The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination

Issue Thirteen

Alice Whittenburg
G.S. Evans

This issue went online
February 1, 2005

copyright 2005 The Cafe Irreal
all rights reserved

Čeština Translations into Czech


irreal (re)view #4

The Long Fragment Preceding Sufficient Expiation
by Stefanie Freele

I didn't know what to expect when the room didn't have a door. Clean white walls all around me, I counted them. Six. I could taste the sea. My arms ached and my stomach burned when I tried to sit up. About ten feet above me, the walls leaned toward each other, culminating in an open window that let in the late afternoon light and the roar of waves. I lay on the most comfortable mattress.

When I stretched my legs, they felt as if I'd been beaten. I lifted the white down blanket to see the source of my pain. Black bruises, with green and blue tinges, ran along my thighs. Next to me, on a very simple, yet classy marble table, rested a gleaming crystal glass of water and two aspirin on a silver tray. I drank half and swallowed the pills.

Resting my head back on the luxurious pillow, I watched the sky above get dimmer; the clouds moved quickly by as they became darker. A drop of water hit my forehead, then another, and another. Rain. My bed lay underneath the open window. I wasn't tall enough to reach it, nor strong enough to move the bed. Even if I could, where would I move it? A dry spot along the floor's edge turned out to be enough of a width for me to lay and keep dry. I dragged the down blanket and pillows with me. The pain from my wounds kept me in a state of delirium.

In the morning, the sound of seagulls woke me. They strutted on the edge of my window. Lines of clouds, like strands of floating hair, traveled high above, slowly. Thirst. My glass of water was now a little over half full, due to rainwater. I drank and left a few swallows. I wished for more aspirin. I yelled. No one answered. Pounding on the white concrete walls proved to be futile. I flipped over the soggy mattress and collapsed in a sweat.

Lying in a state of despair, the weakness of fever held me down. I saw creamy lemon sauce poured over baked salmon. A serving girl offered it to me on a cedar platter with orange slices. Laying low around her belly, an intricate gold chain glinted. Leaning across my bed, I asked her when I could leave. She responded with a gorgeous smile, "You are in purgatory. You must be patient." I fluffed my pillows and readied myself to eat. I looked up to take my plate and she handed over the bones of a fish and an orange rind. "This is how it works here." She turned and left.

I sucked on the bones and, with closed eyes, smelled the orange rind. I could wait. If she came back and visited me again while waiting, I could tolerate this. I could do it. An oval white dropping of a seagull landed on my right hand. Now that, I didn't care for.

Stefanie Freele's most recent writing credits include stories in South Dakota Review, Watershed Literary Magazine, and Stolen Island Review. Upcoming publications include Westview and Talking River. She lives in Northern California.

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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved