by Kelly Spitzer,
reviewed by Katrina Denza
In Kelly Spitzer’s Disintegration, the reader meets a family struck apart, disintegrated, by an affair. The story itself is disintegrated into four parts, four voices, and it reads almost as a novel in miniature. But at just over 400 words, this is hardly a novel. What gives this piece its rich feel is the information not said juxtaposed against what is.
In the section titled, "Mother," the reader can safely guess the mother feels her husband is a fuddy-duddy, a worrier, someone incapable of laying the weight of responsibility aside for the sake of a night of romance with his wife. And with details about the mother’s boss, the fact that he slings his elbow out the window (carefree), sings in baritone (more masculine than her husband) and his voice melding with the noise of the night (intentionally intrusive) we can conclude this affair is going to happen and Edward’s song choice serves as a harbinger for this family.
In the section titled "Father," the details of his wife’s arrival home from the party become increasingly significant. The writer begins with cake, gifts, and moves on to ten-year-pin (been with the company, perhaps even the boss, for a long time), and the butterfly in the paperweight (in the butterfly, a sign of transformation, rebirth; in the paperweight, a symbol of entrapment, of feeling trapped). And then we get to the green flowered panties (fertility) with Wednesday (mid-week/mid-life) printed on them. From these wisely chosen details we can see a lot about the wife’s state of mind filtered through her husband's eyes. And Spitzer’s imagery of the wife’s eyes folding and unfolding as diurnal flowers is brilliant.
In the section titled "Daughter," we learn the mother feels comfortable enough with her affair that she doesn’t feel compelled to hide it from her daughter; perhaps she even wishes to make her daughter complicit in some way. And we learn of the depth of the father’s despair from the description of the road-trip gone wrong (true to his passive personality, he cannot break away; he must leave that devastation to his wife).
The last section’s details are particularly striking. In this section titled "Son," we are shown things from the youngest member’s point of view. He finds his "mommy sitting at the kitchen table, her eyes wet from cutting onions." What’s not said: this is a lie she’s told her son. What’s also not said: things have reached a breaking point and she’s either decided to leave her husband or her lover. The choice she’s made will have far-reaching consequences. And there sits the boy in the sandbox outside. Inside, his father and mother are unearthing the previously unsaid and bringing it out into the light. The boy sits and watches a spider crawl up the kitchen pane. (In animal mythology, spiders are the connecters of past and future.) The boy is left watching this spider and waiting, wondering "what it sees inside all that silence." By the end of this deceptively-short piece I'm left caring about each of the members of this family in pain, and wondering how much will this family’s future be disintegrated by its past?
All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2013 by its authors.