SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Lies – C.G. Thompson

 

Lies 2

At the bottom of the claw-foot tub, facedown, under an inch or two of water, lies the photograph.  I say lies meaning “rests,” but the word is full of unrest, too, for in telling the truth the picture has captured falsehood.

Contradictions, irony – they’ve become part of my life.

It is cold in the room, the chill of the tile floor coming through the throw rug between tub and toilet, the rug that slips into corners or curls at one end, a canvas of sorts, to trace our footsteps.  The tub is slippery, too, with a stain the color of fall leaves that runs in a ragged path to the drain.  I kneel beside it, not caring that the edge is wet and my sleeves are damp.  I kneel and see the reflection from the safelight break into pieces as I run my hand through the water, making waves to capsize the future.

I could keep this to myself, I know.  I could confine my inspection to the back of the picture, the blank, white nothingness that in the semi-darkness merges with the white of the tub.  I could write the future on that, and live a lie.

But reality beckons.

There’s an image on the other side, an image crudely printed, all blacks and whites, no middle tones, for I took and printed it under extraordinary conditions, technique not a concern.  No finesse, just a mechanical clicking of the shutter that has mimicked my actions since.

I pull the stopper in the tub, beaded chain clinking, and watch the water as it flows out, slowly, slowly, quicker, picking up speed until the final gurgle.  I stand, wipe my hands on my jeans, pad over to the light switch, flip it on.  The room grows black for a moment, then resolves into its narrow range of color – gray wallpaper, white floor, off-white curtains.  Spots of developer dot the tiles by the sink, the only real color, besides the stain, in the room.  I gaze into the tub at the thin piece of paper, the reality that obscures all the images, filtered through mind or camera, that came before.  I reach into the water to turn the paper over, to see the true image, the one that lies.

My wife sits on the park bench, leaning into the man, excluding all others.  They are not just friends.  He has a hand on her knee, his touch light, familiar.  It’s a cold, overcast day, and the sky in the picture is bleached into nothingness.  Their faces, too, are washed out, ghostly, for in printing them I spared the light.  I don’t need to see the expressions.  I saw.  Following them, crouching behind a bush, my curiosity making me the outsider, I saw more than I wanted to.  In the picture, the bench and the stubby grass of winter are dark, too dark.  Shadow abruptly meets glare, no room for subtlety.

The photo lies limply in my hands a few inches above the tub.  Letting it fall lifeless to the bottom, I turn off the overhead light and shine the light of the enlarger through the negative.  I play with focus, blurring the picture until it could be a surrealistic painting, man and woman indistinct, representing a perfect love with no power to hurt.

But love and lies have power.  I sharpen the focus, make another print, slip it into the developer.  I agitate the liquid until falsehood again swims into view.  I’ve printed carefully now, so specifics appear – my wife’s high cheekbones, the stripe in the man’s tie.  The image is clear in its meaning.  It’s time to remove the photo from the developer, slip it into the fixer, wash away the last traces of silver.  But instead I switch on the overhead light, exposing the actions of my wife and her lover.  When I look at the print again, no details remain.  It has faded to black.


Two of my stories most recently appear in TL;DR Press’ Women’s Anthology: Carrying Fire. My fiction and poetry have also been published by North Carolina Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Fictive Dream, and Jersey Devil Press, among others.

For All the Pretty Boys I’ve Loved – Kindra M. Austin

For all the pretty boys 2

In consequence of
grand
transgressions,
bodies bob in
putrid
tinted
water.

I captained fastest motor boats
that ran on sweat and
seminal fluids.

I did not burn down
bridges,
rather,
I set fire
to marital mattresses;
then
we all
choked on
ashes.

Yes, I captained
fastest motor
boats that ran on sweat and
seminal
fluids—
tapped the bodies,
tossed ‘em back,
collected more
to feed my whore
heart.

I’m sorry for
all the pretty boys
I’ve loved
and left in
my epic wake.


Kindra M. Austin is a very sweary indie author and editor from mid-Michigan (you can find her books here). She’s also the co-founder of Blank Paper Press, a founding member of Indie Blu(e) Publishing, founder of publishing imprint, One for Sorrow, and a writer/managing editor at Blood into Ink, and Whisper and the Roar. Austin cut her poetry teeth in April, 2016, and joined the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective in 2017. You can find more of her foul mouth at poems and paragraphs.

Nonsense about convenience (malice)-Laura C./5 A.M Decisions

Just remember when you think you’re free

The crack inside your fucking heart is me

Sometimes I wonder what you did with the tickets. You know, those tickets you bought, for you and me, as a birthday present, for me. For that gig that you knew I wanted to go to; for that gig you had to know me quite well to know that I wanted to go to. That thoughtful gift. That thoughtful gift.

The date came and it went. And I wonder if the tickets stayed with you, unused. Or if they were sold. Or maybe you went. And maybe you took that girl you met on New Year’s Eve. I think maybe you did. You always were a cheapskate. Why waste money? Just don’t tell her they were bought for someone else and you’ve got the perfect Thursday night surprise, right?

Your confidant, your sympathiser, your heart-to-heart, your goodnight kiss.

Your lightning rod, your diversion, your love on a leash, your placeholder.

Your convenience.

How fucking DARE you.

A hammock in a forest. And an elderly man smiles and smiles, pushing me gently back into gentle swinging and rubs homemade chilli paste on my eczema-ridden feet. And then he takes me by the foot and the hand and pulls me out and up and around and around by the foot and the hand. And a one and a two and an up, up, up I go, into the sky and moon and stars and nonsense like that. It was a strange dream but at least it wasn’t about you. I dreamt I met you. I was walking and you caught up with me and tapped me on the shoulder and smiled that smile and I thankfully woke up before you said, ‘Hey!’.

No one is ever convenient, to others or even to themselves.

So goodbye to you, my own, temporary inconvenience.


Read more of Laura C.’s writing at 5 A.M Decisions

A Righteous End- Christine Ray

i woke in the place
where you play god
naked upon the white
marble sheets
stigmata roses
blooming crimson
in my palms
across my breasts
and sex
a fragrant garland
of my sins
left to adorn
this shrine
the holy spirit
dripped slowly
into my eyes
from where you
impaled me with
the crown
of thorns
you placed
upon my brow
crystallizing the visions
tasted of spiced honey
when it fell upon
my torn lips
parched tongue
you had roared
blasphemy
accused me of
taking your sacred
name in vain
when I declared
that you were not
my true god
merely an idol
a token
you tried to
baptize me
in the fire
cleanse me
of my affliction
but you are the one
smoldering in a
dark corner
all rage and ashes
while I resurrect
with the dawn
of the sun

 

Image courtesy of Pinterest


Christine Ray is a writing, editing tornado who touches down at Brave and Reckless, Sudden DenouementSudden Denouement Publishing, Whisper and the RoarBlood Into Ink, the Go Dog Go Cafe and Indie Blu(e).