Category Archives: Grey Johnson

Send It All Swimming, I Say by Grey Johnson

So, what bastard cuts a girl loose on Valentine’s Day?

The whole episode gave my friend Meg a slamming headache, and she said the bathroom tiles at the Exxon station cascaded like the horizontal hold for the world had malfunctioned. Like a waterfall of pain wrapped a rope around her head, and was keeping her tethered to it. She said the four hundred dollars she spent at Victoria’s Secret, just to keep him entertained, made her queasy.

Well, cotton is the fabric of my life. The girls in that place make me sick, anyway.

She could barely leave, and spent four automatic flushes trying to convince her shirt to stop lifting out of her pants.

Migraine makes you clumsy. What can I say?

Meg’s sister took over for her, since she couldn’t even drive, and they went to Mom’s house for dinner. There she found out, again, that Mom’s hoarding will never get better on its own. Clouds of clothes in plastic bags, like thunderheads at every turn, along with her sister’s loudmouthed children.

Shit. How does she stand it?

Dinner came from the BiLo Deli. The food went on the plate, the fork lifted the food, and one mouthful of that flim-flam gravy sent Meg running.

I don’t know why she ate that crap. I’ve warned her before.

Anyway, Meg said the rim was cool, and she felt oddly elated after.

The creep popped the string, but the affect went afloat, so to speak, where it belongs. ‘Nuff said.


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The Orbit of Planet X by Grey Johnson

Threatening to cross the Earth’s elliptic

I lumber fatly

Too big to be like Jupiter, too small to be a star

I have no sky clique in the shape of a mythic beast, no A-List identity

Only a troublesome borderline pathway, too dim and distant to be clearly determined

I think I will vary my route, in my sullen brown dwarfish way

Graze the surface of the earth

Mate with the sun

And blow all the telescopes to burning bits


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Sufficiently by Grey Johnson

At 10:30, she lets the dog in for the night. There is a raggy quilt on the bed that she cannot surrender, and as she slides beneath it, she becomes herself for the first time all day. She has a rolling table, like the ones you see in hospitals, for her laptop. Propped up on pillows, with the whirring and ticking of the ceiling fan, she feels the invisible humming of the lights pull close around her. She is pretending to be a writer.

Suddenly, another equally quiet person is there, having entered their chat using a long-remembered secret code. She used to think of him as someone to entertain with charming lies, but things evolve in unexpected ways. They exchange trinkets in the mail. She recently purchased a headset, and will soon hear his voice.

Television, like the tinkling of a cat’s bell, helps them to gauge their level of privacy. As it ends, spouses drift away to sleep somewhere else, relievedly. Quiet and privacy are necessary, of course, but they do not promise anything for her.

It is easy to be misunderstood late at night, tired and anxious for an unexpected sound. Tonight she has typed the wrong thing, which she does more often than she used to. As is his habit, like a virtual Socrates, he will allow her to reflect quietly on what that error was. Only when she explains herself sufficiently, will the special silent twinkle of his upcoming words resume.


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Spinning China by Grey Johnson

There was not a blinding moment. Cheryl liked to imagine that there was one, the instant before the big event that changed everything. She liked to think of him having a split second of regret, so that afterward, he would be forever aware of the harm he had done.

But it didn’t happen. He slept through the entire thing, after being saturated at party, and rolled into the car by a friend. They swerved about in the night, ignoring a stop sign. Severed his aorta. Bled out clueless, his pals said, shaking their heads, while drinking beer on the porch. Oblivious.

She went to bed before the last consoling acquaintance left, exhausted enough to go to sleep in spite of all the chatter in the rooms downstairs. Her bones knew they were being pushed into the mattress by a dream, but from the outside, she seemed blessedly unaware.

In this dream, he was desperate to make her laugh, running about spinning china on the ends of sticks. She begged him to keep the dishes from crashing. All his unpredictable movement made her want to escape. She felt trapped with him in a scorching white room, crying, “Stop, and be yourself again.”

“Here,” he said, “take these. They’ll make you feel better”. She opened her hand, expecting aspirin, but when she looked down, there was a stunned moment, and a communion wafer, marked with the image of a roadside cross.


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Getting Better by Grey Johnson

Debra and Ron took a half day off from work to drive Lisa to the state sponsored treatment center. It had a fairly nice campus with a wide lawn. Debra thought about naked asses being chased downhill, orderlies tumbling to prevent patients from darting onto the freeway. Ron was just annoyed at the loss of an afternoon and evening. Weeks later, when the completely predictable phone call came, Donna and Ron made the return visit to the state facility. When Lisa came out to meet them, she looked so different – her skin was clearer, she wasn’t as thin, and her hands didn’t shake. All these things were worthy of notice. But before either Debra or Ron could make a positive comment, Debra sputtered, “What the hell happened to your hair?”

Lisa made no attempt at being bashful or apologetic. She made no effort at enthusiasm or contempt, either. In an astoundingly flat and direct way, Lisa stated “I cut it off.”

Ron shook his head and replied, “Yes, we can see that, Lisa.”

“Well, didn’t they give you a mirror, Honey?” said Debra.

Ron said, “I just want to know how you managed to get the fucking scissors this time.”


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Paula Mae by Grey Johnson

A lamb lies on its side, legs stiff, hooves dirtied by bits of broken mortar. Its sculpted fur is stained with grime from the highway. Straight away, we set it upright upon its low, narrow pedestal. There are no trees or still waters here, and although close to the road, this place retains a special hush. We look for a water spigot and there is none. Across the highway is a house, so we take our bucket with us, and explain ourselves. We are given access to the faucet by the garage. Bleach, brushes, rags and a camera are in the trunk of the car.

We scrub for a long time in the strong sun, worrying if the bleach will ruin our baby lamb’s fur, and puffing from our effort while wishing for gloves. Eventually, we pour straight bleach over the baby’s coat, and by doing so finally gain the purity we seek. I take a picture of my husband, bending on one knee, with his hand on the baby’s gleaming back, smiling proudly with sad eyes. Our work is done. We wonder if we should have the mortar redone on the pedestal.

The picture is printed, and we realize that no picture was taken of me. Somehow, this seems appropriate, as if our precious lamb should be tended to by someone outside our clan. We mail the picture to my Grandmother Lib, and she puts it in the pocket of her bathrobe. She carries it there forever.


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