A View From The Top

Solon is thirty and Quiana sixteen. He is newly married and they are having an affair.

How they met
At a gas station. She was pumping gas on number 2 and he was pumping gas on number 4. He had honestly forgotten about her by that point, or thought maybe that he would never see her again.

What he thinks when he sees her
He dreams sometimes of flying, of being cold, of being hungry, of big voices and hands. Of strawberries. Of hemlock and anise and parsley.

What she thinks when she seem him
She has not forgotten him. His clean lines, his casual grace, his black and beady eyes. The first fuzz of beard. Her cheek itches in sympathy.

They drive an hour and a half in separate cars until they come to a road cut into a cliff face. They crush each other back against the wall, back into the netting holding the rocks together. It is less a kiss and more the first intimation of avalanche.

Run Down

Death grounds her in her body; Quiana has never been so intimately aware of the shadowed collection of pipes, valves and hollows that gurgles away inside her. It’s a revelation, one she could have done without.

Solon says: “So many things are deadly. So many common things. Not the obvious—no mugs full of Drano, no bleach stirred into your milk—but others. Rhododendrons. House plants. Everyday items, harmless only because undisturbed.”

He scratches his cheek where the beard is growing in. Her face burns in sympathy, but her arms are too heavy to lift.

“I don’t think anyone will realize that this was anything more than an accident. It’s so easy to be stupid. You don’t even need to be careless—lots of people have killed themselves very deliberately just because they didn’t know.”

There’s no pain. She isn’t sure whether that’s for the best or not. Solon leans in close, brushes her forehead with dry lips. “Goodnight. See you in the next life.” He’s framed against the lit doorframe, then she’s alone in the dark, death sitting on her chest.

Make the Merry-Go-Round Go Faster

for Marissa, who wanted more continuity

Pushing through the amniotic sack was the hardest part. After that everything worked with him.

When he got his head free, shiny still with blood and mucus, he took a deep breath — his first! — and squinted around at the room. Everything was white and hard-edged. Unpleasant.

“He’s not crying,” a deep voice said above him.

“Hit him, then! I’m busy!” said another, deeper, that allowed him to say ‘female’ to the first voice, and ‘male’ to the second. He was pulled into the air and swatted fiercely on the backside. He snarled at the blur that had struck him.

“Thank god!” said the female voice.

He stopped snarling while they were cleaning him. He couldn’t see very well yet, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing.

“He’s such a quiet baby. It’s not normal.” This was the first voice.

“They come in all types. Some of them are just quiet.” This was a third voice. Female? He wasn’t sure. “How’s the mother?”

“Ma’am? How are you feeling?”

Someone groaned. He knew that voice. Quiana!

“She’s still under. How much did you pump into her? Seems okay, though. Pulse is good.”

“What’d she name the baby?”

He knew.



Quiana has become pregnant. She disbelieves, she rages, she has test after test done, cardboard tubes and needles, blood samples and ultrasound and voodoo. Each result she opens with the happy expectation of barrenness, each stripe of colour, each letter betrays her with her own fecundity, and goes tumbling or floating to the floor. Her house is carpeted with these announcements. She is angry, she is baffled, she is sterile, she is celibate. It is a year Solon has been underground, and no lovers, no amours, no tangled trystings to pass the time, and so her child is fatherless.

She reads book after book after book, on cell division, pregnancy, religious visitations, paranormal phenomena, psychology, while inside her something grows. She comes to no conclusions. She decides to have an abortion, to rid herself of this anamoly. The clinic is closed; every clinic is closed, or bombed, or too busy, and her time is running out. She flies across the country, over and over again, and arrives always too late. Trains leave, planes are delayed, cars break down, the electricity goes out. She drinks thick and bitter cups of toxic infusions and spends days retching bile and blood into the toilet. She throws herself down the marble steps of the library, arms curled protectively around her head, trudges up the long stairs, again, and again, three times for certainty, and is dizzy and bruised but otherwise unharmed. The thing survives. She cannot lose it, cannot destroy it. Her ultrasounds show a face too developed, eyes half opened and watching, a slight smile upon the colourless lips.

Sparrow #69,098,309,112

He forgot his name when he died, forgot everything but that he had been a man, and unhappy.
Someone spoke to him, a Voice: “Again?”
He knew that there might be another chance.

He thought.
“Yes. Only –“
“Again only?”
“I was not happy as a man.”
“Might I– might I be a bird?”
“Again anew,” said the Voice.

He was reborn, through bright lights and floating, an egg.
He lay in the shell, as his heart beat and his beak formed and he feathered.
He burst through the shell and lay gasping.
April sunlight dried his feathers.
He screamed for hunger, and someone bright-eyed fed him.

He learned to fly.
He tumbled from the nest and spun as the gray sidewalk rose toward him.
Flight was wine, flight was life.
Flight was work, his muscles ached, his bones rang as glass chimes do in the wind.
He pecked and scratched at the earth from spring to summer to fall.
The winter came sharp and sudden and he was unprepared.
He froze to death in the early snows of October.

He forgot everything save that he had been a bird, and hungry and cold.
The Voice: “Again?”