Here are the stories from the Local Color March 2007 Call for Fiction:
by Christian Verotik
“You’re cheating on me, aren’t you?”
“What? Fuck. No.”
She moans, he rolls off her.
“Do you love me?”
He lays beside her grossly obese body, trying not to think. He does, about a young, supple woman. Her breasts heaving in ecstasy. It makes him hard. He faces the woman beside him.
“How much do you love me?” she squeals.
There would be no more sex tonite.
He looks over her sagging breasts, her ugly brown nipples, her over-fed gut. He goes limp. Trying to reenvision the lovely woman with the firm breasts, all he can see are two over-ripe raisins on two flabby boobs.
Routine: Loss and Gain
Jenny had a routine. On she followed every day of her life. It was simple. It was easy.
The first thing she did after her morning ablutions was greeting her mom.
The last thing she did before her evening ablutions was greeting her mom.
When her mom was awake for those times, she’d drop her a kiss. It did not matter where. Sometimes it was on the cheeks, sometimes it was on the forehead, and at times it was near the ear.
When her mom was asleep, she’d look in, pause, and observe her mom’s breathing – as if to reassure herself on the rhythm and depth of her breathing.
Awake or asleep, the greeting said ‘good morning or good night, good day or sleep well, and always the unsaid echo of I love you’.
When she was away, the greeting was virtual, via thoughtspeak and channeled through the picture she would always carry in her pocketbook.
And so it went. Day-in. Day-out. Til one day, it was all different.
She was gone. One early June morning, the mom left. For a last journey.
And there was no routine. For the 3 days and the 3 nights she lay in that box.
All routines were gone. All that was left were ashes.
But Jenny found something else.
She had gained another routine.
Every day and everynight it was the same.
As She would enter and go out the bedroom door, She would pause by the sanctuary. And look at the pictures and two urns.
She’d say her greeting and go.
It was her gain.
by Charlie Kondek
On the top shelf of our refrigerator door are kept the things that only our dad likes to eat. There is where you’ll find the beer, the hot sauce, the dark coffee, the bitter, dark chocolate, the creamed herring, and the stubs of various other foods partially eaten.
On the top shelf of the big bookcase in the den are kept the books that only my father reads. Here is where you will find books on war, fishing, post-war sex novels with lurid covers, a big, outdated book on electronics, a similar volume on automobiles, art books of questionable taste, and tattered notebooks in which are recorded the mileage achieved by every vehicle we have ever owned.
On the top shelf of our parents’ bathroom are things our dad uses. This includes a handful of rusted disposable razors that were never disposed of, a can of Barbasol going orange around the bottom, an unused bottle of Aqua Velva, a similarly unused bottle of Old Spice, deodorant, some nose-hair trimmers, a comb though he has no hair to comb, and, perhaps most shocking of all, half a dozen prophylactics.
On the top shelf in our parents’ closet is a stack of girlie magazines, a catcher’s mitt, and a slender, burnished semi-automatic pistol.
If we removed my dad from the house in layers, the way, say, people were stripped from photographs in the Cold War-era Soviet Union, the first thing to go would be his angry, booming voice, the sound of it dying on the carpets in the halls. His smell would go next, that hard soap and motor oil smell, gone from the air that swirls around you when the screen door is opened, gone everywhere except from occasional whiffs of nostril memory. Last, perhaps, would be the ever-present litany of the TV, which he always had on, from the moment he got up til even after he dropped off to sleep, a constant murmur of news and sports.
Cancer is a bastard. It’s a fucker. It undresses you on a microscopic level, so subtle that you don’t see how much it has stripped you until it has taken the muscles right out of the tight places between your skin and your bones. It eats you, like lime, like battery acid, removes you so that you become like a knife drawn from a sheath only to find, surprisingly, that there is no blade, until the only part of you that is left is the whisper of your memory over the top shelves and the secret places, a thumbprint in a book, a streak on the mirror.
by J. Robert Novak
I had a problem with a Baptist.
He was one of those guys who says, “I don’t belong to any denomination. I am a true Christian.” Bullshit. If you attend Mellett Baptist Temple, blindly agreeing with everything the preacher says, you are a Baptist.
It wasn’t his religion that I had a problem with. Even in 8th grade, I had a very “to each his own/ live and let live” philosophy. I was tolerant, respectful even, to everyone’s beliefs. No, it was the way he tried to force his beliefs on me. And I know what you’re thinking: “Here’s another secularist who can’t stand anyone talking about their faith.” Not true. I’m a spiritual person; I believe that there’s something beyond this world. Hold on…let me paint you this picture.
