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.

Baby, I’m So Cold – Kindra M. Austin

manny3

You don’t know what love is at noon o’clock on
Tuesday, when I tell you I’m so cold that I can’t even
fucking feel it
anymore, expect for
inside—just inside the doorway where
my walls still quake with a singular mind
not mine, but theirs.

And you can’t tell the difference,
like my stupid cunt
can’t tell the
difference—the
goddamned
difference ‘tween
pleasure and affection.

Noon-thirty,
you gotta get home cos she is waiting cos
your home is her home,
too—
I got no type of home worth
mentioning.

I don’t know what love is at midnight o’clock on
Wednesday, when I answer your call—
I’m so fucking cold that I can’t feel it
anymore.


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.

You’ve Been Careless with Her, and I Hate You – Kindra M. Austin

i hate you

Ravel,
unravel,
ravel…

Travel round-stuck-about;
but pain is faceless in the stoic.

You built the road she
travels,
ravels,
unravels…

She will paint her face in rage,
enraged
at last
with your infidelity.

Infidel,
you’ve made a grievous error;
for you may not enter temple, yet
refuse to pray at altar.

And she will build new roads to
those where you’re unwelcome
while you ravel,
unravel,
ravel…

Travel round-stuck-about.


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.