Forgetting Him

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Emperor Caligula declared war on Poseidon and ordered his soldiers to thrust their spears into random, threatening, foaming waves.

I approach wearing only a gauntlet. I slap her pale cheek with the heavy glove creating a small, bloody crack in her perfection. I remove the violent hand covering. Naked, I toss it, and it lands on the cutting, shell’s edge.

Offended, she tries to pierce my eye with her slave Cupid’s arrow.

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The Panda Complex

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“When I first met Yaba, I was so nervous I threw up on a fern in her enclosure.” Norman Spitzer sat back in his metal chair wearing a satisfied grin. He took a sip of water from a Styrofoam cup held delicately as a champagne flute, wrists handcuffed together.

“You must understand,” he said, “Yaba was the last female giant panda in captivity, and the first panda I ever met in person, so I had worked myself into a fit of anxiety before going in. That is not to say I’m anything less than a panda fanatic. True, the world is brimming with enthusiasts; you’ve seen those teenage girls who carry a panda bear plush around the mall like a fashion accessory, or a street canvasser in boho sandals and a World Wildlife Foundation vest, cornering pedestrians with guilt.

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Grist

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At 6:35 AM, on a Tuesday mid-July, Alberto Salazar woke up. It was not, however, a literal awakening, considering Salazar had tossed in bed for hours, white sheets twisting into a tourniquet around the upper half of his legs as he maneuvered fitfully. His feet stuck out from the too-short mattress into the cool morning air, yet they were damp and clammy and felt slick against the hardwood floor when he finally sat up. Salazar was feverish and grim – a voice had been nagging at him through the night, preventing him from drifting into sleep or even closing his eyes with any real conviction.

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Lift-Off

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Two flight attendants bobbed down the aisle with gyroscopic grace as our plane taxied off the Pearson runway toward a squad of chemical trucks. They smiled, waving little bundles of wire in clear plastic wrappers as an offering from CrossCan. I frowned at the window – the Plexiglas was already steamed over by the exasperated breathing of the human cargo, forced to suffer the indignity of a twenty-minute deicing procedure. Outside raged a storm lit up in streaking currents by the pulse of the wing lights. I could think of only one thing as I stared into the blizzard: my father’s abrupt death. Try as I might, an awareness of this reality would not come into focus before my mind’s eye.

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Riding in Mustangs

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Rain spatters against my forehead so I yell at Chris to roll his window up. It’s so hot and humid and smoky and knee-jerking cramped that I sit contorted forward, pulling the muscles in my gut so I can angle my shoulder into the console. The windshield against the night looks like space, deep dark space with white missiles streaming in at us faster and faster. Randy kicks the shifter. Whoaaaaaa…wump!—whoaaaaa. Each jerk of the gears sucks against my abs. We pump the Jensens. We pump our hands against our Levi’d thighs. Everything on a Friday night is tension and expectation—clumsy and awkward. Freaks try way too hard at weekends.

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A Death in the Family

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My Mother once told me that all the stars in the night sky were the dead souls of all the people who had ever lived in the history of mankind, and that they hovered above looking over the people whom they loved and cared about. On the day she died, this little nugget of wisdom was the last thing on my mind. Ben Garrison, our family lawyer, handed my father the last will and testament of my mother. We were standing in a wood paneled corridor outside the room my mother had passed away in not two hours ago. The sun shone from the high windows casting a heavenly glow into the corridor. I had no desire to read my mother’s will, but my brother Paul wanted to get it over with, and then he said he could begin with the grieving process. As usual, my father agreed with Paul. My father opened the document folder and shifted though the sheets of paper.

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The Waterfront

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I open the taxi’s door, step onto Long Street. The sun is old, the sky red. Nothing but distance ahead. When I look behind me I trip but I catch myself before I fall. I try again. My late grandfather told me just last week that morning fog rolls off Table Mountain like lava. It is evening now. I wonder if I saw it when I was little. An old man exits a shop, shouts at the African children in the street. Voetsek, voetsek, he says. I came to this lush land to understand why we left it long ago and I will stay for as long as it takes. I try to remember what I said to my brother two days ago in Virginia. Was it, go to hell? His sad eyes had made me angry. I stop to let pass a drunken crowd. Moonlight emerges, holds everything still.

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M, Observed

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Inspector M’s funeral went just as he’d expected. His former partner, W, remarked on the irony of the circumstances that led to his death. His former fiancee, T, shed consolable tears. He was interred in a modestly priced coffin purchased by the cash-strapped department. A strong contingent of unknown colleagues provided a suitably honorable sendoff in gorgeous, white-glove uniforms. His neighbor, Mrs. V, had taken possession of his cat, though she did not bring it to the ceremony. The prevailing weather continued its cool, dry streak; as a result his corpse, already dry as a bone from an austere diet, was slow in decomposing, as predicted, as though self-observant of every microbe, every gas bubble, every hungry worm.

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You Killed Me Before

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The apartment was small. The living room connected to the kitchen, and the bedroom was a few paces away. As he surveyed his home, his sanctuary, he slid against the wall, pressing his back into the hollow, painted wood, and scanned for his target. The bedroom door was closed, so he moved toward it, ready to kick in the door. And after doing so, he found the intruder waiting inside. All he had to do was shoot him and claim self-defense. Instead, he froze.

“Hello, Davis.” The man was a shadow against the dark. “Nice to see you again.”

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Record Keeping With A Twist

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The earnest young intern had been sent up from Human Resources with a shy smile under her perky nose. Even though she was an Art Major at the local college, she’d been assigned to Accounting this morning because the regular intern had called in sick at the very last minute.

The irritable Chief Accountant took one look at her resume and yelled in the phone for awhile, hung up, shrugged and yanked out a chair from the receptionist’s desk.

“Just answer the phone and write messages on, on, uh…” the big beefy man looked helpless. “Oh, on one of these,” He grabbed a stack of blank invoice pads and shoved them at the intern.

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