Week #27 – Lost in translation

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is Lost in translation.

Parisian Nautical Object by Guy Yasko
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Lost in Translation . by Catherine Russell

Kayla contemplated her folly as she observed the growing queue outside the Base liquor store. She’d started the day feeling ill, though they’d invited friends to come over that evening to celebrate her birthday. After telling her husband to postpone the festivities, she forced herself to go to work.

During the day she recovered, so she walked to the barracks on her break and told the CQ to tell her husband that the party was back on. Envisioning a folded note taped to the bulletin board, she left, secure in blissful ignorance of what she’d done.

At the day’s end, she returned to pick up her husband and friends. That was when she discovered the large letters scrawled on the dry erase board: Party at Kirby’s house!

The mass of soldiers arrived at her house happy and boisterous, and grew more so as bottles emptied and noise increased. Julia Child’s spirit magically appeared in their kitchen in the form of faux gourmands making beer-eggs from the scavenged remnants of her refrigerator. Her chihuahua snuck drinks behind the backs of ecstatic drunks who turned to find their glasses empty. The bathtub became a bed, and her birthday became an event.

With the dawning of the new day, hung-over celebrants made their way back to base. Kayla cleaned the previous night’s mess, tended her ailing dog, and resolved never to trust in the discreetness of the barracks’ CQ again.

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Lips, Mouth, Heart . by Len Kuntz

Instead of piano, my daughter takes lip-reading lessons. She says that way she’ll know what the other kids are whispering about her.

“That’s stupid,” her brother says. “They can just cover up their mouth with a book or their hand or something.”

My daughter screams, overturns her dinner plate, and runs off.

“It’s okay,” my son says, “she never eats anyway.”

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A month later, my daughter looks happy, determined. She’s seated in a chair on the opposite side of the room with me on the couch.

“Just say what you’d normally say, except don’t speak out loud.”

I cock my head, imitating, Sherman Alexie, our often befuddled Labrador.

“Just mouth the words.”

I mouth, This is really weird.

She tells me to do it slower.

I mouth, I wish your mother was here.

She crinkles her head and tells me she’s not anorexic, even though that’s not what I said, even though we both know that’s a lie.

I mouth, Your mother fell in love with my best friend, but at least she left me with you two.

My daughter says, “Not so many words at once.”

I mouth, It’s not even funny how much I love you.

She says, “I know just the trick,” goes to the kitchen and returns with Pepto-Bismol. “This should help your stomach ache.”

I mouth, It’s not my stomach, it’s my heart.

She breaks out laughing, busting a gut. She says, “Sometimes you really crack me up.”

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Dishwasher . by Matt Potter

Last night aliens invaded our dishwasher. They activated the heating element. Everything inside that’s plastic melted into the base of the dishwasher and we woke up coughing smoke.

“Fuck!” I said.

Brent rushed about, throwing all the windows open.

“Those aliens are fucking with our lives,” I said later, filling the coffee machine.

Brent clasped his hands around the dishwasher. “I’ve found a website with many stories of the same thing happening with this model,” he said. He pulled the dishwasher from under the benchtop and dragged it across the kitchen floor.

“Yeah,” I said, stirring my coffee. “Those aliens are really fucked.”

Brent pulled the dishwasher through the back door. “They’re being recalled,” he said. “They have a faulty timer switch.” He pushed the dishwasher across the back porch.

“Exactly,” I said, buttering an English muffin. “Aliens are getting inside and fucking with the timer switch.”

Groaning, Brent lifted the dishwasher, hauling it to the bottom of the steps. Easing it down, he yelled, “Would you stop this alien bullshit, Tony! And stop saying fuck all the time!”

Munching on my English muffin, I watched Brent pull the dishwasher towards the driveway.

I went inside and turned on my computer.

DRAG THAT SHIT ONTO THE FUCKING STREET!!! I wrote on my blog. ALIENS ARE BURNING DOWN OUR HOMES!

Sitting at the computer, I could hear Brent’s grunts as he pulled the dishwasher down the driveway.

And I wondered when to tell him about the alien in the hard drive.

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EL ASESINO . by Marcus Speh

04:46 hrs – Habana, Cuba. I can’t sleep. Too much to think about. Jim’s a handsome fellow and I figure he’d rather spend his day fucking our creamy whores, smoke our cigars and write slimy novels instead of teach me (I read this somewhere that all therapists are blocked novelists). But I’m Castro’s last and deadliest weapon, el asesino cubano. To bring down imperialism, I must understand American from the inside.

Jim gave me Hemingway to read, un escritor bianco, who wrote: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” When I inquired why I was not taught Huckleberry Finn instead of the cheesy For Whom The Bell Tolls, Jim said that Mark Twain’s sense of irony was not contemporary enough. I sensed ambiguity, which I hate.

