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May 30, 2017 | Fiction

Three Short Fictions

Ryan Bender-Murphy

Three Short Fictions photo

The Needle Behind the Thread

I knocked your socks off and away they went into another neighborhood, city, state, country, world, and dimension. I knelt on the soft bit of lawn where this happened and waited for you to remove a hose from the side of your house. You folded up a part of it like a sword and tapped it on my shoulders. We were wedded, finally, and I began to rent videos online using your account login. I also began to throw your dirty clothing in with mine during laundry days. Each lick of ice cream you took I could also take. The socks reappeared on my lunch break at work, where I sat at the two-seat table overlooking a speck of lawn with an artificial pond. To stare at those goldfish swimming in the pond sent me to days when we tackled the coast, when we climbed a hill in the rain. The socks were longer now, with red stripes, and white as the day god said light there be light. I knew they were yours because they had a cosmic smell, like a weary traveler who fought in a war and got lost so he decided to make the most of years at sea. The socks fell into my salad, right on the sliced chicken resting over the bed of greens. My nose descended to their fabrics and I could see the first hand ever in time nestled inside the third hand ever. A breeze filled me, but not from the oscillating fan whose buttons were a bit more complicated than I expected the first time using it. For a moment all of the goldfish went missing in the pond. I took off my loafers and put the socks on my feet. "You know socks don't go with loafers," Rohan said, wiping a streak of mustard from his mustache. "Yeah," Billy and Monica chimed in. “Fashion 101 failed,” added Angelica. “I got to take a picture of this,” laughed Oliver, holding out his phone and clicking the big white button at the center of everything.

Always See Me

Vanishing can be its own recipe for disaster. You end up leaving a cloud of smoke when you go, and this smoke drifts throughout the city, first to a group of elementary students at recess. They cough excessively, and a teacher writes an email to the parents about the incident. The teacher crafts the email so delicately that he misses a happy-hour meeting with his friends. Instead he takes the long way home, slugging a few beers at a bar near his apartment, chatting up the other half of himself as he watches some sports game on the TV that is meaningless to him. But the cloud you left behind continues, and after it moves through the kiddos, it steers through downtown traffic, obscuring a cyclist in his bike lane from a driver who wants to turn RIGHT NOW. The cloud is not quite finished. It trails over the river. A few workers turn from their computers and point out the window to the river with a layer of smoke gliding over it. They ask if maybe there's a fire, or they don't even know. Elsewhere, some start searching for answers, checking news sites and texting everybody. They talk about it with their friends at dinner later, stuffing enormous sushi pieces into their mouths. The mist machine turns on in the back of the restaurant, and for a second, one of them looks, hoping.

Liquid Dynamics

When the flood came through Texas, the blue hurled its thousand arms at anything within reach like a crush of shoppers grabbing merchandise during the first hours of a holiday sale. At first, houses near embankments fell into the flood's grasp—a predictable end, and as such, the city dwellers felt no alarm, instead spending their time finding free parking. But the onslaught did arrive. The enormous wave devoured the city, leaving only the highest points of the highest buildings left as reminders of what once was. Thankfully I had missed my exit to work and decided to keep driving north, away from the Gulf. The tide worked its way up the interstate, unconcerned with speed limits, and I considered it a younger version of myself, perhaps of the entire nation. After some driving, I ended up in Seattle, in the lobby of a luxury apartment building downtown. I sat with my partner, whom I met at some point along the way, perhaps in California or Oregon, and across from us, an apartment manager wearing a gray blazer and black heels talked us through the lease that we signed passionately. I knew that we hadn't truly outrun the Gulf, and that it would only be a matter of time before it consumed everything. That's why we asked for the highest unit in the building. "Life will be all elevators," my partner said, and I found the statement comforting. Then I realized that we couldn’t afford to live in the apartment, because the rent equaled both of our monthly salaries combined. When I mentioned this to the apartment manager, she said that the papers had been approved, so we'd have to settle it later. We shrugged and began moving in. My partner and I didn't own anything other than a few knickknacks from gas stations, such as state flags, straw hats, DVDs, and jerky. We brought everything up with plastic grocery bags, emptying the contents on the living room floor like amateur bandits eying their loot from a major heist. From the balcony, I could see the Sound, where ferries shipped people from the mainland to an island. The Gulf lay out of sight. We waited for everyone to get washed away, but instead couples paddle-boarded on the Sound and threw rocks from running paths. Most nights, knowing that we would be completely broke in a month's time, I looked up ways to break a lease, and even called my lawyer friend from an eastern state with good seafood restaurants. It turned out that we couldn't break the lease just willy-nilly, not without major financial repercussions. 

image: Bryan Bowie


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