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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Swallow Whole

Story by Spencer Dew (Read author interview) October 15, 2004

“Swallow whole. Do not chew or crush.” This is what her pills say. Her body all pressed like processed meat into a blue latex sleeve for the masquerade, she tells me, apropos of the season, that her brother’s ghost follows her around. “Particularly in therapy sessions. I think he just wants to hear, or wants to feel me work through things.”

She’s visiting friends, or so she claims. They never materialize in the crowd of spacemen and serial killers, French maids and lady vampires. I am dressed like a top hat, which is hardly a costume of party-friendly design. I spill drinks and inadvertently lift skirts. I ask her what she’s supposed to be and she fiddles with the one structurally essential zipper, tilts her head to the side, tells me, “My parents have a summer place just outside of town.”

Thus, on exactly the last day of October, we find ourselves in a starry, frost-etched solarium, flat against the hills, the end of a private cul-de-sac, overlooking, if we could see, a very personal ravine. “I grew up here,” she says, “for weeks at a time.”

She sits beside me on one of the stationary ski devices, panting slightly, exuding liquor fumes. She tells me about her medication, the influence of gravity on destiny, about predetermination, pain in the chakras as diagnostic of various emotional states, about invisible orbs, and how once, in adolescence, she experienced telekinesis, though she uses the professional term, “original momentum,” what it took to lift that volume of the encyclopedia off the shelf, “with just my mind; with just me, you know, angst.”

I have one of her breasts out, fondle it for what seems like a long time before she tells me the zipper is pinching her from below, “and we should be naked anyway.”

We go out on the porch boards, in the wind, the bare trees and pines, no trace of moon, but she howls anyway, steaming slightly, then does a chant, dancing in a circle, before switching to fellatio. We continue on the carpeted stairs, though I can’t say which floors we’re between.

The house follows a confusing architecture, one rec room opening onto the next, dartboards and wet bars behind every door. She says, straddling me, “I think my brother’s here,” and asks for my “male perspective,” an opinion on which position he’d most want to watch. I get weirded by that, but recover, and in the end I manage to give her ghost a show.

Inexplicably, given the emptiness and isolation of the house, there’s a plastic pumpkin full of miniature candies by the front door, or a door that may be the front door, lined with stained glass. She picks out sour ones for herself, chewy ones for me, saying there are rules at play, categorization, star type.

I ask if her parents use this place at times other that over the summer, and she responds with a story about why she needs to drive back to town, meet her friends, one of whom, she tells me, was dressed like a squirrel, with a day-glo tail, impossible to miss. She runs her hands across the back of her jeans, jeans she found somewhere, on the floor, as I collected my own clothes. I tell her she’s a weird one, and she says, “boo,” then holds her hair above her head and asks me to bite the back of her neck, both sides.

In my car, halfway between there and where we’re going, a cemetery stretches along the side of the road, an iron fence, with stone pillars, topped in razor wire tangles. She puts her hand on my thigh in a way I can’t feel, tells me she’s going to disappear now. “This will be as if a dream.” Her laughter, after, fully solid, is only a little eerie, and when it dies away she turns on the radio, a pop psychology show. She critiques the questions, talks over the doctor’s response, tells me she’s bored, that she doesn’t know whose house that was, that the medicine being mentioned on air “sucks; it doesn’t work at all, and gave me all kinds of sexual side effects, as they call them.”

She stays at my place that night, has me hide the knife block, asks to be restrained. So I watch the television, muted, one horror feature after another, as she breathes and sometimes mumbles to her brother, wrists and ankles wrapped in laundry cord, on my bed.

About the Author

Spencer Dew’s work is forthcoming in Big Ugly Review and Facsimilation. He lives in Chicago.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Six
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Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.