I look out the window of my hut at las putas, and I stroke my cock, and there’s no ambiguity there. Ambiguity is the death of the revolution. Long live El Máximo Líder, chupame ahora.

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Floral Arrangement . by Susan Gibb

“No, the other one, the little one,” she said.

“Si?” The man held up a rose-colored spray of flowers fit for a funeral.

“No,” she pointed, “the blue, azure, aqua, blue…”

She held the flowers as low as she could but still could not see well around them. Muttered “watch its” and “hey, look out!” synchronized with the bumping of bodies as she ran into one after another to make her way home through the twelve blocks of the city, up three flights of stairs.

She kicked the door closed, set the bouquet in the sink. “Shit.”

“What’s up?”

She turned to look at her lover. “I couldn’t get the flowers I wanted for the dinner table tonight because the man didn’t understand me.”

He came over and stared at the sink full of pink. “Sister?”

“Oh Lord, I didn’t even see that,” she said and she cut the glitter-written ribbon off the stems.

“You can cut them down,” he said, “fill about three vases.” He was laughing. “You’ll get it. These people understand you, they just pretend so they can sell something that costs more.”

The roast was burnt. The potatoes glazed with a hard air-dried shell. The string beans were thrown out after they’d waited two hours.

“Try again,” she said, and he punched in the redial. He nodded and mouthed, “ringing.” “Hello?” he said into the phone. His face changed and she knew something was terribly wrong.

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Worn . by Susan Tepper

There is a soft cotton handkerchief in my mother’s top dresser drawer that is so worn thin you can see through it. It must be fifty years old. Maybe more. She got it as a gift from her sister who was my aunt. The sister worked in a laundry and my mother who was a lot younger had to deliver lunch to the sister every day. In telling this story, my mother called the laundry a sweat shop. She said her sister sat outside on the curb and ate the sandwich and fruit my mother brought her every day. Even if it was 100 degrees outside, her sister said it was cooler than being in the laundry. I cannot visit a Laundromat or dry cleaners without remembering my Aunt. It can make me cry if I’m already having a bad day. My mother says that I’m too emotional. It’s all how you look at things I tell her.

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A like . by Dorothee Lang

“Sea,” he says.

Her eyes are closed, her toes curled into his. “She,” she answers.

He doesn’t get it.

She paints the words into the air: sea, see, sie.

“They are alike,” she explains, “sea and see. And in German, it would be understood as sie, which means: she.”

“Homonym,” he says.

Now she doesn’t get it.

“Different words, same pronunciation,” he explains. “Definition of homonym.”

“Probably the very same word in German,” she figures, and searches for more of them.

“I,” she says.

“Eye,” he answers,

“And in German: Ei. Egg.”

Outside, a bus drives by, honks.

“One more?”

“Easy,” she answers. More. Is Moor in German: bog.”

“Okay,” he says. “Done.”

She beams. “That’s another one, actually.”

“Done?”

Dann. Then.”

“So then,” he says, his hand in her hair, and they both fall silent while their minds go hunting for more words that sound as alike as they feel that day.

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“Explain” . by Damian Pullen

“Suburbia is totally fucked up,” Maia announces, as she rips open a croissant. She slept out on the front lawn last night.

Dad looks like he wishes he’d stayed in bed. Toni sneezes and blows her nose. The cat on their bed worked. She looks awful.

“What’s ‘suburbia’?” Ellie singsongs. They must have practised this.
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“This… soulless nightmare where we live, these houses and streets called stupid names where fat people walk fat dogs and mow their lawns all the time.”

“And clean their cars,” says Ellie, “when they aren’t even dirty.” Dad washed her car yesterday while she sunbathed and I jacked off. That white bikini.

“Exactly. Who the fuck mows their lawn at 7.30 in the morning – on a Sunday?”

“Maia…” Dad’s warning lacks teeth, but his eyes plead. Toni’s eyebrows go up. Maia’s swearing has been tolerated since Mum left. “Do you mind?”

“It’s totally decadent.”

“What’s ‘decadent’?” As if, Ellie – it’s been Maia’s favourite word since the divorce – it replaced ‘miasma.’

“Sounds like a kind of toothpaste.” Nice try, Dad. Toni smiles, but she’s way out of her depth.

“Bimbo/ bimbo/ legs akimbo!” That’s the poem Maia wrote in soap on the bathroom mirror last night. Dad hasn’t said anything, even though it has been wiped off.

“More croissants?” Toni’s doing breakfast. There’s a puff of smoke as the oven door opens. She burns herself on the oven tray, screams, and runs over to the sink to run cold water on it, her shoulders shaking.

