Issue #68

Fall 2018

Seven Stories

by Frances Gapper

Vertical Hair

The rain had left pools of excess and grey clouds of origination. A light-stepping young woman arrived and bending placed her hands – held flat, fingers together – on opposite sides of a puddle. Tiny gold stars (she'd been eating prosecco crisps) floated in the water. She lifted her hands, preserving the space between them.

Having recorded the measurements of each puddle, she walked around two corners into the park. Here puddles had lakish ambitions. Jumping kids in yellow wellies observed smash and reform. The young woman frowned and set off around the park's perimeter. As she ran between two rows of poplars, her hair flamed upwards. An old gent, military coat and waxed moustaches, told her you look like a banshee.

That's what I am. She left the path and found a wild place where a little pear tree was dropping its fruit into the long grass. Here you are, it said. Eat as many as you like, they'll only rot if you don't. She ate one and gathered three. Hair still disorganised, she checked opening and closing times, and left. A red fox came trotting along the pavement and leapt into her arms.

***

Singing Corpse

Called to fix a non-flushing toilet in the women's bathroom, a maintenance worker found a body behind a panel. Several of the facility's users had noticed a smell and they'd also heard singing. Ballads and old folk songs about home and sweetheart, about risking everything for love. I am slain by a fair cruel maid, was one phrase they recalled. Which seeing as this guy had entered the building through a vent or duct, of his own volition and illegally, before falling and getting stuck in the wall, seemed like a self-pitying attempt by the corpse to romanticise the situation.

***

Song of Iacobus

Iacobus Studium-Felix runs naked through a dark wood, the moon glints on his spectacles. He is a satyr, his erection magnificent.

Iacobus Studium-Felix falls like the rain, or an inconvenient sort of mist that ruins your clothes and leaves a residue that's hard to get off your skin except by using an expensive brand of cleanser.

Iacobus Studium-Felix is the Deadly Wyrm and also a knight sent to slay the Wyrm. Unexpectedly, knight and Wyrm find themselves in agreement re. certain points of government policy. They sing together in parts, a drinking song although neither of them drinks.

Iacobus Studium-Felix likes to nibble bits of air. Although the places he's eaten grow back after a while, they're never quite the same.

Iacobus Studium-Felix is proud of his eyebrows, but has no other vanities (or so he tells himself).

Iacobus Studium-Felix is a pigeon shitting on the bird feeder, cooing in Latin. He is copacetic, enjoying himself.

Iacobus Studium-Felix mortifies the body, he observes Lenten and Whitsuntide fasts. On his patron saint's day he wears a hair shirt and/or flagellates.

Iacobus Studium-Felix eats a very small turkey for Christmas dinner. His wife and kids devour a much larger turkey. But they have to share, he doesn't.

***

Shooting Breezes

My typical customer is a middle-aged lady, temperature control gone haywire. I think of her while shooting breezes from my hotel balcony. She tossed and turned all night, cursing and regretting (toffee tart, brandy nightcap). Her pre-ordered breeze arrives 8am on the dot – refreshing but not chilly, lightly scented (spring flowers, our number 1 fragrance). In a world doomed to frizzle, she can rely on our service.

Out of season it's just me and the tartan-slippered receptionist. She asks how long I plan to stay for. Until the end, I say. Your delivery – she heaves my box of size 10a breeze blocks (compacted wind) over her desk. I stagger to the lift, a vintage Paternoster. Bang the scissor gate into its catch, rise like a hydraulic Jesus.

I eat crackers and watch porn until the evening shift. Meanwhile the rat who lives under a palm tree out back of the adjacent restaurant nibbles on a mouldy bagel. Solar-powered ducks revolve in a turquoise paddling pool. I think of my council-housed gypsy relatives, staring at their phones. Earth wanderers once, now hermits.

***

Sacrificial

He found a sandwich in the garden and bit into it. Peppery meat with frankincense. His x-ray eyes stabbed the next-door party. A dead fox lay on the barbecue. People laughed insults and raucous commentary. The fox burst, scattering drops of poison and killing them all.

***

Ex

I was hausted, felt past my piry date or like I no longer isted, was just a feminine ending. Weeks passed in gloom, nothing could be cellent or citing. Having decided to reclaim my lost by hokey or pokey, I split in half while dragging up stone staircase to flat 12B, a move not ideal in terms of sanity, but hey. He opens door: oh it's you. Yes, I reply cheerily, won't stop, just thought I'd. While we chat, me avoiding key words, him a bit surprised but cautiously civil, my alter (call her Y) slips past him into the flat and runs around vacumming up exes, thousands of them, sparkles in the air, drifts in corners. Just before he shuts the door, we reintegrate. I go home. Although exhausted, I'm excited and exuberant. I exult excessively. I can express myself!

***

The Haunted Escalator

Equidistant between two ghost stations, the mechanical moving staircase is a helter-skelter in Hades. Ghosts ignore the rules, scream enjoy life!

Author Bio

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In the Wild Wood, Frances Gapper's third collection of flashes and longer stories, was published in 2017 by Cultured Llama. Her other collections are The Tiny Key and Absent Kisses.