Flash Friday

Christine is off to Chapel Hill this weekend for the Merge 25 Festival (Neutral Milk Hotel! Teenage Fanclub! Bob Mould from Husker Du! So many more!), but before she goes, here’s a quick story to tide you over til next Monday. It’s from Steve Mitchell’s debut story collection, The Naming of Ghosts. Happy weekend! 

Flare

She’d built the fire in the middle of the living room floor, between the coffee table and the overstuffed chair, not far from the television. By the time I stumbled in, the flames were pretty high and it was hard to tell whether she’d used my clothes or her own. I backed into the bedroom, still bleary eyed, pulling the comforter from the bed and running at the fire like a drunken matador. I fell toward the flames, wrestling them into the blanket, inhaling great gobs of smoke and blackening my hands, rolling on the floor with the flames until I was sure they’d died; then I sat up, straight legged in my pajamas, catching my breath by the smoldering mound of ash and comforter.


It was one of the great things about Evie, she was always surprising me. I never knew what she’d do next and I never seemed quite prepared for what she came up with. The chunks of glass in my iced tea, the razor blades in my shoes. The blue-black glint in her eye and her roundhouse swing. The fights melting into rapturous lovemaking, her body bucking under mine, arms pinwheeling her head, clutching at my shoulders or the bedsheets, her breath ragged in my ear; or, the disastrous sex, bruised and raw, giving way to a new bloodletting, always somehow unique, both of us managing to find new weapons or use old ones in new ways.


The smoke alarm finally clicked off and the silence surprised me. I looked up; everything else in the apartment seemed intact, only the front door was ajar. I got up to close it, running my fingers lovingly over the scarred doorframe and the pitted wall of the entrance hall, remembering how she’d shoved me to the floor by the door and mounted me there, my body wedged tightly into the corner; or how I’d ripped her blouse open from the back and pushed her onto the shapeless couch. Her teethmarks on my chest, the bruise on her neck.


I was scooping the smoking corpse of the fire into a metal trashcan I’d retrieved from my office when the doorbell rang. I let it ring while I finished the job, let it ring until it became a knock, tentative at first then more emphatic. His hand was in mid-air when I threw the door open.
He looked like an accountant or a coroner, all sandy-boyish hair and sweater vest. He blinked at me with an innocent confusion. I don’t know whether it was my scorched pajamas or my sooty face. I studied him, imagining Evie standing over the bed as he slept, plotting his dismemberment.


“Evie sent me for her things,” he said. Then, extending his hand, “I’m Adam.”


“Yeah, I bet you are,” I replied, shoving the smoldering trashcan into his arms and closing the door.


Evie. Man, I love that woman.

wilsonlibunc:

David Sedaris as a freshman at Western Carolina University. From the 1976 yearbook, Catamount.

wilsonlibunc:

David Sedaris as a freshman at Western Carolina University. From the 1976 yearbook, Catamount.

Jack White’s Third Man Records is venturing into publishing, and their very first anthology will include a previously unpublished story by Press 53 author Pinckney Benedict!

Poetry Wednesday

We know exactly what you need this morning—it’s this poem by Joe Mills (taken from his latest, Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet)

If Librarians Were Honest


“… a book indeed sometimes debauched me from my work….”
           —Benjamin Franklin


If librarians were honest,
they wouldn’t smile, or act
welcoming. They would say,
You need to be careful. Here
be monsters. They would say,
These rooms house heathens
and heretics, murderers and
maniacs, the deluded, desperate,
and dissolute. They would say,
These books contain knowledge
of death, desire, and decay,
betrayal, blood, and more blood;
each is a Pandora’s box, so why
would you want to open one.
They would post danger
signs warning that contact
might result in mood swings,
severe changes in vision,
and mind-altering effects.


If librarians were honest
they would admit the stacks
can be more seductive and
shocking than porn. After all,
once you’ve seen a few
breasts, vaginas, and penises,
more is simply more,
a comforting banality,
but the shelves of a library
contain sensational novelties,
a scandalous, permissive mingling
of Malcolm X, Marx, Melville,
Merwin, Millay, Milton, Morrison,and anyone can check them out,
taking them home or to some corner
where they can be debauched
and impregnated with ideas.


If librarians were honest,
they would say, No one
spends time here without being
changed. Maybe you should
go home. While you still can.

“Her mother was plasma held together with gravity. Her mother was thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen and supernova. Her mother knew fire.”
— Wendy J. Fox, The Seven Stages of Anger

5 Questions, 3 Facts

This week we get things started with an interview with Bonnie ZoBell, author of the newly released linked story collection, What Happened Here. Bonnie tells us about her writing process and what’s so great about her new office, below. 

P53: What’s your favorite time of day for writing?

BZ: Either early morning or very late at night. No phones ringing. People are asleep. I can go off to my own world without interruptions. There’s something about not having to be on guard that someone is going to need me that frees me up.

P53: Did you ever think that you might never write again?

BZ: Yes—there have been several times. It happens when I’m working on something long and either I just can’t seem to get it right or I can’t get a publisher, which for better or worse in my mind equates not getting it right. Each time something happened that gave me some kind of outside recognition, outside of myself, and I got going again. One time after quite a long time of nothing good going on, out of the blue I won an NEA Fellowship for an unpublished story that had been rejected so many times it’s embarrassing to say. Another time I discovered flash fiction and began writing all kinds of that and got a lot of encouragement and publications. Now I’m back to writing longer works again.

P53: You can only eat one food for the rest of your life; what is it? 

BZ: Right now it’s hot and summer, so I mostly think of drinks—ice cold water, ice cold ice tea and lemonade mix, Kim Church’s cherry splash. But I guess that wouldn’t sustain me. Um, one food? Cereal with fruit on it.

P53: What kind of music do you listen to? Do you ever listen to music while writing?

BZ: I love the blues. I rarely listen to music while writing because it’s distracting. I love working in my new office we made out of converting our old garage. I leave the window and door open and love the birds singing and squawking in the background.

P53: Inspiration or perspiration?

BZ: Some inspiration goes a long way—a new character I love, the answer to a problem I’ve been stewing over, somebody asks to see some of my work. But perspiration is what gets the job done. I have to keep plugging at whatever I’m working on—through good days and bad—to accomplish whatever project I’ve set out to do. 

Three Facts about Bonnie:

1. I’m a workaholic.

2. I love my new office. I live in an old Spanish cottage built in 1929. “Small” is the operative word. The garage is so small you can tell it was built for Model-Ts—a modern car won’t fit in here. My husband and I were sharing an office—a small office—and a few years ago I realized I should convert the garage into my office and let my husband keep the old one for himself. I love it out here because it’s all my own, I can view my garden from the window and door, and all my gardening tools are out here, too. I ended up buying the small painting Red Bird that’s on the cover of What Happened Here—he’s my muse on the wall over my desk. There are green bamboo mats on the floor like the grass, and my dogs have beds out here so they can keep me company when I write.

3. I think people should use as many adverbs and adjectives as they want to.

nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow
nevver:

Book posters, Gunter Rambow

Flash Friday

It’s Friday!!! We celebrate, as always, with some fantastic flash fiction. This week’s selection comes from Kate Hill Cantrill’s debut, Walk Back from Monkey School.

Oops

OK so oops. I messed that up. I made it sexual when it was sweet. Oops. I swear it was the beer. OK I lie. I always lie. I tried to be a different girl for you. So oops. I messed that up. I made it sexual when it was sweet.
I knew a woman who wrote instead ‘opps’ due to learning disabilities, although I thought it fucking brilliant; and when she said: My business plan? Laundromat and Coffee Shop, I nearly fainted with impression. Opps. And so so needed. Cleanse and energize. Just think of the aroma. Eye-watering aroma.


So when I oops-ed, when I made it sexual when it was sweet, I meant I want to be a part of you. I want to hold you in my palm. I want to cup you on my tongue. I want to suck in air and in the air—surprise!—it’s you and you are wearing flip flops. Oops. I messed that up. I swear it was the beer. OK I lie. I always lie. I tried.


OK so you are wearing flip flops. I hold you in my palm I cup you on my tongue I breathe in air and in the air—surprise! It’s you.


She didn’t say opps; she only wrote it. And when I pointed this out she said: learning disabilities. Differences, I said. No, she said. I see one p when really there are two. And really, she said, I don’t care a whole lot anyway. Oops.


But still she wrote it like that every time. Opps. Then she’d cross it out and try again. Opps. (Cross-out). Opps. (Cross-out). Opps.


I made it sexual when it was sweet. I tried.


It was brilliant. The smell of soap, the sounds of cloth rolling, rolling, and water steaming through the silver tubes, the look of milk in both the rooms: The Laundromat. The Coffee Shop. The chalk board reading: Moka lahtay. Cappah Cheeno. Mufinns. Opps.


I guess I thought that if I was a part of you—you in my palm, you anywhere—I would get there by being a different girl for you. So I made it sexual. Oops. I messed that up. I just wanted. I wanted to breathe in air and in the air surprise it’s you and you are wearing those fucking goddamn flip flops.


I thought it brilliant.


If you spilled your latte when you folded who would care? Simply throw the pants into the wash. Opps. Into the wash. Into the steaming milky. Have a lahtay while it rolls.


What must you think of me? You know something of me now. Fucking brilliant. And so so needed.


I made it sexual. When it was sweet.


I tried to be a different girl. Oops. I messed that up.


But this of you I know:


I know you’ll venture home at night.


At night you’ll wash your feet.


And when the water touches soap you’ll think: How perfect this, how very needed at this time.

wilsonlibunc:

The dude is back… and he’s captured a lady.
Use Mullen’s Hornets Nest Liniment.

UNC’s Wilson Library has one of the coolest tumblrs around. wilsonlibunc:

The dude is back… and he’s captured a lady.
Use Mullen’s Hornets Nest Liniment.

UNC’s Wilson Library has one of the coolest tumblrs around.

wilsonlibunc:

The dude is back… and he’s captured a lady.

Use Mullen’s Hornets Nest Liniment.

UNC’s Wilson Library has one of the coolest tumblrs around.