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Over and Out . by Heather Taylor

Auckland
“Hey whatcha doin’? Nice jacket, bro’.”
“Whatchu lookin’ at, huh. Pakeha faggot.” Fist through nose, bone into brain. Dial a sweetheart, you’re in heaven. No more competition from white rappers. Pass the bro anotha spot, huh.

Chicago
Direct eye contact on 38th. Walking in opposite directions, one ignorant fraulein in floral pattern skirt with tube top and vest, long leg boots. The other innocent car converter in ripped shorts, smeared skivvy, stolen basketball shoes. Blade through bra, ripped down into stomach. Lotsa guts but no DNA match. One German tourist down, 3,854 to go. Bad scene, man.

Melbourne
“Uh oh, uh oh, go away. You stink.”
“Who you callin’ stink? Eat this.” Baseball bat in mouth, wood on bone, broken bones, strike three you’re out. Smile wifey, your face won’t matter where you goin’. Hubby says beer cans make good carpets.

All three murders make the papers but the reasons for them are lost in translation.

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Three Questions for Any Doctor . by Robert Vaughan
i. I ask him, “Where did you go for your last vacation?” And I’m not being nosy, I swear, it’s because doctors go to these exotic places. Doctor French does. He’s been to Bermuda, and Barbados. He speaks a few hundred languages. He brings back thinly- framed pictures from the natives, like a Grandma Moses only filled with color, like one of those paint-by-number. Most exotic place I’ve been is Chicago. I got lost so many times I ended up in Wisconsin. 

ii. My favorite question to ask my dentist, before shoving his gloves into my mouth, is “What are you doing for dinner?” And if he doesn’t respond, say yes, commit, then I just find another doctor, and ask him. You have to pick the perfect moment. It’s all about the timing. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears. Gets lost. Best moment is when he reaches for that drill or is about to syringe your upper gum with novacaine.

iii. This might seem strange. I also ask, “How deep is the sky?” Because if he’s unable to answer something odd, then can I trust him? I’m not there for the cookie- cutter treatment. I want to know he’ll give me the benefit of my doubt. So I ask the unanswerable to shake him out of his medical stupor. Get his nose out of those textbooks. More often than not, he just stares at me like I’m nuts.

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Welcome to Translation . by Al McDermid

I was just beyond the smallest dot on the map, a crossroads with a diner and a gas station, when my water pump went out. I’d seen a tow truck parked next to the gas station, so I pulled off the road before overheating, and walked back up the road, passing the sign naming the town. It was shot up and rusting, but I could still read it:
Translation
pop. 12

As I approached the station, the mechanic, a lanky, long-haired kid, was already climbing into the truck.

“Saw you blow through here,” he said. “What happened?” The patch above his left pocket read ‘Clyde’.

“Water pump belt snapped.”

“Go over to the diner,” he said. “I’ll come get you when it’s fixed.”

In the diner, I sat at the counter and ordered coffee. The place was empty but for the waitress, the tag on her too-tight pink uniform read ‘Rosie’. I could hear the cook in the back.
“Want some pie with that, Hon?” Rosie asked me. “It’s rhubarb. Homemade, you know.” She was big hair country singer cute, so I could hardly resist.
I was on my second piece, this time with ice cream, when Clyde came in to tell me my car was fixed. I thanked Rosie, settled with Clyde, and headed out.
“See you soon,” Rosie said. Her usual ‘good bye’ I guessed.
Down the road a piece, I saw another shot up sign. I slammed on the brakes and backed up. It read:
Translation
pop. 13

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LOST IN SUOMI . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

The map rested in my lap, a useless blur of ‘k’s and ‘l’s and ‘i’s. The GPS bleated unintelligible directives. I’d wanted to take the train, then the bus, to the cabin perched on the brim of the Arctic Circle, but Chris insisted on driving.
“Better to see the land of your ancestors,” he said. “Besides, we’re in no hurry.”

But I was in a hurry.

“See? North.” He pointed to the compass, smiling. “So rest. And trust me to get us to our destination.”

I closed my eyes. He was right, trust and rest; the chemo had robbed me of all my energy. The sun strobed through the birch forest, flinging dappled warmth on my cheeks. The crumpled map slid to the floor.

When I woke, the clock said eight at night but the sky looked like mid-afternoon. Chris rolled down the windows. Wind pummeled me awake, smelling of pine and some quality of freshness, of newness, I could not identify. He hummed softly and kept patting my knee.

“Almost there,” he said.

The trees thinned. I wanted to sleep more, but Chris cut the engine.

“Where are we?”

He helped me from the car. My hips ached. I leaned against him. Pine needles blanketed the ground. Then, the woods ended and sky spread before us, a never-ending canvas of liquid silver that melted into water, blue as his eyes, as blue as our daughter’s, now grown.

He squeezed my hand. “We are exactly where we need to be.”

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Second Non-place . by Stephen Hastings-King

She is blonde and pretty. He is a shadow. She warms to him after a drink or two.

