The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Eighteen

Home Again, Home Again by Kris Saknussemm
I Shefam Im, an annotated story by Nancy Graham
The Sad Fate of the Graduate Rocamadour Muskaria by Ignacio Padilla
The Bridge by Brian Biswas
A Tram Ride by Brian E. Turner
Bitches Brew by André Sant'Ánna
Man at Wall, Attempting a Certain Chore by Bob Comenole


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Home Again, Home Again
by Kris Saknussemm


ifty percent of the stores in town dealt in upholstery, one specialized in shovels, and on one corner there was a boarded-up delicatessen with a large, rather crude spraypainting of a giant shoe crushing an insect.

I found my mother inhabiting a series of ruined gardener's sheds with clay-shingled roofs in the midst of what I supposed was some attempt at a Mediterranean villa. Some eccentric rancher had probably started building it, then died. My mother looked suspiciously young. The top parts of her arms were soft and smooth, the way I remembered them as a child. The first thing she did was to introduce me to Mrs. Nedd, who I only vaguely remembered.

Mrs. Nedd was paralyzed from the waist down. She was seated in a lawn chair equipped with wheels, in a patch of shade on the brick cobblestones, holding a miniature rake with a sharp metal point on the end to ward off the crawling fish, which are a real problem in that part of the country. These were the largest I'd ever seen, and although they don't move quickly, they were playing havoc with the pot shards at the old woman's useless feet.

"Your father's in town," my mother said, and I flinched.

"Really?" I said, as casually as I could.

Then, speak of the devil, I'll be damned if he didn't pop his head in through a barrelwood door in one of the walls.

"Greetings ladies, how's life in the convent?" he grinned.

I couldn't tell if he was being snide or offering a badly needed explanation for the architecture.

"Hi Dad," I tried, as we both bungled the handshake-or-hug decision.

"You look just the same," he said.

I'm sure I didn't, but in any case, my father looked very different indeed. He must've weighed close to 300 pounds the last time I saw him—and his face had grown quite red from all the burst capillaries. Now he looked like a lean cowboy-about-town, a little wind-chapped and damaged around the eyes, but clean-shaven and neatly dressed. Bless his heart, he was off the booze. He'd have to have been off the sauce to have looked so changed.

"I was running a fever at least once a day," he told me.

He still trembled a bit tying his shoes, but he looked thin and strong. His shoes were terrific—soft blue leather with tiny holes in them. He was so proud of them he refused to tell me where he'd gotten them.

"Don't take it personally," he said. "You'd never be able to find another pair like these."

"No," I agreed. "Most likely not."

The ostensible purpose of his visit was to deliver a CD of Hank Snow's Greatest Hits to my mother. Of course, my mother loathes Hank Snow, or at least she used to. She looked so odd standing there in a sleeveless jersey and Levi's, her hands covered with potting soil. Maybe she'd even asked him to bring the CD over. I tried listening to the two of them chatting for a while but I kept getting distracted by a man's face that seemed to be peering at us through a space in between the gate and one of the pillars. Every time I looked over at him, the face disappeared. I didn't know if it was one of my mother's suitors, a friend of my father's, or someone else completely.

Then it occurred to me that it wasn't entirely out of the question that he had come to see Mrs. Nedd, who was doing a fine job with her little spear-handled rake. I'd been out of touch for so long, I thought I better just play it cool and get the lay of the land before I started asking too many questions.




Kris Saknussemm's first novel ZANESVILLE was published late last year by Villard Books. His short fiction has won First Prize in the Boston Review and River Styx Short Fiction contests, and has been published by The Antioch Review, New Letters, The Hudson Review, ZYZZYVA and Prairie Schooner. Online, stories appear or will appear in In Posse Review, Cherry Bleeds, SoMa Literary Review, Underground Voices, Bewildering Stories and the Mad Hatter's Review.


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