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.

Steel the Whisper

by Aurora Phoenix

 

 

there is a steel band

slicing through my tongue

as I struggle to break the whisper

give voice to the rumbling rise

of my inconvenient truths

the world is burning

/it melts/

from the lava erupting

in my ston-ed heart

I felt the gripe

of your slimy eyes

infest

/molest/

my lushly fruited hips

your hand tells me

to hold my tongue

/clenched as it is/

above my future

clamping down my self-regard

you rest on the laurels of your discontent

as red, rusting

fades

there is a roar

/building/

in this chatteled vessel

the dam in my throat will burst

behold!

what ushers from these lips

—————————————————————

Aurora Phoenix is a wordsmithing oxymoron. Staid suburbanite cloaks a badass warrior wielding weapon grade phrases. Read more of her confabulations at Insights from “Inside.”

By Her Implore- Max Meunier

even in this wintry wake

she whispers words untrue

 

still, i can see

far beyond the walls

 

where once i knew her

 

waging wars

within her arms

 

i could not walk away

 

beholden

to the fragile child

 

who wept

in shades of fury

 

these preambles never fade

from light

 

found in the aftermath

 

branded by the searing touch

of cruxes

 

born to bear

 

no more

do i hear my own voice

 

echoing

through time’s collapse

 

having been eclipsed

by her implore

 

Image courtesy of Pinterest


 

Max states: “I write about the things going on in my life. I am a feminist, humanist, cat loving musician bound by whimsy and the incessant analysis of hyper-vigilant observations. I am obsessed with words and rhythmically woven wordplay.” We are honored to have him as a member of our tribe. He writes at Max Meunier