he octopus strolled out of the ocean and loped casually up the sandbank
towards the Ice Cream Slip.
Naturally, the bandstand was chaotic. The choir broke and ran. Mrs.
Adolphi was trampled underfoot by a fleeing cellist while Heidi McAfee,
foot wedged in Sewall's tuba, hopped headlong into a pile of music
stands and assorted scattered cymbals. It was all a regular flummox.
"Aw jeez, no Sousa again this year," muttered old Mr. Belardo, folding up
"Would you like one of our frothy cappuccino specials," Jill proffered.
Never having served phylum Mollusca before, she had no idea really.
The brown skin of the octopus was mottled and scarred. He wiped a green
discharge from his saucer eyes. "I am so sad. So very sad and all alone. The
ocean is deep and dark, but tonight the lights of the anglerfish glow like underwater constellations."
"I have never visited the ocean depths," said Jill, "though I have lived
in New Bedford my entire life."
"Tonight I intend to orbit the husks of dead stars," said the octopus,
levitating slightly. "Coming?" He wrapped an exploratory tentacle around
her waist. "Ever had your bones irradiated white by a spinning quasar?"
Jill wrinkled her brow. "I'll have to pass on that. Stay to fix up the mess
you made. You silly cephalopod you."
The octopus puckered the rims of his cups. He looked paler now, his beak
retracted. "Allow me to offer assistance. Ten arms are better than two."
He neatly scooped up two flutes and Erin Tuttle's buckled bassoon.
"Hmmm. Back by midnight?"
Through the asteroid belt they reeled, a molten blue Saturn settling its
ice rings to starboard.
"Mattapoisett certainly has its charms," said the octopus, "But, for me,
with the possible exception of Ned's Point, these are invariably trumped
by the interstellar spaces."
Jill's hair streaked yellow behind her, a meteor-flash. "This is way
wicked cool. Before this, I really had no idea how night was done."
Contracting his mantel, the octopus jetted stars through his siphon in a
rush of white light while a cloud of purple-black ink, pouring over the
moons of Jupiter, turned the sky a deep chocolate mocha.
Rob McClure Smith lives in Galesburg, Illinois. He has published
stories in Chelsea, Confrontation, and other literary magazines. He was
the recipient of the 2004 Scotsman Orange Short Story Award.
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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved