Issue #75

Summer 2020

Two Stories

by Valerie Fox

From the Byzantine Art Expert's Biographical Entry

Arthur Murray got to be pen pals with Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist and son of the popular American Surgeon General.

Age twelve Daisy--Art's twin--held her cigarette like Marlene Dietrich does in the Finger Lakes bootleg. She drank champagne from a plastic crinkle cup.

This one time Murray got married and had a small car accident. It lived always in the hind region of his brain and he never spoke of it.

In the early days, shrill bird calling broke up the steady lapping of that floating mansion aquamarine life.

When he first arrived in Istanbul, just a student, Arthur had a balcony with a Bosphorus view. The apartment came with complimentary cats and ghosts like that.

As his moments dwindle, imagine these frames zipping around Arthur's optic nerves and other brain regions.

Those clouds aren't real. It's a green screen. Mr. Spock is a really smart science officer. Paper towel, ice cubes. Real Daddy was half electrician half cowboy. I'm a human.


It's a Saturday

I live in this model home, "Jewel." I used to live in the "Avalon," but it got discontinued.

I eat, pace, bend this way and that, make the place feel lived in, not too hot not too cold, not too hard not too soft. Like a butler, which I could have learned to be one.

Dapper investors swing by. The Big Cheese told me I was perfecto for this job because I'm invisible. Ouchalouch, I thought, but just said, Thanks dear, I will take it. You know what I mean, it's like with my hunching.

I clean toilets and launder curtains. It is pure pain. Plenty of aspirins and bandages. I haven't driven a car for years and worry about if I'll remember how, if and when they make a comeback. I scurry as told, no hunger allowed. I could start bitching, uncool, I could get myself fired.

So if it's a Saturday I wear my salamander costume. Wearing a salamander makes me invisible and visible all at once. At least that's the plan.

There are other things I'm forgetting, like which side of the bed to be on, and, who to contact in case of limb malfunction. At least I don't have to worry about having dependents anymore, or my student loans. I can take pills to make me have outbursts but that's not really me.

Oranges aplenty. No scurvy yet, yay. Still, I can't tolerate my food what with these forest-light angles. I'm like a POW, but more so.

I am forbidden from riding the cagey elevator, but on the first day of my second month I try. There are thousands of cameras in my body.

Luckily I'm estranged, my fam has estranged me. You read about being the last one. Some are alive, and some not. Some of your certificates are real, some are forged. Sorry.

The Big Cheese would fire me if it was found out I was letting people stay here and wasn't abiding by agreed upon terms.

I used to bathe in the nearby trees. Not lately. Sorry. We've been swamped, lots of prospects. Not sorry. They like our curious cabinets.

I am that layer of guts and blood spent by the rich for their energy source material. The rich are slow to die. I will give them that.

Author Bio


Valerie Fox has published writing in Juked, Reflex, The Cafe Irreal, Across the Margin, Cleaver, New Flash Fiction Review, and other journals. Valerie's books include The Rorschach Factory, The Glass Book, and Insomniatic. A story she wrote is included in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings. She has also had works included in the Best Small Fictions (2019) and Best Microfiction (2020) series. Her story, "For the kiddos," appeared in Issue #66 of The Cafe Irreal, and Two Stories in Issue #69.