She reveals intimacies through her assessments of television surgeries. She falls silent between characters, fidgets between narrative points.

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Later he holds in place the image of their interaction. He spreads it out on a table. With a scalpel he cuts along the edges of himself. Blade paper and line flow. When he is finished, he removes himself from the scene. Then he repeats the operation with her.

The cutting liberates them from memory. They become detailed color forms.

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He puts them in a car and sends them driving along a back road in autumn, two loose bundles of attributes in motion through a glowing red-tree light under complexes of branches that spiral upward like capillaries until their edges disappear into soft dunes of fog.

She warms to him after a while or two. She reveals herself through assessments of television surgeries.

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They drive through the same space again and again. Their passages rearrange the details.

The years accumulate in the form of memory of the many different ways he has felt about her television show intimacies.

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This sector of the Zone of Forgotten Stories is an element from an immense stack, car atop car driving down road atop road.

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Disguised . by Michael Webb

That doesn’t make any sense, she thought.

She stared at her phone, the tiny screen’s glow illuminating her face as she rode home in the dark. He had asked her to come to the party, begged her, told her that he wanted her there more than anyone. She saw this as her entry point into the upper class, and she spent hours working on a costume, comparing and contrasting, weighing the amount of skin she wanted to expose with the originality factor and the comfort issue. She listened intently to conversations, trying to suss out what other girls were wearing, trying to make sure she would stand out.

She settled on a zombie warrior princess, with a cute short skirt and pretty boots. She added enough makeup to illustrate the zombie theme, while still looking pretty. She got plenty of compliments from other girls, and a few glances from appreciative upperclassmen. She couldn’t find Stephen all night, though, and finally had to leave, slipping away into her Mom’s van, heartbroken. She had texted him, thanking him for inviting her, and all she got back was, “Sure. Whatevs.”

What did he mean by all that flattery when he invited her? Did he really want her to come? Was it some kind of joke? Did she do something wrong? What was she supposed to do? It was like boys speak a different language, she thought as the van brought her home.

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ZOOM . by Garrett Socol

Callie Swain classified the last sexual experience she had with her husband as necrophilia. This determination came about when she realized she had uncannily resembled a corpse: pale, motionless, emotionless. As Russell’s body pummeled her, it would not have been apparent to the objective observer that she had a pulse.

Toward the end of this four minute fiasco, Callie noticed that Russell’s eyes were closed, as if in a REM state. Not only did he have no interest in kissing his wife, he apparently had little desire to look at her. Oblivious and inattentive, he could have been making love to any available babe on the Vegas Strip.

This turned out to be the nadir, the straw that broke the camel’s already injured back. Callie maneuvered herself away from him and raced to the shower. “What are you doing?” Russell moaned, frustrated that she’d taken herself away from him thirty vital seconds too soon. A response didn’t come and neither did he.

After rapidly drying off, she threw on a sleeveless top and a pair of khaki shorts, and tossed a few necessities into her leather bag. Then she flung the front door open and zoomed off toward a new zip code.

Russell, lying on the sheets clammy with sweat, continued to obsess about his wife. Half asleep, half conscious, half dreaming, he could still feel her, touch her, smell and taste her. He had never been so into this woman, the love and lust of his life.

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Dress Code . by Stella Pierides

Stopping momentarily on her doorstep to readjust her headscarf, she
stepped out flushed. She was eager to give the right impression at the
interview.

In her anxiety, she hadn’t noticed it had been drizzling. Now, it
poured. Her headscarf, jacket and ankle-length dress soaked up the
water. She couldn’t afford an umbrella.

The streets were throbbing with shoppers searching for late presents.
She felt more determined than ever to get to her appointment on time.
Walking close to the curb in order to overtake pedestrians, splashed
by passing cars, she kept going over the job advert:

“A professional and enthusiastic Receptionist needed for a busy front
of house reception role in a prestigious international firm.”

It had ticked all the right boxes for her. An “international” firm
would be bound to be interested in and respect international
employees. She had all the “enthusiasm” one could possibly have.
Having searched for employment for a year now – hers was enthusiasm
fuelled by despair. As for “professional,” her Masters – from a
university in her home country – was surely more than other candidates
could show.

However, at the company’s steel-and-glass headquarters, the doorman,
having checked her name, and stared at her shivering in drenched
clothes, denied her entrance to the building. “The wrong dress code,
and in such a mess,” he said shaking his head. Then he looked away.

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Lost in Translation . by Tom Allman

We sailed, at dawn, to the last outpost of the Aztec Empire. Intrepid explorers of the planet we. I the Gastronome, eating my way across six continents and Fitzhume the cunning linguist, speaking in tongues.

