Six Stories


When Elizabeth placed my manhood in question I felt quite poor and unhappy but also ferocious. I went off in quest of hot peppers to devour, to reflect my strength and endurance and prove myself worthy. The 'red fresno' was 2nd place on the heat index so I plucked two from the basket. I wasn't ready for the 1st place habanero, not yet, but soon. The fresno was bright as a licorice stick and between my fingers it felt manufactured, plasticine, nothing like a bulb born from the mulchy loam. Yes, it felt like the shell of the Christmas lobster I'd steamed last night. Silgit, my three year old, wouldn't eat one bite. It's hard knowing exactly what it is you're eating. "I was told that only the wimpy peppers were red," Elizabeth said, "not as strong as those green with heat." My face like a granite fork, I downed one, stifled the odd yelp it gave, pictured her tied up quite nicely in my cubicle, and didn't flinch one bit "It must be a dud," she said, offering her own handpicked "little ball of hell." But this I did not eat.


She crossed her arms and looked me down hard. I had not just received an F, but I had messed with the spigot and now it was jammed. An invisible fist crashed into the room and cracked, spilling its boiling contents across the linoleum. There was no prior notification for the kind of event that was quaking out of her taut, fork-like body. I watched a ferocious white camel shoot from her knuckles down her arms to disappear where her shoulders dipped under the tight pink blouse. It burned hot through to her heart, which was at this point large, terrible, and utterly victorious.


In the space between Kraken Bay and Pug Mountain, a lighthouse stands and casts its angular glow across every kind of emotion, and not just the human ones held tight in the cabs of passing cars. The town of Eye Rhyme glistened like a pearly snake skin. I rolled past my aching shoulder and tried to gather Sylvia in my arms, fully aware that I was her most disappointing and unaccomplished love interest ever, and, as expected, she smiled and dodged away. She hadn't left me yet, and I held that fact like the last licorice stick left on earth in the fist of a diabolical three year old. Like most people in Monosyllable, I experienced upon waking the raw tug in the heart going on between pride on the one hand and gutter-level esteem on the other, and somehow pushed myself up each dawn to make it to my boring, demeaning job on time. I drove the half mile to Kraken Bay and once stationed at the desk, poured then pressed my first cup of joe against my head like it was a cube of emollient or athletic salve to maintain my endurance for the next round. Out past the barnacle mound, the seal herders were hard at work like cartons of bubbling diesel, the spiky sun whistling through the drizzle to ignite each gale-blasted face.


The age of flame-flowers has come to an end, sources say. The news, at first, was met with indifference at Loki's Flame-Thrower Facility and Theme Park. He looked over the scorched fields, and at the cages, where children were lined up to test top of the line products and even antiquated ones. The US News and World Report was dead wrong, he knew. He read the troublesome title again: Doused, It's Official: The flame throwing establishment prepares to enter the dark ages due to declining interest and new regulations by the EPA, NHL, and other groups. His eyes scanned the slippery name of the author again: Well, Dr. J.T. Erlewhistle, get off your precipice and take a little walk in my world. Loki began muttering, profusely and with abandon. Loosen up J.T., enjoy a fine, fire-roasted rotisserie on me.... He looked blankly at the fidgety managerial staff gathered around, each holding the peculiar tension that something with the boss just wasn't quite right... A tear, yes, a little dammit of a tear glazed Junior's eye socket! With a hideous, primal shout, Loki hurled the magazine into the vase of poinsettias, struck a matchbook, and watched it burn.


Yolanda tore open the package of meat and poured oil into a pan. Her plastic crocodile scrambled across the formica counter and stuck its snout into the pencil jar. The list had been sitting there dejected for days: olives, honey, spinach, wooden stir spoon, band aids, jam.... Her husband was still camped out in the basement with his battered little Underwood churning out page after page of crap. Cheap, useless bits of whimsy that held not one single drop of significant meaning, which absolutely no one would enjoy or learn from. She dragged the meat into the sizzling oil and watched as the oil seized the great raw edges of the meat and crawled upwards like a terrible jungle cat. One of these days, she was going to throw a sleeping bag and a box of Cheerios down there and lock him in, let him know what it felt like, see what he wrote then.


The bosses thought the staff was looking rather pale. It was summer for heaven's sake, and still they had to watch sallow faces of paste trudge into the building each morning. So they erected giant solar panels alongside the ceiling lights that would refract the sun rays coming through the windows down into the cavernous cubes where the employees shuffled around and worked. "We are bringing the sun to you!" it was announced with joy. Each day, workers were allowed a brief space of time where they could pause and reflect on the rosy package of sun nestled softly in their hands, tilt their faces graciously up.

About the author:

James Grinwis lives in Amherst, MA. Simon, his 3-year-old, has quite possibly just given him a story idea involving a frenzied horde of barbarian toddlers.