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Story by Kathy Fish (Read author interview) September 29, 2009

art by Robinson Accola

A chandelier. A marble staircase. Hard rain against tall windows. The desk clerk tells me this hostel had once been fancy and that the president had stayed there. Or did he say The Police? Everything sounds muffled in this country, like I have swimmers ear.

In the room, which is appropriately shitty, two German girls, friends, and a girl from Hoboken. I empty my backpack onto my bunk: euros and condoms, a photo of my dog, digestive biscuits, a can of mace, and a bottle of spring water with a picture of a cow on it. The cow is a mystery. I don’t want to share the biscuits, but they’ve seen them and now I have to.

We speak English about train tickets and cheap wine. The Hoboken girl had a fight with her boyfriend and now shes traveling alone. The boyfriend left his socks everywhere, thats why. Hes a folk singer, she says, and a slob. She wheezes like shes having an asthma attack. I think of him singing The Boxer or something else mournful and tender and I wonder if he was the one who broke up.

The German girls pass around a joint. A fuck singer? But how was he at the sex? Did he…? And they make gestures with their fingers that neither the Hoboken girl nor I can decipher. They make jokes about the boyfriends penis. The Hoboken girl starts to wail.

I keep my head bent over my postcard, writing: blah, blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah, leave her alone, blah blah blah blah blah.

A note slithers under the door: Have more silence please! The Hoboken girl sticks her thumb in her mouth, which makes the German girls laugh, which makes her suck harder. She lopes over and sits next to me, trying to read my postcard. I’m writing : li la li li la li li li la li, li la li. She asks me where I’m going next. She says she needs a doctor and maybe we can travel together. Two American girls. How about that? And then we can find her a doctor. Okay? I know what she needs, but the lie slides out. I am flying out of here tomorrow. I am sorry. Even my own voice sounds underwater.

About the Author

Kathy Fish teaches for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Three of her stories have been Best Small Fictions winners, most recently “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” chosen by Aimee Bender. Additionally, two of Fish’s stories will be featured in the upcoming W.W. Norton anthology, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

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

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