We arrived just in time for second breakfast. I rubbed my belly and shouted for Count Chocula. Presently they offered Fitzy and I, steaming and pink, a giant conch full of chunky and decadent chowder.

Nonplussed Fitzy attempted to teach the proud natives the vowels and consonants of other General Mills products. The throng parted and up walked our missing European friend. Oh fortunes favor, we turned and shouted in unison, “Frankenberry”!

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Missing Something . by Alex Lockwood

And then we’re done. Names, ages, family histories, jobs, joint income. The interviewer stumbled over my details. Hers was fine, she’s got a profession; but having no employment history makes it more difficult. You’re a writer? Yes. No references? No, unless you count Amazon reviews. Now that’s an interesting idea—a star rating for suitability in their process (well, it worked for Madonna, sort of). Who’d pass? Siri Hustvedt, of course, Amazon readers love her. And so by proxy, Paul Auster. I can even see Easton Ellis bringing out a copy of Less Than Zero at interview. Yes, you’ll qualify, Brett.

He’s talking to us. Focus. Make a good impression. Don’t crack a joke. This isn’t Friends.

‘I know the newspapers always make a meal of it. But, really, adoption is a simple process in our country. We’re not Russia!’ and he laughs, as if this keeps the agency staff room regularly creased up. I think of those long white rooms somewhere in the blanket of Siberia. An old Gulag building. More bars on the beds than the windows.

He’s still laughing to himself. He’s annoyed we’ve not joined in. He ahems, straightens his back.

‘So that’s it?’ I ask.

He fiddles with the forms. He looks up, as if something’s missing. But then it’s gone. He’s talking.

‘Yes. That’s it.’

We glance at each other. This is it, then.

‘Okay,’ he says, ‘so when do you want to meet your new parents?’

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Ethnomathematics . by Fred Osuna

His academic nightmare is set in an examination hall, where the student takes a seat at a folding table in the center of the room. Before him are three No. 2 pencils and a blue book. The moderator writes one essay question – sixty percent of the grade – on the chalkboard. Then she starts the clock.

The room becomes a vacuum in which he hears only the drumming of his own heart. The rest of the room recedes. There is only the blank page, the sweaty palms, and the realization that he has no idea what ethnomathematics is. After five minutes of quiet panic, he turns to the back of the book and scribbles page after page of free association on his own topic: despair.

He hands the instant journal disguised as a blank book to the moderator, avoiding her eyes. Next day, when he visits the graduate lounge to pick up his grade, all of the teaching assistants stop talking and turn toward him.

Are you alright? asks the woman in the modified burka. We were concerned about you.

Yes, he answers, I’m fine.

He sees his instructor coming forward from the back of the room. He approaches the student. Should we call someone for you? I was worried we might not ever see you again.

The student smiles, assures him all is well.

The instructor sighs with relief. He extends his hand to the student. It holds a blue book, marked with a violent red F.

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Class . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Before they ever spoke, Linda and Meg had sat next to each other in the cramped lecture hall for three weeks, their thighs touching, while Dr. Laurens showed slides of ancient Japanese art. Meg’s eyes never left the screen, but Linda glanced at her as often as she dared. Meg sometimes mentioned visiting museums when she was teaching in Japan, so she must have taken time off from school after her BA, but there were no white strands in her black hair.

At the end of class, Linda invited Meg over to her apartment. —My roommates and I have a weekly DVD night.

—I’m pretty busy. I’m not sure I can. What are you watching?

—Lost in Translation

—Then no. I hate that movie.

Linda flushed and pulled her purse to her chest. —I thought you’d like it since it’s about foreigners in Japan and . . .

—No, it’s about rich white people whining about how hard their lives are. Japan’s a backdrop.

—I . . . didn’t realize . . .

—The girl goes to a Buddhist temple and then gets upset because she didn’t feel anything, but why should she? She’s not Buddhist

—I haven’t seen it before. Um, I’ll see you tomorrow?

Meg nodded. The next day she sat in her usual spot, but Linda sat in the last row.

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Body Language . by Dawn Armstrong

I approach her. She smiles at me and caresses my head, then goes back to
her work. I walk into the living room and look at the others. They ignore
me as they lounge on the sofa, one staring at the tv, the other dozing,
drool slipping from the corner of his mouth. Sometimes they understand,
but today they don’t seem to share my anxiety. The feeling is getting
stronger now. I run back to the kitchen, trying to get her attention. She
thinks I just want something to eat. I’m starting to get really impatient,
and fidgety. She gives me something to drink. Food and drink are the last things
I want right now. I start to run around the house as my heart beats faster.
My tongue curls and my breathing speeds up. The pressure is intense.
Doesn’t she realize there will be a catastrophe if she doesn’t listen to me?
I run up to her this time, touch her knee and look at her with pleading eyes. She
still doesn’t get it. There is only one thing left to do. I start running in circles and
scratching the carpet. Finally she looks. She gets my leash.

