora says her teacher’s voice is the texture of prickly stars and the shouts of other kids like rockslides or rope biting her wrist. Nora thinks her mother’s voice is the texture of a hundred tiny triangles of broken glass. She paints a picture of her mother, a scribble of loops pulling tighter and tighter, loops that smell like rotting leaves, moonlight and Wonder bread, knots a heart at the center that hums like a hive of angry bees. She paints her self-por- trait in thousands of neon-colored marker dots, each point a color so loud she must press her hands over her ears to see herself.
(via NANO Fiction)
* * *
GUILT NAMES by Ryan W. Bradley
Mom says to think of all the things that make me feel guilty, that tie my guts up in knots, and give each one a name. When the snow starts I sit at the front window and try to find a name for liking the way flakes dance in the air, how when the storms kick up all heavy, I can’t see anything past the broken fence at the edge of our yard.
Sometimes Mom gets quiet and says she doesn’t care that Dad left us. That we’re better off anyhow.
There’s no name for feeling she’s wrong, so I just sit at the window watching the road and the windsock on our neighbor’s fence, trying to guess when the next storm is going to kick up. When the whiteout of snowfall will blank out the whole neighborhood.
“There’s always one on the horizon,” Dad used to say.
My guess is the horizon is what he went looking for. Because nothing good ever came of watching the snow whether it’s sitting there glinting in a moment of sunlight or blowing like a white tornado erasing everything past the window.
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