by Girija Tropp

I’d got into bed, and was thinking that I should have had some magnesium to sleep better and that it was supposed to be healthy to take a break from work, when the phone rang. I knew it was for me and the person was far away. My husband was chatting to whoever. I was angry with him but in a soft resigned manner. He’d said earlier that one of my employees, a twenty something Malaysian girl, had sent him another convoluted message. He said he’d apologized but nothing was working. He was open to coaching. What? I said, you planning on making me your psychotherapist?

I pulled on the bottom half of my pj and slouched off to the phone which was on the office computer desk. I shoved the raincoat off and sat. Hey! I said. I loved the sound of my sister’s voice all the way from the northern hemisphere. She was in a good mood. We are not big on family but we are, paradoxically.. I think it’s because of our shared childhood in a tiny African town; and we’ve been in the midst of a wars, colonial, or rebellions, or bloody dictatorships, yet untouched by it, looking out curiously from our citadels, playing in our sandpits. We are bound by the strangeness of our childhood, and amused, I think, at how we transferred that battle to forms, and files, and documents.

You are angry, she said. Oh well, I replied, what’s new about that. We talked a little about our other sister who had set up in competition to us. Finally, I realized I would have to come clean about the chemist who was our new mascot. When he started with us, he came recommended by the New Yorker who had been serving a very light sentence for practicing spinal adjustment without a license. She was silent. Well, I said, he was only fifteen, I said. And his mother was insane.

Our mother was too, my sister said, but we did not murder anyone. There is no reasoning with my sister. Her mind works in mysterious tangents. How are sales in Finland? Very dark, she said. We laughed. I said I was in the same boat but everything was complicated by a tax problem.

Isn’t it amazing how I can have a conversation, of the post new year stay-in-touch variety, and at the same time splinter my head off into an evaluation of how stable my sister is emotionally, and what we might do if an evil wind were do do away with our fortunes, and why she can seem so generous in the one hand and then remind me of the fifty dollars I borrowed when we shared a hotel in Orlando last year, and was that the influence of her English husband, and would she peeved to know the New Yorker had come to stay and was talking to us about yet another big idea. I was also wondering whether I was the owner of my possessions, in a sort of spiritual sense.

Well, she said reluctantly about the chemist, he is the only one with the expertise. She stopped and I thought she was going to say goodbye. I could feel her separating off. In the next room, the radio was turned up a notch. I heard my husband clear his throat. He was listening for an update on the fires in Maryborough.

I returned to a preoccupation of the problem with the Malaysian woman. There was a certain way of speaking my husband had, with women, a forwardness that was appropriate to business negotiations but misplaced elsewhere. He came to stand in the doorway and I stuck a pencil out, moved my thumb along its length. What was I doing, he mouthed. I made gestures to show how I was measuring his proportions. Most people combine a bit of this with a bit of that and come up with four. I wish I could as well but I get stuck with this and that.

I was surprised at how fast I fell asleep in the heat. I dreamt that I was gowned in white and my face was serene and that I was led forward by people who were alien to me and taken to a conveyor belt where I had to operate on bodies, one after the other, for their own good.

Girija Tropp has been writing awhile, published some, won a few prizes which make her feel better for moments before more story-hunting and polishing.

What draws you, again and again, to these (very) tiny forms for your wonderful work?

I am a magpie and drawn to things that glitter and these short little pieces do sparkle.

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