Short fiction from Mitchell Grabois

Responders

There are scattered pieces of stale rye bread in the patchy snow of Sloan’s Lake Park. The geese ignore them. The old man who put them there gets on his bicycle and begins to ride away, but he doesn’t get far before he falls over onto the unyielding pavement. Pinned by his bicycle, he’s hurt and perplexed. He’s been riding a bike for over seventy years and has never lost his balance before.

I call 911, even after the old man sees me pull out my cell phone and snaps: Don’t call 911. I don’t want to argue with him. He’s too confused to make a judgment. I just do what I think is right.

The EMT’s put him in the back of the ambulance. What about his bike, I ask.

I don’t know, says one. I don’t know about bicycles. We just take the people. Bicycles have to fend for themselves.

Really? That’s your answer? You must be new.

The First Responder doesn’t respond.

I end up taking the bicycle for the old man. I don’t want the responsibility, but I’m the only one there. I’m not looking forward to returning it to him. He’ll probably be pissed at me for calling 911. He might even get violent. But I’m not worried. I can outrun an old man who can’t even manage to stay on his bike anymore.

I watch the ambulance drive toward St. Anthony’s Hospital. The geese have decided that the rye bread is safe, and are busy eating it. Goose shit is all over the grass, as usual.

That night, I’m in a dark closet, stretched out on the shoes, lots of shoes, footwear for all seasons, cowboy boots with horse shit still on, thongs with grains of sand, rain boots running with water, espadrilles, high top sneakers, shoes with cleats. I’m writhing, allowing all those shoes to fuck me in the ass, make me their bitch.

Clothes hang above me. Inside each shirt is an evil spirit, in every jacket a Nazi. I scream: Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?

The closet door opens. A woman vaguely familiar (I think I was married to her) yells: Get out, you fucking party crasher.

I need medical marijuana to ease this bad trip.

Village Life

My village’s only common property is a single pistachio tree that belongs in a nursing home, but we give her twenty-four hour care in the spot in which she has always stood. We live on a diet of thistle stems and burdock roots, and thus we have all begun to hallucinate. The children are dead or dying, but we see them playing. A pistachio is a sacrament, the shell His body, the nut His blood.

When I was a boy I milked the goat. My mother did it until she died, but she died quite young, in a rock slide at the edge of our village. I put the first few squirts in a bowl for the cat, who ran up and greedily lapped.

At those times, Nicholas and Alexandra, my Toulouse Geese, sometimes looked at each other. Then Nicholas stole forward and bit the cat on the base of her tail, who jumped as if electrified. The geese laughed.

So I knew early on that animals have a sense of humor, and I figured out one day that if they have a sense of humor, they have a sense of tragedy, and if they have a sense of tragedy, they have souls, and suffer.

I took my geese to church, but the priest yelled at me and kicked us out.

500 Divers

The accident was the ultimate What the fuck was I thinking? Why did I steer so close to the island? Trauma has confused his memory. Now, there’s a one-hundred-sixty-foot gash on the port side of the sunken cruise ship, and thirty-two passengers dead.

Captain Shettino, charged with manslaughter, blames his Indonesian helmsman, and the ship itself.

As a child he was always doing stunts, says his mother. Her expression is wistful and senile. His father sits heavily under the grape arbor and has yet another glass of red table wine. He wants to tell his wife to shut up shut up shut up, but knows she won’t. She would never shut up, even when she was in her right mind.

Five hundred SCUBA divers work to right the Costa Concordia, laying ruined on its starboard side. Octopuses hand them tools.

After work, the divers drink moderately at bars and recount their undersea exploits to avid women, while the octopuses slither back into their protective holes, where some of them fondle large wrenches or short pieces of steel cable. There is something so strangely tactile about these objects, the octopuses embrace them with their entire bodies and have multiple orgasms, far more orgasms than the divers, who have gone to bed early to be ready for another day under the surface.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over seven hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver. 

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