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Story by Margie Sarsfield (Read author interview) September 9, 2019

Art by Eleonore Weil

Which all reminds me of the thing I have been meaning to contemplate. Of going to the mountains in Virginia and climbing some summit, where at the top I saw it all: the mountain and the next mountain and the mountain behind that one and the mountain behind that one and the mountain behind the mountain behind the mountain behind the mountain, and the sun doing the holy breaking through the clouds, and the clouds low down and golden, the trees growing spiny and the wind ruining everything as usual and the whole entire splendor of it that made me think of nothing but glaciers. Not like Kansas, where there was the corn and the crows and the long bluesy hum of nothing coming up to distill you. You knew you could die walking towards the sunset. In Kansas a great adoration swelled up inside me. I need things to end.

Holy shit, across the street, I just saw this through a window: a man was lifting a baby over his head and then the baby just disappeared! I could make up a magic trick where you throw a baby up into the air and it disappears back inside its mother’s womb, and she goes into re-labor right there and I deliver it like a midwife. If I could do a trick like that I would be rich no doubt and wouldn’t be needing to buy all my drinks on credit like nothing will ever catch up to me. I would be a real good thing to have around. I would be baby powder. And I would be swimming in cigarettes which reminds me that I have some. Whoopee.

These aren’t my cigarettes. They must be from the man I met in the pizza place, when I said something about Spinoza and so did he, so I said we should get married, and then off we were going to have bad stiff sex in his stupid J.C. Penney catalog bed. That was not very long ago but I can’t remember anything except there was a Miller High Life I must have drank on the table next to it. So I deserve these cigarettes. Hardly anyone deserves anything, least of all me, but still.

Like, how about that time in the mountains when I saw a pheasant? It was spectacular because things are going to be whatever they happen to be being at the time and no amount of anything can make them something different. I’d rather it have been a big gray rabbit or a little brown bear but I was happy seeing a pheasant tall as a toddler walking through the woods where you are always so alone with the things that do not love you. When you look at a tree fallen over and the roots, they seem too small and thin. And the more you look the more foreign they seem until it seems like they don’t belong here, that they belong here even less than humans do, which is certainly saying something seeing as how ever since Adam we’ve been running around scared shitless of this alien world where we weren’t meant to be and aren’t loved by anything. But remember: sometimes in the woods you find a stream with the sunlight all over it and a little sound it doesn’t even know it’s making, the thinnest trickle of water down the side of the mountain, the striations, the shimmery – did I light a cigarette?

Oh, fuck me if fluffy dogs aren’t truly the best dogs, something proven time and again when they are being walked down the street I am walking down. Like right now. When I try to smile at the woman walking her big fluffy dog she gets a look on her face like me trying to show appreciation for how much fur her dog has grown has made her night worse. Which is why I don’t even want to consider Brooklyn half the time, even though the voices on Flatbush Avenue get me sentimental. True, sometimes I happen to be up with the sun, 6am or so on the 3rd floor and there’s the rooftops smoking, the birds you can hear for the first and only time all day, the downsloped clothesline. Then I feel a god wrapped around my neck like a live mink and I dropped my cigarette.

Greenwood Cemetery is a good place to stop and think about death and how we all can rest assured: someday, the ways you have screwed up will not matter at all. This is the way I need to think mornings after I drink too much and have said one or more terrible things to people I don’t know well enough to get away with saying such things to. Even at 6am, all there is out the window is the big hopeless with the life you laid out before you, a mountain, endless ruing everything you do. Shut up. Whisper it aloud to the corpses on the other side of the fence. I won’t get pregnant, not again this time, I’m pretty sure. You know how the mistakes are. All the people there buried with their mistakes that I’ll never know about, that no one will ever know about. What a fucking relief.  Death is the better god for folk like me. I can’t say it maketh me to lie down in green pastures, because it doth not do that, but lo – here is the all-nite diner where they soon will be bringing unto me a plate of French fries, and an egg cream if I can afford it, which I can as I am flush with infinite American credit and all the baby powder in heaven.


Notes from Guest Reader Chase Burke

I really love monologues, but I especially love stories like ‘Flush’ that screw around with the idea of a monologue, or that use the monologue to move us through a/the world in real time. Stories like this get to fixate on voice, which I love, but they also provide a real sense of momentum, of happening. This narrator’s mind is fascinating and, really, just a joy to read, bleak anxieties and all. The language is fantastic: coarse, crass, blunt, repetitive, agile. A story that’s as concerned with thinking about life and death as it is with the mundane realities of both.

About the Author

Margie Sarsfield lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. Her work has previously appeared in Seneca Review, Hippocampus, Quarter After Eight, and Cagibi.

About the Artist

Eleonore Weil is a German born artist who now works in Spain. She says that the study of symbolism and alchemy proved critical in providing inspiration for her present stage of artistic creation. She uses collaged elements within her paintings.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Five

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