New Places Cooking

The yogi fell flat on his ass during tree pose. I watched him drop and something sank in my gut. Come to prayer standing, he said, and we all rose up on one precarious leg as he sent the full weight of himself to the studio floor. Our calm practice did not work. Our focus on intention did not work. With laughter spreading from mat to mat, the instructor's face grew hot with the shame of his mistake. I deepened my deep nose breathing and tried to stay present.

Ryan got mean after that. He bent us too far around ourselves, chiding, That's a hard to reach area so get in there and feel it cook! My limbs shook and my muscles burned. Ryan asked us to hold it for ten and it seemed such a burden, like ten lifetimes lived all at once. My mind kept drifting and I kept pulling it back, forcing its moods in line with the moods of my body. I sought balance. Each of us sought balance and we found it, floating like jet airplanes and twisting like triangles until six o'clock.

I left Ryan in his fitness center for the shaded streets of midtown. The summer heat was relentless. It hid itself in heavy, inescapable pockets of still air and exhausted me all over again. I wanted to lie down, curl up on the hood of a parked car and take an endless nap. I felt like breathing in deep and passing out. Streetlamps fired above me as I walked home with my shirt stuck to my back.

By the train tracks, I saw a vagrant take off his pants and shout at the air, Down! Down! Down! He wore more pants underneath, layer upon layer of dirty fabric. The man looked right at me and garbled something offensive, so I substituted Ryan's smooth voice: Can you be less reactive? Can you fall calmly? The man kept staring and garbling and I yelled back at him, Hypocrite! With a confused shrug, he turned away to roll a tire toward a shopping cart.

At 22nd Street, I stopped to pick oranges from my neighbor's fruit tree and thought of the man sleeping. I imagined him snuggled up to the track rails with a late-night freight bearing down, lights dimmed and horns muted. He lay in a ball, blowing silent snores. But the snores were really dreams, little balloons of weightless script that escaped from his mouth in teleprompt. They drifted into blue smoke and diffused. Puff--I'm still falling--and then it was gone. Puff--I'm still breathing--and then it was gone. These wisp-dreams gathered at the tree tops in a thickening haze and everything began to blue. The train kept rolling through the sky blue night and as it approached the man's face, right before it crushed him flat, I came back to myself. My hands were full of oranges.

When I walked in the front door, there was smoke caught at the ceiling and the definite scent of burning. My wife had the windows open and the fans on high to combat the thick smell. We had no air-conditioning. I closed my eyes for a quiet moment, for a break from the heat, and saw the whole afternoon laughing at me. The oranges made a perfect small pyramid when I placed them on the windowsill and went back to the kitchen.

Megan looked up from the stove with hair stuck to her temples and a damp upper lip. Seeing me there seemed to calm her. She threw her hands in the air, a gesture of concession, as if to say, Would you look at this mess? Screw it! Then she turned down all the burners, came over to me and clasped both of my shoulders with her greasy hands.

She said, I'm thirty-eight years old and it's about time. Chuck, I want a baby.

I knew that it would hurt like hell, might even sprain some muscles, but it seemed such a simple thing to do when I pushed back and unfurled my yoga mat, there on the kitchen floor. Beneath a heavy cloud of smoke, something new began to cook.

About the author:

This is Marc's first published fiction. His poetry has appeared in the Sacramento News & Review. He is the editor of Wandering Army, an online journal located at