SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Alex Haber (Read author interview) September 30, 2010

art by Jenny Hamel

He told me to watch and I didnt. But I saw the steam rise after and the trenches in the mud.

“Go ahead, its your turn.”

Was he stupid? Though Id done it once before.

He took my hand. The whole way there his fingers were scheming. Gloved in callous. My stomach was a tongue.

The ground seemed itchy beneath us, scratched at our feet as we walked along its skin. He held a branch away from my forehead. “Do you know where we are?” My thoughts were dripping. “Good,” he told me. “Kids shouldnt be walking this far into the woods.”

The inside was possessed. Haunted by the trophies that pummeled through its walls. “Dont worry. Theyre just for looking.” Their sharpness was glassy. His eyes were in control. “Why dont you take your shoes off? Ill get you something to drink.” I didnt want to be barefoot inside there. The wood was filthy, biting at my heels.

“My mother. She teaches at a junior high school. Art. Shes a really great artist.”

“Art. Now theres a subject thats just a waste of time. Come on, arent you thirsty?”

“There you go. Glistens down your throat like gold.”

The door sealed shut. There wasnt any paper. When I sat down I could feel the steam breathe beneath my thighs. I turned a knob and the copper shrieked, gulped like a mouth whod held its breath for weeks. No one in the world knew where I was hiding. I shifted on the seat.

“This old place just aint what it used to be.” His apology seemed sincere. “So. You want me to give you the tour?”

A kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, a den.

The kitchen was dying. The stove, stained, the refrigerator, all skin. A wooden table stuck out of the wall. Outside the window, nothing but trees. One of the branches smeared against the glass. A spider with long legs was writhing in a corner. Frying pans and glasses stacked high in the sink.

“Maybe a little later I can cook up something special.” His eyes were the color of the kitchen. When he smiled it was nothing but lips.

The den was the room we came in on. The room we had already seen. There was a fireplace by a couple of rockers. There wasnt a TV.

“I think I have a splinter.”

“Why dont you let me take a look.”

His hand was warm on my shoulder. I could feel the pressure leaking from his tips. I limped to a chair by the fire. There wasnt a fire lit.

“Let me see what weve got here.” My feet were brown on the bottom. The lines were filled in with floor. “Well I dont see anything. Now hold still so I can get a better look.” No one had ever touched my feet before. I could feel them sweating, could feel my stomach clutching as he moved them in his hands.

The faces on the walls were watching.

“Hmm, well it mustve fallen out while you were walking.” My foot was still in his hand. “You know Ive got to say, Ive never seen hair quite like yours before. What kind of color do you call it?”

“Brown, I guess.”

“Well, shit.” This time his teeth peeked through a tiny sliver. They were the whitest Id ever seen. “Ive seen brown hair and that aint brown hair, miss.”

His fingers twitched. I bit my tongue.

“Thats a shame.” I tasted blood. “Seems you aint ticklish.” My foot fell to the floor. “You think you can walk?” It didnt matter what I thought. He was lifting me off of my seat.

My face scrunched, crumpled. His was the only not looking. I flexed my toes, grabbed them in my hand and showed him I could move. “I guess youre okay after all.

“Hey, have you ever seen a real gun? … How bout we finish that tour?”

In the bedroom closet, the top shelf above the dresser. Arms and legs leaked from the drawers like tongues. A pile of socks and boxers died quietly on the floor.

He held it in one hand, stroking its long steel nose with the other.

“What do you think?” He waved it in front of me. Id never seen one in person. At once I wanted to touch it. He pointed it at my face, the cold metallic tip hovering between my lips. An aeroplane hummed in the distance. The sound rippled through my bones.

About the Author

Alex Haber is a fiction writer from Livonia, MI. He graduated in creative writing from Eastern Michigan University, and has recently been published in elimae and Cellar Roots.

About the Artist

Jenny Hamel graduated from Finlandia University in Hancock, MI with her degree in Graphic Design. She is a freelance artist now living in the metro Detroit area. Her work has been used for several Michigan businesses including Brockit, Inc., EnablePoint, and SYR+ISM. Visit www.jennyhamel.net to view her full portfolio.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Nine

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