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11/11 . by Kim Hutchinson

The canon thundered, too close, sending a shock through the crowd. The children began to sing an anthem.

Tears formed behind her sunglasses. It was the first time she had attended.

She’d grown up with soldiers, and learned the difference young. The ones who talked of glory, honor, manhood, they didn’t know. The ones who knew—the tail gunners, EOD men, lieutenants who’d led young men to die—they kept silent.

They could not tell her why; the experience was untranslatable.

As she grew, she learned of the business of war and its vast, unspeakable corruption. She discovered that the soldiers knew of it, too. The ones who talked defended the corrupt, the others stayed silent.

Confused and disheartened, she turned away.

Then one day, she found herself in danger. Everyone deserted her, everyone but the soldiers. Silently, they protected and cared for her, showed her the meaning of duty, honor, loyalty, even love.

To most people, these were just words, but not to them.

Men fight wars for this, you know. Her lover said this quietly one night, while looking at the stars and holding her.

Suddenly, she understood. It had nothing to do with a flag. It never had. Words and symbols may have power, but in understanding truth, they were weak and insufficient.

Most times, words were unnecessary.

The canon boomed again. Her tears fell. The crowd sang together.

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Wrong Way Down Sesame Street . by Steven M. Stucko

“What’s your safe word?”

“My what?”

“Your safe word. For when you want me to stop doing whatever I’m doing.”

Ernie and Bert had decided to spice up their sex lives by investing in some leather gear ordered from an intro-to-bondage web site. “It’s like S&M for Dummies!” Bert squealed.

“Don’t squeal” Ernie said. “and it’s not S&M, its just role playing. Pick a safe word.”

“Pumpernickel.” Bert offered. “OK, fine” Ernie said. “Mine is “Uncle.”

The room filled with the musky smell of new leather as the old friends tried on seatless chaps and long buckled boots which took a half hour to pull on and a full hour to remove. Shiny harnesses and handcuffs clanked along with Lady Gaga.

After dinner and some wine they dressed each other up and went at it. At one point Bert had had enough. “Why! Why! Why!” is what Ernie heard, Bert’s panicked voice muffled, barely audible through the leather mask. His eyes started to roll back in his head so Ernie unzipped the mouth zipper and heard his friend yell: “Rye! Rye! Rye! My God! I almost suffocated! I was screaming my safe word!” Blue, Bert gasped for breath.

“Your safe word is Pumpernickel not Rye! I almost killed you because you can’t remember what type of bread you picked!” Ernie yelled, exasperated.

Still choking, Bert said: “I always order rye! You should know that by now!”

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All music and memory it becomes . by Stacy Allen

Music is my longing.
The language I dream, but cannot write. I lose it, consequentially.

What if life were like that? What if I could not pause to write and remember?
Would it all disappear into forgottenness?

Or would I learn to sing it,
epically, becoming
Gilgamesh or
Odysseus
as the tale stretched and flourished with each singing?

So now I long for where that might take me.
I bring my voice,
put down my pen.

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Lemma . by Guy Yasko

Ladies and gentlemen, i put to you that the runes are intelligent
texts. By ‘intelligent’ i mean something more than the physical trace of
intelligent beings, but being itself. As you know, opening oneself to
the runes brings one to a certain set of thoughts, as if one were
reading. This is no doubt the reason we refer to them with textual
metaphors, as ‘runes’. What do readers experience? Their own
memories. Nothing more. And yet every reader agrees that there is a
certain abstraction to the sequences and play of memories, a certain
patterning. Readers liken it to the visual patterning of migraine
headaches. We can only imagine. There is also the sense that memories
used by the runes are no longer one’s own. I have long considered such
statements mere paranoia. No longer. Our interviewers — whom we have
insulated from the runes — now experience a similar patterning of
memories, a similar paranoia. Something has been transmitted from
readers to interviewers, something with origins in the runes.

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Here’s Looking at You Kid . by Doug Bond

Gladschtul’s text woke me at 3am. We’d done it. Only five of the exotic beasts left on the planet, and only one would now remain in private hands. Mine. I poured a celebratory cognac, Delamain’s exquisite Le Voyage, just right for the moment, and toasted to my long awaited union with the splendid Lithuanian Hocker Hound.

Please don’t confuse the Lithuanian with the far more pedestrian Hungarian Hocker, who not only has had Hocking bred clear out of the line, but suffers as well from an insipid bark and a slight tail rise that I find quite unappealing.

The Lithuanian is a true Hocker and mine is by all accounts one of the most facile and gifted in the august history of the breed. Video footage Gladschtul obtained of a non sanctioned hocking display in the thorny scrub outside Sveksna was breathtaking. We counted three, maybe four dozen quail loogied in one twenty minute span alone!

