SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Girija Tropp (Read author interview) June 24, 2014

art by Girija Tropp

One day at the tennis club, my father said that we were the most intelligent race. He was gathering evidence to prove his case by taking long puffs on his cigar while he waited out a set. I had grown up while waiting to be recognised, and was a few months shy of nine. I had faith. I had a big white spot on my calf that kept growing.

We lived about half an hour from the revolution. The fingernails of our geography required regular trimming. I wrote to an uncle that we were about five miles from the moon and he asked if there was money to be made. The facts of the world arrived in puzzle pieces and we forced them into picture book shapes. I wanted to go everywhere with my father but more often than not he would say that it was best for me to stay home. His pleasure in tennis had my mother set fire to herself once but it did not stop him.

When the ball games were done, the men liked to stand apart from their families, to drink beer, and wait for the movie of the evening. Today, it was to be Easy Rider.

I befriended stray dogs when they were hurt, and they would sit with me while I tried to see into the future and when they were ready to move on they were gone. As I sat with them, I would think about our yearly homeward pilgrimage, via the pyramids, where, one time, Louis Armstrong serenaded his wife and I listened in awe. In various towns, an uncle would give us a room in his hotel, waiting for an opportune moment to ask for financial help. Faced with my mother’s nature, this uncle would say to me, “Now I have seen it all.” We did not have any wealth but we were forced into the appearance of it. At the bottom of everything was a dry well of gold coin.

The men were having a problem threading the movie into the club’s projector reel. The women drank orange cordial and discussed flying back home through Beirut, buying gold, avoiding the tax. Intermittently, their voices would drop to whisper. I went outside where the night had fallen into the tennis courts and jumped over the roofs of buildings. I propped on the concrete steps and considered how my girl cousin had slighted me at the sand pit. She was sixteen and looked like a movie star, and she told me to blow my nose somewhere else. I thought about her and squeezed the spot on my leg. The white came forth. I found the toilet paper that I had used earlier and pulled on the white until it came out in a long unstoppable string. I felt an immense relief and the pressure eased. I was able to cry.

My husband and I helped at a Karen Black film when we were in LA, and I told him about the worm. “Ah, Easy Rider,” he said. Unlike the other stars, Karen crouched with us on the pavement opposite Union station after getting a vegetarian plate from the crafts table. She died two years later from cancer. By then, my geography was pretty much in place.

About the Author

Girija Tropp’s fiction has appeared in several Best Australian Short Stories editions. She has been published in The Boston Review, Agni, and various other journals. She has also won or been short-listed for major awards. Most recently, her flash fiction has appeared in New World Writing, and anthologised in Cafe Irreal and SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years. She lives in Australia.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Four

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