FIFTEEN DAYS AND FIFTEEN NIGHTS
I drove my car two days to the ocean because I didn’t see the difference between doing that and anything else. Whatever I thought to say to you from the driveway, I could have said anything else. I said I had been sliding around like an olive in an emptied martini glass. You are not the glass. Perhaps you are an olive branch.
There’s nothing like the ocean. Its long blanket of self. The way it crashes back and back over the span of almost forever. The way it attaches itself to the moon with invisible threads. It attached itself to me as I maneuvered into its cold bulk. I instructed my body not to feel. I stood in the water for fifteen days, knee-deep.
I watched vacationing families; a young man, his two daughters naming every wave. I listened to builders erect the new face of a bungalow, blurting out measurements. At one-thirty, they climbed down their ladders for lunch. An old man and his oscillating metal detector. A bottle cap, a piece of broken sunglass. The sun, broken in the clouds, people packing up. Each wave rhymes with all other waves.
At night I counted reflections of stars. Twenty-four. Forty-seven. How many stars had already burnt out? The ocean rolled and roiled. On the fifteenth morning I fell asleep. I stayed asleep so long that when I woke the ocean was doing the very same thing.
THE THIN MAN
A tall, thin man came to the city. He crossed the bridge in the middle of the darkest night of the year. The moon had eaten itself three days ago and the crumbs left over looked like weak stars.
Sadness had set in to the cracked brains of people here, the way a building softens at the corners. I had packed my bags and was carrying my suitcase to the bus station, but the sight of the man halted me. I turned around, went home, wondered about the nature of hope.
In the morning, the tall man went door to door, passing out gifts. He said, “These gifts are your new moons.” He gave an old woman a set of salt and pepper shakers, shaped like clones. He gave a little boy an Native American headdress. He gave a pair of newlyweds a long rope ladder. He gave me a tall coatrack with brass hooks. To each person, he spoke the very same line: “You are living in my dream.”
By noon a crowd assembled along the fountain outside city hall. The tall man stood in the center of the circle, as though he were a planet and the people were his moons. The people all held their gifts, like weapons, and the old woman threw her pepper shakers at his head. The little boy held his headdress around the man’s neck. The newlyweds whipped him with their rope ladder. I waited, clutching my coatrack, for somebody to stop me. By the end of the day, the man had gone black. And we all cried, our grief was so deep.
Along the bottom of the fountain, tiny wildflowers grew. Some were purple. Some were so yellow, we mistook them for gold. I went home and found my suitcase, still packed. Still full of gifts I would one day give to people in some city far away that I would never understand.
Rebecca Fishow‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Room Magazine, The Believer Logger, Smokelong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, The Tishman Review, and other publications. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University and lives with her husband in western Maryland. She teaches fiction and playwriting at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.