Two Stories

The Bed

by Kathy Fish

He comes shuffling out of the bedroom, stops, and puts a hand on the wall.

“I overslept,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

I tell him it’s okay, that he is healing, after all.

“I’m no use to you,” he says, and again I tell him it’s okay.

We purchased a new bed, a king-size, and the day it was delivered, he got sick and has been spending all his days and nights in it. I feel okay, in no danger, sleeping with him in the distant galaxy that is my side of the bed.

I ask him if he’d like a cup of tea. But now he’s just standing there, head cocked.

“I love the sound of geese,” He says.

I tell him that I love that sound too, and I listen for it, but I’m not hearing anything but the clock on the mantel.

He bends over, palms on his knees. I should go to him. Help him back to bed.

“Crows. Rain. Snowmelt. Thunderclaps. The wind through birch branches.” It’s like he’s saying this to the floor.

The first night in the new bed, before he was really sick, we made a game of one of us closing our eyes and the other tossing and turning way over on the other side and asking, do you feel that? Do you feel that? We never could. We found this both delightful and astounding, possibly life-changing, like witnessing childbirth or the moonwalk.

“I love the new bed,” he says, stuttering a little over the b.

I tell him I love it too. I tell him he looks a little gray. I go to him, but I can’t get any closer than this.


Behemoth

by Kathy Fish

They were sipping coffee in a public square on a warm morning. The coffee was grown in Russia, which seemed odd, Russia being so cold and barren. He told her there were cold parts, but also nice parts. It was a new place and he was eager to try it. The coffee had a strong aroma, like moss or peat. Something earth-bound and redolent of damp summer nights and waterfalls.

“It says here that scientists have found a new behemoth galaxy cluster. She leaned into the newspaper. “Of course it’s not really new.”

They hadn’t been together long. She felt hunched over with the things he didn’t know. Last night he told her he felt like he’d discovered her. He said, you are my greatest discovery, like he was Thomas Edison.

“I mean, the world, the universe, the heavens are all incredibly old,” she said. Not to mention vast. Unknowable. She thought of the moon. How it fattens, then with time, grows slimmer. Eventually even the moon hides its face.

He dropped sugar cubes into his mug. Kerplunk, he said. Then, stupendous.

Kathy Fish recently guest edited Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2010. Her stories have appeared in Guernica, Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. Her short story collection, “Tenderoni” is forthcoming from Cow Heavy Books in the Fall of 2011.

In “Behemoth” and “The Bed” humongous worlds meet infinitesimal worlds. A fat moon ends in a sugar cube. A bed contains multiple galaxies. The huge/tiny movement of two people trying to connect seems at once life-changing, stupendous, and, kerplunk, worryingly immaterial. How do you think about working with big/small oppositions as flash-writing writer? A flash-reading reader? No matter what the story, or the length of the story, it’s always about life and death and love and longing and loss. Those big things. But flash writers have limited space and so by necessity we have to break these big things down to their smallest components. The tiny things and the briefest moments. We can’t write the whole arc of a relationship in 500 words, but we can give a small moment of truth or realization in an image or line of dialogue that gives the feeling of that arc, of that doomed love. Everything of life is contained in these small moments. I think flash writers know this intuitively and it’s perhaps why we are the best readers of each other’s work. We know what the writer is up to and we’re looking deeper and beyond the small moment we are given.

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