After touching down in Vilnius we were escorted to a private hangar, where a hulking, yet distinguished looking gentleman named Petkevicius approached me and said something in either Lithuanian or Latvian. I turned to Gladschtul, who’s simply crackerjack with Baltic languages. He whispered: Petkevicius says, “You are a very lucky man!”

Suddenly and with great flourish a thick black curtain was whisked away, revealing the majestic hound. He mounted slowly to all fours, raised up his massive snout, and let fly a raw pitched keening howl and spit right in my eye.

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What Happened Next . by Doris Dembosky

The grandmother, square and solid as a tank (dressed entirely in black as befitted a Spanish Civil War widow) scrunched up her hooded eyes. The mother, widowed or abandoned (in those days, divorce was not an option), hardened her lips. The eldest of the three daughters raised her eyebrows. The middle daughter’s mouth formed a perfect O. And the youngest daughter looked on with delight: she could hardly wait to see what would happen next.

The foreign exchange student stalled. If her university Spanish had been more fluent, this would have been a good time to make small talk. Alice didn’t know the people with whom she was boarding. She should have engaged them in conversation… told them about life in the States. But her tongue was tied.

Instead, she looked at her unfinished bowl of bacalao. She had eaten the salt cod. Only an eyeball remained. The eyeball floated- a bit of glutinous flotsam in the broth. Alice imagined that it would be rubbery. She would have to swallow it whole.

Had the cook, an impoverished peasant from the mountains north of Madrid, served her the eyeball with no forethought? Or had the grandmother purposefully served the eyeball as some sort of test? Maybe Marcella, the youngest, had added the eyeball as a joke?

¿Quieres mas sopa? Do you want more soup?

Lifting her head, Alice replied, No, estoy lleno. I am full.

Little did Alice know that she had just announced her pregnancy.

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Under the Sea . by Martin Brick

When the pirates boarded ship, the gun of the little one, some inexperienced kid with glitchy nerves, went off, caught me in the leg. My crew dressed the wound, then pumped me with all the painkillers we had. I haven’t seem them since, but I like to think they’re safe, at least adrift on a lifeboat somewhere.

Like to think I’ll be safe too, as the pirates argue in a foreign tongue. Hard to read emotion through the beard, but I believe the little one lobbies for my release to someone who’ll provide proper medical care. Argument ends, and my shooter wraps the sheet from the bed around me. Tight. I’m feeling hopeful, until they slip a 24” pipe wrench into the sheet. They’re weighing me down, which can only mean…

Underwater, warmish, getting colder. Darker.

I never knew enough to take a good last breath. Weak as I am, I couldn’t have. I struggle, kick at the dark as best I can, hoping it might bleed light.

There’s a bump. I think fish, but then it cradles me. Honest to God arms. Must be angels, I think as things become warmer, lighter. Female hands part the sheet and I see her. Radiant. Hair floats majestically, ribboning like the aurora borealis. She’s naked. Angels aren’t naked? Her mouth opens, but I don’t understand. Underwater, dolphin talk. Her lips push to mine and fill my lungs. Again, she makes distorted words. Indecipherable, but I know perfectly well I’ll be okay.

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Sono Canadese (I am from Canada) . by Frank Rasky

Les Promenade des Anglais in Nice had been magnificent. Everything a young buck of a backpacker from Canada could’ve hoped for to satisfy his wanderlust.

He had his own room overlooking Baie des Anges where topless beauties carpeted the beach. It was like a dream, better than any postcard sold at Rue Paradis.

He spoke passable French, and charmed local femmes. But it was a different story when he crossed the border and landed in Rapallo.

He spoke no Italian, memorized only a few phrases. But life for foreigners in Europe, he’d learned, was kinder to Canadians.

“Sono Canadese,” he proclaimed to the clerk in the grocery shop. “I am from Canada.” And, for good measure, he tapped the maple leaf on the front of his t-shirt.

“Si, Canada!” she exclaimed. “Desidera?” she asked, which he understood to mean desire. He was thirsty and hungry, and desired water and bread.

“Dove acqua?” he asked. She brought him bottled water.

“Dove pene?” he asked. She laughed, shifted her gaze to below his waist, and brought him a loaf.

Later he learned “pane” meant bread, and “pene” something else. He’d unintentionally asked, “Where’s the penis?”

Soon after he headed by train for Rome. Then, by plane, to London, where he was sure not be misunderstood.

It was there he met a maiden who offered him a bed for the night. When he awoke next morning, he asked for food.

She smiled, and brought him a steaming helping of her speciality, Spotted Dick.