This was the kind of guy who would (and he did) criticize everything you did. I remember once, we were sitting around the cafeteria lunch table, Jon (the Baptist), Vince, Lenny (my cousin), Tony (who I told everyone was my cousin, even though he was black, which really pissed my family off), Joe, Jake, and myself. Jake and I were discussing how I had just found Erdrick’s Armor in Dragon Warrior when Jon butted in. “Um, guys…how many hours a day do you guys play Nintendo?
“I don’t know” replied Jake. “An hour? Two?”
“All day on Saturday and Sunday, dawg” said Vince.
Jon shook his head and looked at the floor. “You guys…do you realize that you worship your games? You spend so much time playing games, but you could be devoting your lives to Jesus.”
I stared in shock. Vince looked at his feet, and Lenny shrugged his shoulders. Joe, having absolutely no tact, began cackling. Jon, of course, made his attack. “You guys are all going to Hell if you don’t mend your ways.”
“Wait a minute, “said Tony. “I go to church. I go on Sunday and Wednesday. I pray. Why can’t I play Nintendo?” Joe slapped himself on the knee.
Jon smiled the smile of one who is righteous above all others. “Because it consumes so much of your time. Anything you spend that much time doing destroys your spirit.”
I would not be insulted like this. With anger just as righteous as Jon’s sneer, I asked, “How many hours a day do you ride you skateboard, Jon?”
“Um…two or three hours, but that’s different. God gave me the ability to ride the skateboard. He wants me to ride.”
“Well,” I said, “maybe God wants me to defeat the Dragon Lord.” Everyone (but Jon) burst out with laughter. Jon told us all to shut up, then went on to eat his chip-chopped ham sandwich. I let up on him, thinking that the point was made.
I should say here that anyone who knows me knows that I play Dungeons & Dragons about every other weekend. Back then, too, I played, usually with my Boy Scout troop. Our Scout-and-Dungeon Master would take us on trips specifically to play D & D.
That said, one day, Jon asked me over to his house, supposedly for help in Super Mario Bros. (which he called “May-Ree-Oh Brothers,” so I should have known something was amiss). He led me to his bedroom, and the first thing I noticed was that there was no Nintendo. In fact, there was no TV at all. “Hey, dude…where’s the game?” I asked, innocently.
“Yeah, Nathan, about that…” he replied, locking the door behind him. “This is an intervention.”
“A what?” I laughed. I seriously thought he was joking.
“An intervention. You’re my friend. Maybe my best friend. I can’t stand by while you consign your soul to Hell.”
Again I laughed, this time a nervous, unbelieving giggle. “Ok, well thanks. I have to be going now.”
“Wait. This might be the most important moment of your life, of your entire immortal existence. Please, listen!” The light from a window I might escape by reflected off his glasses; his eyes glowed. “You need to read this.” He handed me one of those little Christian tract comics. You know, the ones that explain how to ask for Jesus’ salvation, or how Catholics will burn for eternity for eating the “death cookie.” This one was entitled “Demonic Dungeons” or some such nonsense.
“Jon, I want to go.”
“Not until you read this. Trust me; you will thank me when you are done.”
So, realizing that I was not getting away without inflicting violence upon him, I read Jon’s comic. Here’s the gist of it: A girl plays Dungeons and Dragons with her friends. She becomes so good at it that the “12th level Dungeon Master” (which shows how much the writers know about D & D) initiates her into a real witches’ coven. Someone else believes that his life is over when his character dies, so he slits his wrists. There may’ve been some sort of baby sacrifice, too. Maybe it was kittens. I don’t remember.
So anyway, I finished this tract, setting it on Jon’s dresser, next to his Christian heavy metal tapes (by the stripes of my ears and intelligence I am healed?). I slowly looked up, meeting his grin. “So?” He asked. “What do you think?”
“Well…” I started. “I think you are telling me that Dungeons and Dragons will distort my perception of reality. To prove it, you showed me a comic book. I’m going home. Now.”
I remember riding my bike up his hilly street, away from his shouting, excommunicating me from his friendship. I was angry with him at first because the whole ordeal felt like some sort of violation.
In time, though, I realized that he was right about one thing. The experience led me to question my own beliefs and led me to seek out other religions, other spiritualities. He led me away from the blind faith of the familiar and into the arms of exotic teachings and time-worn mythologies. For that, I really do thank him.