The flaw was the thing, the draw, the raised imperfection, a poem of violence and pain written on her flesh. She was what I might call beautiful, but it was the crescent-shaped scar at the outside edge of her right eye that I noticed first. I could not look away, imagining the cut, the smooth skin of her face opening to reveal perhaps a glimpse of cheekbone or eye socket before the sudden rush of blood, and all so near the eye and its ephemeral lashes, paper-thin lids. I could not wait to touch it. On our second date, we walked along a quiet street after an early dinner and a bottle of good red wine at a small Italian place. It was Sunday. We stopped in front of a hardware store with an iron security gate pulled down over the entrance. We turned to each other. She closed her eyes, turned her face up to mine, her mouth half open, half smiling. I reached out and traced the crescent with my finger tip. Her eyes opened in surprise, and then I kissed her. On our third date, she said, I have an idea. We drove to the marina where her father kept a speedboat. We bought ice and vodka, loosed the lines, sped out into the unnatural blue of this teardrop lake. Out in the empty middle of it, she killed the motor and threw out an anchor. It disappeared into the dark water. We drifted, discarding clothing. We revealed to each other every scar, the magnificent and the barely perceptible, told their stories in detail. We breathed the fumes of alcohol and lake and gasoline, tasted these things on each other's skin. And as the sun dropped into the dark, lush shoreline where lights in expensive homes were flickering on like fireflies, I tripped over a tackle box and spilled its contents across the deck of the boat. She glowed in the last reflected light of the day as she knelt into the mess of hooks and lures. She held it out to me then, sheathed in leather, a slender pearl-handled filet knife. A memento? she said.
- - -
The Autopsy of Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
How shall we begin? Directly, and with a steady hand? Very well. What follows is a brief review of The Autopsy of Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (not to be confused with the actual autopsy of Trout Fishing in America, the subject of a short chapter in Richard Brautigan's book, Trout Fishing in America, Delacorte Press, 1967). These things do happen. Confusion, that is. For instance, just the other day a volume entitled The Writing of Gertrude Stein caught my eye from where it lay remaindered upon a table like the evening spread patiently across the sky, or perhaps, a more apt and original metaphor, like a corpse fuming on the poppled banks of Woody Creek. I was disappointed to discover upon opening and examining the book that it was not the writing of Gertrude Stein at all, but a collection of writings by writers other than Gertrude Stein about the writing of Gertrude Stein. Imagine my chagrin. But I digress.
Meanwhile, back at Trout Fishing in America,the autopsy bravely continues (as always), allusions to Byron flung about willy nilly like so much viscera. "The body was in excellent state and appeared as one that had died suddenly of asphyxiation," we are told. This, a direct quotation in an authoritative voice. Who would question such a voice? Certainly not I. The narrator of the autopsy boldly continues without pause on to the penultimate paragraph, back in time to May 2, 1824. A ship leaves Missolonghi, Greece bound for England. Note that The Autopsy of Trout Fishing in America neglects to mention Woody Creek in its inventory of bodies of water. Gertrude Stein is conspicuous in her absence, as are Drs T. S. Eliot, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Before the reader can begin to ponder these omissions, the autopsy comes abruptly to a close, like a ship shouldering into a dock in city of strange smells and sounds. We disembark, arrive breathless, with only the clothes on our backs, and the astounding and overwhelming suspicion that Trout Fishing in America and Lord Byron may well have been in fact one and the same.
- - -
Our whiskey Canadian, our cigars swisher sweet glowed like the eyes of stray dogs in the flickering blue darkness. We circled nightly around the heavy thriftstore console, its picture tube dying slowly by degrees, the colors fading as if from a relentless desert sun. A Wisconsin winter howled outside our low rent frame house in the student ghetto, and our breath hung in the living room, blankets over the rattling windows for the weeklong spaghetti western marathon. We were each of us losing our names with every shot and every ring of smoke. It was all good, and bad, and ugly. I secretly yearned for a mexican poncho, a bandolero, a dark-eyed woman with hair that shone like the wings of a crow. Then one night I saw the coroner's daughter at a local pizza joint drifted from the others. She swayed slowly in the red light, a tall and sad, like an widow or a saint. She told me a story and I listened, watching in awe the intricate movements of her mouth and tongue, her words drifting over me like a hot breeze. I said very little or nothing at all. I led her back to the house, the back door, my darkened room. We collapsed together onto a mattress on the floor. She lay as still as a heroine, a tragic woman men would kill and die for. I lost myself in her while from down the lonely hall I could hear the television, the others drinking, smoking, bursts of laughter. The coroner's daughter gathered herself and dressed in the dark. She could not stay, she said. I heard distant gunfire and the soft thud of falling bodies. I was wounded somehow, empty, unable to speak my lines. We had a final kiss and she left through the window like a flicker of light. I shivered in the sudden cold and watched the two thin curtains that floated in her absence. The mattress threw a shadow on the wall. The distant music was haunting. I no longer knew how to stand, or where.
About the author:
Christopher Chambers lives in New Orleans. His work's appeared recently or is forthcoming in Washington Square, Epoch, Crazyhorse, Quarterly West, LIT, Hayden's Ferry Review, and in the anthologies French Quarter Fiction, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2003, and online in Brevity, 3rd Bed, and Exquisite Corpse.