Three Stories by Tamara K. Walker

Issue #67

Summer 2018

Three Stories

by Tamara K. Walker

Minus Myth

In the very beginning, there was an indefatigable cornucopia of erasers resting upon a glossy black tabletop. They were highly diversified: pink and white and brown, crumbly and spongy and every texture in between, cubic, prismatic, cylindrical and pyramidal. This being the earliest beginning we know of, there was no graphite anywhere in sight, and so they streaked themselves deftly though futilely across the bare obsidian surface with astonishing dexterity for erasers, leaving ghostly trails of rubber behind. Eventually they drew a map and detailed blueprints in this fashion, and that formed the basis for the multiverse thereafter.

***

Best By

Bianca purchased the snack clip on the day she discovered that everything in her pantry was mostly stale. It was inexplicable since all of it was sealed and branded with distant-future expiry dates, but the distinctly disheartening experience of having everything from pita chips to boxed devil's food cake mix taste like cardboard sawdust reminded her of the necessity of clamping down on open, unresealable bags nevertheless. Bright orange plastic, $1.70 on clearance, its intended purpose was soon forgotten and she hot-glued a magnet to the back, in order to use it to hold sheets of notebook paper posted on the fridge. It fulfilled this duty just fine, unless on such paper happened to be inscribed a grocery list. Its jaws refused to secure grocery lists scrawled on any medium, which without fail would always slip down into the trash receptacle below, landing delicately on top of spoiled orange juice and rotting kale.

It was around that time that the expiration dates on every consumable she brought home began approaching at a much faster rate than usual. Bianca noticed when she bought a bag of tortilla chips stamped with a 'BEST BY' date six months away, which turned into a single month once she'd eaten half with pico de gallo, and then a mere two days away immediately after being affixed with a random binder clip she had absentmindedly stolen off of her uncle's desk. The very next day, the other half of the chips had all turned into dust that tasted like chocolate from thirteen Halloweens ago and guacamole with far too much lime.

Unsettled by this, Bianca eschewed the usual supermarket and started shopping at her local neighborhood store, which had been converted from a thrift shop and promised the freshest organic produce around. Unfortunately this maneuver was of no avail, as none of the dates on anything there were visible whatsoever for a period of about two weeks straight, after which every single product either defiantly displayed a 'BEST BY' date identical to the day of purchase on her receipt, or simply went bad within hours--in the case of unripe vegetables--compelling her to make daily trips and scramble around to eat or cook all of her groceries as quickly as possible, including the non-food items.

Until, that is, she was asked to bake a chocolate cake for her twin sister's funeral, for which she acquired a dozen eggs from a farmers' market across town. They were mercifully labeled and set to expire a week in the future, at least until she arrived home, whereupon she saw that under 'USE BY' was a day long since passed, nearly a decade prior. Tentatively opening the carton with the snack clip (by then forgotten and languishing under a thin layer of dust atop the fridge), she found that they weren't spoiled, but before she could celebrate this fact by making confetti, they began spontaneously hatching, producing piping and adorably fuzzy chicks that she promptly researched how to best care for, and currently nurtures in a makeshift coop on the patio.

Her tribulations with expiration dates on groceries continue, even worse now, since everything she buys at every store is already expired no matter what. There is no moral or easy conclusion to this tale, except that someday quite soon everything in Bianca's apartment including its occupant will turn into dust, leaving her grieving grandmother to tend to a dozen sprightly and petulant hens with bright orange beaks.

***

To Put It Lightly

Remember when my hip started crying? It was shortly after our evening excursions to the racquetball court in the new granite rec center across from our high school, when we rented an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner and tried valiantly to play a variation of our own invention called vacuumball, in which one of us served and the other attempted to catch the ball with the hose--which produced powerful enough suction to hold it fast, or so we hoped. Remember, it never worked, the hollow indigo sphere bouncing all over the place and striking the glass wall with the urgent phaser sound of what you imagined a thousand rippling links or a Tesla coil discharged underwater to sound like.

Until one of us finally did catch it, and I think that was the day that my hip began leaking drip after perfectly formed drop from one particular spot just under my ovular birthmark: not blood, not sweat, but tears. Secreted effusively in unpredictable intervals, they smelled like gel awareness bracelets and tasted like unripe raspberries. Crystal-clear and fortunately unaccompanied by mucus of any kind, I still couldn't go around explaining a weeping hip, to put it lightly, so I had to cut out a slender slice of foam from the left shoulder pad on one of your brother's blazers with a razor blade and affix it with medical tape to my side under my clothes. I certainly couldn't very well have explained why my hip would bawl soundlessly in business class at any thought of us being permanently apart, as if it were mourning the premature death of its only child.

I had no idea when it would stop, but sometimes while wandering the hallways after school, I'd feel the padding and think of how you were the only one who knew it was there, and then, to put it lightly, I wouldn't really want it to.

Author Bio

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Tamara K. Walker resides in Colorado and writes short fiction, usually of an irreal, surreal, magical realist, slipstream, bizarro or otherwise 'unusual' flavor, and poetry, often in English adaptations of originally East Asian forms such as tanka and sijo. Her fiction has been published in A cappella Zoo, The Conium Review, Melusine, Peculiar Mormyrid, Three Minute Plastic and ink&coda, among others. Her flash fiction piece, "The Receptionist", appeared in Issue #52 of The Cafe Irreal, and three of her short-shorts -- "The Bee-List Celebrity Culture", "Emu on First", and "Sunflowers" -- appeared in Issue #59. She may be found online at http://tamarakwalker.weebly.com.