Archive for the 'fiction' Category

fragment from “the invisible museum”

Daniel woke to the sight of his fingers stained with pigments that he had ground by hand the day before, crushed from the same rocks and minerals mixed with the plant dyes that Caravaggio had used long ago. Making paint was kitchen chemistry. He kept a separate mortar and pestle for each color in a metal-topped drawer meant for bread. His porcelain sink was tainted with the brilliant dust. It had marred his sheets and left bright bruises on his own pale skin. He whispered the names like an incantation: verdigris, yellow ocher, vermillion, madder lake.



I read in your journal about all the men who weren’t me.

I knew something was wrong when you pretended not to remember her.

When I showed you the hotel receipt, you told me it always says two people.

I watched you through the window while I told him I wanted his cock.

I said I never fucked her in our bed, but I did.

I thought about him when I was fucking you.

I fucked her an hour before I met you for lunch.

I told him your secrets.

I talked to her at night after you were asleep.

I fell in love with him right under your nose.

Everybody but you knew about it.

I only figured it out after you were dead.

fragment from an unfinished, as-yet untitled short story

What happened to him happened at the bus station, of all places. It was a clear bright Saturday and he was going to bet on some horses at the track upstate. He was late getting started and arrived at the station with just a few minutes to spare before the bus was due to leave. The line for tickets was long and slow, and he could see the girl at the counter was inefficient, smiling slowly at people as she counted their change twice to make sure. He shifted his weight and snorted loudly a few times. The man ahead of him turned and gave him a skeptical look. He stepped out of line toward the ticket window and shouted, “Look, I’ve got a bus to catch, can’t you speed it up, or get some help or something?”

The girl was quite pretty, he saw now that he was closer. Blond hair fell in curls around her bright eyes. He was undeterred. “You could do all this faster, people are in a hurry. I’m going to miss my bus on account of how slow you are.”

“Just a moment,” she said to the old woman whose hands quivered over her changepurse. The girl’s smile faded as she turned to look Heck in the eye. “What’s the matter with you?”

“I’ve got a schedule and nobody else is in a hurry, or they’d be angry too, and you’re just moseying along there, making small talk and you ought to be more professional about the whole thing.” His voice grew a little louder with every word he spoke. People began to stare. A driver smoking outside the station door leaned in to see what the commotion was.

The girl shook her head, her brows tilted in disbelief. She leaned over the counter, putting her face as close to him as her body could reach. “Come here,” she said and waited for him to step toward her. He plucked a ten-dollar bill from his pocket to pay for the ticket he expected her to shove at him. But when he stopped a foot shy of the counter, she only shook her head again and asked, “Doesn’t anybody love you?”

fragment from “the wandering point”

Cal watched Rachel’s graceful back as she stood in the exact center of the massive grid of factory windows along the wall of her studio. Her hands were propped on either side of her where the sill intersected the frame, a pair of oblique angles. He saw a moment of symmetry, of exquisite geometry, the body and the built world in harmony. And then, she leaned slightly into her hip and the symmetry broke.

fragment from “the invisible museum”

Billy walked out into the crowded night. He was aimless and hungering, a man who had made himself rich and found that his money did not satisfy him. His limbs were bony in a way that the suits he wore could never entirely conceal. He had started with a fine, if ordinary face. It was the stunning crook of his nose, smashed long ago in a high-school fight, that made him memorable. When the bruises had healed, he found the break had left him handsome, possessed of a face with new complexity. People saw what they wanted to see in his starry black eyes: merriment, wrath, mischief. He knew the eyes were nothing but a mirror of other people’s wishes. Knowing this gave him power, it showed him what they desired.

fragment from ‘the invisible museum’

Even if he could have done what she wanted him to, in her darkest reflections she thought she might have gone back to fucking strangers anyway. Her infidelity had never been what he thought it was. What most people can’t resist, what makes their steadfastness buckle, is the tenuous flowering of seduction. It’s the rushes felt in the blood as a small, new intimacy forms. The hours passed in another’s bed are not the worst threat to the betrayed. What rips at their hearts is the slight shift of attention, felt like a change in the wind. The burr of a secret, a chamber of their lover’s heart suddenly inaccessible. She couldn’t have explained it to him, she understood it so poorly herself, that the strangers were something different for her. Not a matter of intimacy at all, but a denial of it. She used them and discarded them, sustaining her conviction that she was utterly self-contained.

What she had wanted was to remain in the perfect, quiet place of unmade choices. But indecision is a precipitous emotion. It dismantles us, like vertigo, gives us a longing to fall and the inability to do so. True indecision reproduces itself like a hall of mirrors. The anguish it brings is intolerable, far worse than the remorse of a wrong choice. She suffered a more common variant, the false indecision that covertly masks an unwanted, unrecognized resolution. A choice that has in fact already been made.