Issue #69

Winter 2019

Two Stories

by Valerie Fox

"Do Not Try this at Home, or Elsewhere"—DB

We must always learn from the past! Read on, dear eaters. Reflect on the menu items of Maitre Gilles de Beauchamps.

Cassoulet is a notable, southern French dish we are baked in. Or perhaps pork. Did someone say pork? It's around 1335, so sausage may be present.

Sometimes mild milk or cream is added, right here at the table. Necessity dictates melancholy, once you have added the cream.

Adding local critics with their abundant salt yields moist, indigestible results, mixed with panic.

I'll say one more ludicrous thing, mutton, on your behalf. When I first left my home-spinning-farm to try digs with some nascent Marxists, I was their gal, but I could not even boil the tea.

So it's proven, the easy chapters are not in the beginning. To locate the easy chapters you have to click on this specific field in an enormous excel spread sheet, about sheep. But once you locate the easy chapters, they contain a lot of words. You can read them and feel good and not at all offended about the eating, fleecing, or being a sheep. You can be a turnip. You can be a goat. You can have horns. You might have none. It's all good, like a pillow in the shape of a sheep.


Sing to the tune of


I wake up. All I have to do is be here. In case the seller comes by with a potential buyer. It’s a model home. I leave my bed. I take off my nightwear. I wash a little. I put on my slippers. I put on clean underwear. I enrobe myself in a long and cabled gray sweater. Meanwhile my daughter is taking her giant salamander for a walk. I hear their movements, like crumbs, in the dining room. Of all places. She makes little ruffly coughs. She sings to the amphibian. She intones: "I’ve been working on the railroad." You can hear it in your head, right? I refrain from my own coughing and wonder, did I make the right wish--oh when I was young--in all my live-long days.


I prepare tea. I’m still in the model home. I sift. Do I wither? All I have to do is be here, in case the seller comes by with a potential buyer. If you, Mr. Sayles, had more money to buy, we could always be vacationing, instead of you being in the navy. Instead you do your taxidermy and cause me to wait by the buttery curtain. All the same, my little daughter warms up her vocal chords. She won’t eat her mashed sweet potatoes. She’s a villain in the school play. She pretends to tug at a man’s belt. It’s tough being fifteen. I haven’t a pet, the boss won’t allow. I drink green, not black, not carbonated. Never touch it. I touch the rim. Dear Thee, Mr. Sayles, all I did was ask you to drink to me and only with your milk tea eyes.


I go outside and into the faint sky. Our shadows form an angular heart. In my cupped hand is the sound of an outsize radio. This is a model home. I’m just here to make it smell like vanilla. Two people loiter in the sandy trenches fifty yards from here and if they have binoculars they may be spying on me. On us. I mean, what’s in my skin. This planted area is my memory cloud, part safety net part trampoline. I go inside. I’m back at the breakfast nook, my clubhouse and entryway to all things that are not nerve-wracking. I go there to escape the binocular people. I’ve got my Gregorian chants. It’s November and I’m asleep in Jesus, blessed sheep. In the nook-field, I’m a different animal.

Author Bio

Twentieth Anniversary Issue

Valerie Fox has a chapbook, The Real Sky, coming out in January 2019 from Bent Window Books. The Real Sky also includes drawings by Jacklynn Niemiec. Fox has published recently in Across the Margin, Cleaver, Aviary, Philadelphia Stories, and other journals. She lives in central New Jersey, halfway between Philadelphia and New York City, which is convenient for her theater-mad daughter. Her story, "For the kiddos," appeared in Issue #66 of The Cafe Irreal.