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Garmri . by Matthew A. Hamilton

The resting place of Sohaemus
bends to the command of the Azat River
jagged hands fold in prayer with ricochets
of grey cold and mist

within the stillness of weathered stone
a hallway of light appears
the voice of the duduk speaks like a troubled soul
and calms the anger of hungry gods

the steps of nine walk toward the dark light.
flowers dance to the rhythm of yellow skies
children dream of purple shadows and the lost city
of the silver spear

here, all reality is swallowed by the past
ancient cracks bleed tears
white echoes give hope to old men
selling statues and rosaries and miniature temples

people have been walking here since the beginning of time
some are older than sand and rock
older than time
older than a whisper
older than God

I sit here, think about life and death
who I have been and what I will become
I take a bite of an apricot
I meditate on its taste
the sweet dryness of frozen leaves

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And God created John and Groucho . by Walter Bjorkman

“Acceptez-vous le Seigneur comme votre Créateur?” the driver, wide as the front seat and short as it too, croaked out.

“Ah, acceptez-vous, do you accept. Ah, le Seignor, uh the mister. Votre, wait Latin, our, creator” Eddie was translating by the seat of his pants. Do you accept the mister, comme-communist?

“Do you accept the communist as our creator?” Had to be it.

“Nah, I’m apolitical” was the best Eddie could offer.

“I think he means ‘Do you accept Him with a capital H as your Creator?’” Sid finally chipped in, knowing French, but wanting to see what Eddie came up with.

“Well, I’m agnostic, that’s religiously apolitical” Eddie reasoned.

The driver had picked them up in Fraser Canyon, nicknamed ‘God’s Valley’.

“Look, we can’t call our world ugly” Eddie preached to the preacherman and Sid. “We call it all beautiful, astounding, God’s Gift. What kind of creatures would we be if we thought earth was ugly, think how it would put a kibosh on exploration, just getting up in the morning. It would be counter-productive to survival.”

“The poet would recite: I think that I shall never see, a poem so revoltin’ as a tree.”

“So of course we think it beautiful, it had nothing to do with god.”

“Eddie, your reasoning is, is, is . . “ Sid thought long and hard about what he just heard.

“Is what?”

“Is beautiful.”

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A Lesson . by John Wentworth Chapin

“We never know what you’re saying to us,” she says. I laugh, because this should be funny, but it’s not.

“What a pleasure to know that my pearls of wisdom fall on deaf ears,” I say.

“Like that,” she says. She’s the worst student in my Modern Film class and we’re alone at a bar.

She is just a few years younger than I, back in college. She doesn’t know how to organize or articulate her thoughts, but she has killer instincts. We watched a film in class and she said something brilliant; the sheep surrounding her stared blankly. So I educed, elaborated, expounded – all the verbs necessary to make her observation an insight.

“No,” she said, when I reframed her observation, “that’s not what I meant.”

The rest of the class chewed its cud. I was left to elucidate or shut up.

“Perhaps you could clarify your point,” I offered. She repeated, eerily verbatim, her observation that prompted my diatribe.

“Baaa.”

“Moo.”

They understood what she was saying. I understood it; but no one understands me. This is what prompted me to follow her after class to this bar and act surprised when I walked in and saw her there. She didn’t look surprised; in fact, she casually nodded me over.

“You act as though you expected me,” I said.

She shrugged. I understood exactly what she meant.

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Tell me what you think . by Michelle Elvy

“Dites moi ce que vous en pensez,” said the old woman. “Tell me what you think.”

The girl had been gazing at the canvas, an astonishing explosion of color amidst a grey background of tattered cardboard and greasy clothing and tired plastic bags, and she now sensed the woman’s gaze on her. What could she say? That she wanted to press her cheek into the cool ocean purples, put her lips to the milky sky and drink? That the sweep of greens and browns rising up with the sun’s golden fingers parting the trees just so hinted at the home she’d left and nearly forgotten? That the feathery texture of the grasses down low reminded her of the brush of her lover’s hand on her neck, that she was sure that the depression in those tall wildflowers was made by him and her, right there. And that the line of black birds off in the distance placed a thin, cold emptiness in her chest which had nothing to do with the November Parisian morning?

For a moment, she wondered if she could take this woman around the corner and buy her a hot tea, sit with her and talk about the color of warmth and love and home, of sorrow and loneliness and fear. She wanted to know how an old woman could capture everything that was in a girl’s heart in such a small square. Instead, she tossed a coin into the woman’s worn grey cap and muttered: “Oui, c’est bon.”

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52|250 would like to thank Guy Yasko for providing this week’s art, Parisian Nautical Object. We asked Guy about this work:

“I found this object at a marina in Paris, near the Bastille metro stop. I became obsessed with it, and went to the marina every day for a couple weeks trying to capture what was so compelling about it. Now, years later, I’m more interested in the city and the sky in the background.”

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Filed under Wk #27 - Lost in translation

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