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Three Stories photo

Plato’s Old Blind Elephant

She said, Look how god put that spiderweb at the corner of the window, just so. The falling sun struck its threads with chalk, gray, a wisp of pink.

I think, he said, we could thank the spider for that.

She smirked. The spider, god, the devil, me, Kevin Bacon, the dog… The dog, realizing she’d been referred to, thumped her tail twice somewhere in the other room …What’s the difference? What’s the distance?

He shrugged. There’s at least two of those I don’t believe in.

She opened the refrigerator, the light button sticking for a moment, popping out then, doing its work. Ok, she said, look how you put the spiderweb at the corner of the window.

He took her glass of iced tea, held it to his forehead. Phew, he said, this heat—I wish I didn’t exist.

She nodded. Now you got it. Now you’re onto it. That’s the stuff.

He took a sip of tea, handed it back to her. In fact, I have no idea what you’re talking about. No idea what anyone’s talking about. He made as if to grope the air around him.

I can see that, she said—smiling. She ran the tap, jiggled, shook the spent bottle of hand soap. This is out, she said. All out. Out!

The dog appeared in the doorway then, believing it was time for a walk.


The Artist (a fiction)

A boy collected stones from his driveway in the rain. The stones were orange, green, silver, and blue. He liked the worn stones the best, smoothed and rounded over with time, but at times those that flaked, sat fragile in his hand, attracted his drifting eye.

He took his bucket of stones inside, up the stairs, to his bedroom. He lay them out on his dresser top and then, for the moment, forgot about them.

The next day, his mother, an artist, said to him, What a wonderful exhibit!

Thanks, Mom, the boy said, remembering the stones, elated.

He went to his room. There they were, his exhibit, laid out on his dresser top.

Shit, he said. The once colorful set of stones, now dry, were more or less gray, brown, beige. The tender oranges, the forest greens, reduced to dull powder.

Mom, he said, pride reduced to embarrassment, These suck. The bucket of stones hung loosely in his hand. They’re ugly, he said, and boring.

His mother, a mother, hugged her son. I’m sorry, she said.

The boy took his bucket outside. He cast the stones into his driveway, a broadcast of disappointment. The stones lay where they fell, forgotten for now, a length of quiet years.


The Return

The bottle is blue, plastic, a red cap, filled with a medicated powder. When it is empty and thrown away, it rides nearly to the dump, bouncing out of the truck’s hopper and into the culvert. A heavy rain pushes it a half mile to the tidal creek. When the tide comes in, then out again, the bottle bobs along, past stands of reeds, a sweep of ducks, and into the bay.

The man is in his small boat, lifting his pots by their lengths of rope. In each pot a crab or two waves its claws, blue and bright in the faintly falling rain. Mostly they are too small, or female, or the man feels sorry for them, and he drops them over the side to sink elegantly back to their murky bottom. Most times the boat sputters home with few to no catches at all.

The man in his boat spies the bottle amidst a float of bay grass loosened from its roots. He guides the boat close, reaches out with his net, brings the bottle aboard. Into the hull it goes, alongside pieces of Styrofoam buoys—sun and salt faded—a potato chip bag, a half-empty bottle of red Mountain Dew.

Before 9 the rain clears and the sun comes out, biting and white. The man, without his hat today, steers the boat towards home. It’s a quarter mile across the open water, chopping at the keel. The wind freshens, dries the sweat across his arms, from the sockets of his eyes. At the small wooden dock of home, he is home.

The pieces of buoy, the potato chip bag, the plastic bottles go into the trash. This makes the man feel strong, less than his 75 years. He has done good unto the world. He has done well. At the rear door to his home he turns back to look at the bay, loudly blue under the sky. He has done well. He is hungry. His ailing wife is asleep in their bed, her breath catching, quitting, starting again.