He watched something white fall from her hand to the water below. He joined her at the rail, sea spray catching on his arm hair.
The packet of notes was folded into a tight square. She had written on both sides of the paper and the running ink was quickly turning the parchment sky blue. The waves tossed the bundle back and forth in a game of keep-away.
“What was that?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She smiled. He’d seen that smile last night when he said that she was the best friend he’d had in a long time.
And he knew too late. This invitation to sail with her had not been extended in friendship.
He wondered how long it would be until a gull swooped down to steal her writings from the sea.
Category Archives: Katherine Nabity
“Grandmother?” Janis smelled smoke. Cigarette smoke. “What’s going on in here?”
Janis found Grandmother sitting on an old wood chair in the middle of the room with a cigarette and 1.75L of gin.
Grandmother Mable despised smoking. When Janis experimented, Grandmother had taken her to view the lungs of a smoker. Janis had puked all over the autopsy room.
“I want to go by spontaneous combustion,” said Grandmother.
“You know, spontaneous human combustion. I was reading about it the other day. It seems to happen a lot to old people. Close your mouth, dear. You look like you’re catching flies.”
“It happens a lot?” Janis could do no better than repeat. Clean-living Grandmother. Paragon of wholesome. Cigarettes and gin.
“Yes, well, not too often. I’ve decided I want to make a splash.”
Grandmother rolled her eyes. “Yes. I’ve lived too quietly and there’s not much I can do about it now. But my death? That’s something I can do something about.” Grandmother tapped ash onto the skirt of dress and took a swig of gin.
“But how? I thought it’s… spontaneous.”
“It isn’t. There are always factors in common. Old age, nodding off while drunk, cigarettes that cause the fire. Something about how slowly fat can burn when there isn’t anything to accelerate the fire. But that doesn’t mean that every death by spontaneous combustion isn’t sensational. I’ve decided, dear, that finally I want to be sensational.”
Strangely, Janis couldn’t argue.
When she slept, Julie often dreamt of a man named Ben.
Ben was the right amount of tall. He had dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. He was rugged, but with boyish looks. Like a young Robert Sean Leonard. Ben always agreed with her or, if he didn’t, he politely deferred. Being a Cubs fan was the closest he came to athletics and he solemnly believed, like her, that there was no good rock music past 1979. And when he held her? Well, that felt like being safe and sound at home.
She met Jason on May 12th when she missed the 8:10, 129 southbound. He rode the 8:20 every day. His nose was a too big, more Adrian Brody than Dr. Wilson. In heels, she’d be able to look into his chameleon-like gray eyes. Jason played rec league basketball and had never set foot in Wrigley Field. He liked new, inventive music. Some of it was okay. He argued with her, demanded that she justify her views, but wasn’t afraid to change his mind if she had a good point. And when they touched, it was like being set on fire.
Ben took usually took the 8:00, 129 southbound, but on May 12th, he was late and rode the 8:10. He often dreamt of a girl named Julie, who was petite and a Cubs fan…
Marion liked the man on television, the one that talked about being bound in a nutshell and becoming the king of space. He had wide, wild eyes and an askew grin. Marion felt like that most of the time. Wild and askew. Her family didn’t understand her, but the man would.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t figure out how to be bound *in* a nutshell. The biggest nut she had in her collection, the brainy-looking walnut, fit easily in the palm of her hand. She couldn’t become small enough to go inside it.
The thought wormed its way into her thoughts even though she didn’t want it to.
If she cracked the walnut open and ate the insides.
But she had never cracked any of the nuts in her collection. Never ate them! Her sister threatened. Her sister ate the nuts from her Christmas stocking every year, all of them…except the walnuts.
Yes. The walnut. To be the queen of space, she would sacrifice it.
Scared, she held the nut steady, crenelated meat mallet in her other hand. With one deep breath, she brought the mallet down. The shell cracked and the awful noise tore into her mind, into her soul.
Space was cool and quiet. Marion didn’t find the king, but in the end, she doubted that he would have understood about the walnut either.
“We never figured out how you did it.”
Aleister didn’t like it when his past caught up with him. It always seemed to happen in an airport bar. He tried to never be early for a flight, but he couldn’t do much about delayed planes. At least not with all the airport security watching him.
“Can you still do it?” His name was Jerry. Aleister remembered him from grade school. He hadn’t seen Jerry in over twenty years.
Jerry pulled a dime from his pocket and placed it on the table.
The trick was simple. Aleister, blindfolded, would reach under a hand towel and touch a dime. If he didn’t think about it, he could easily rearrange the substance of the coin, turning it into gold. Or at least something as soft and yellow as his friends believed gold to be.
The only time he failed was when Dave Harris moved the cloth to see if Aleister was replacing the dimes. The last time he performed the trick was when Grandma Betsy caught him. He feared a spanking, but Grandma Betsy simply shook her head in disappointment. He promised to never use his talent so conspicuously again. His magic would fail him if everyone knew about it.
“No,” said Aleister, “I don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”
Jerry, sitting across from him, didn’t notice that the liquid in Aleister’s glass became a little more Jack and a little less Coke.
The first time it happened, Darcy was seven years old. She was staring at the Christmas tree, all glittering and untouchable with tinsel and glass ornaments.
Tomorrow morning, she would wake to a pile of presents beneath it. Darcy could see them now. Big ones, and less desirable small ones. The foil bows, the Santa Claus and reindeer patterns. In a frenzied rush, she’d rip and tear. She could hear the paper and tape give and feel it beneath her fingers.
And then she was there. In the midst of gift-giving chaos.
An Easy-Bake Oven. Pretty-in-Pink Barbie and a bunch of outfits. A Lite-Brite. Books from her aunt and uncle. Socks.
Just as she was about to dress Barbie as a ballerina, Darcy was standing in front of the tree again, not a bow or gaudy wrapper in sight.
Darcy grinned. Tomorrow, she could do it all again.
The next morning, she recognized all the presents. The biggest, the Lite-Brite. The smallest, socks. It wasn’t as much fun as she thought it would be.
The jumps happened every time Darcy was bouncy with anticipation. Christmas. Birthdays. Visits to the circus, the zoo, amusement parks. When she was older, school events and dates.
The process was exhausting and draining. Hours passed twice. Enthusiasm had to be faked to keep other people happy.
But Darcy couldn’t help it.
She just couldn’t wait.
Red meat is not her problem.
Red meat is willing. Pull-ups, sit-ups, pushups. Leg presses, calf raises, hamstring curls. Stadium bleachers, soccer field suicides, tabata on the rowing machine. Boat pose, plow pose, downward-facing dog. Red meat takes the beating and repairs, reforms, becomes stronger.
The others are the traitors.
Yellow-white lymph carries confused aggressors, attempting to make her immune to herself. Under attack, the clear membranes in her joints react in the only way they know and produce more fluid, now yellowed with inflammation. Beige cartilage, pressed on by the ballooning humour, erodes into pearly bone. Around distorted bones, gray tendons and ligaments are compromised and can no longer cradle joints as they should. Long creamy nerves passionately report the destruction.
She doesn’t want to hear the report.
Red meat is willing.
She liked snooping.
Sneaking through the empty house was a thrill. Better than a roller coaster or a wrapped birthday present. Peeping into out-of-bounds drawers and closets was naughty, but she couldn’t see the harm in it. Nothing but winter coats and sweaters or envelopes filled with typed invoices and old Christmas cards. She never found anything good and never left a trace behind.
Until the day she broke the camera.
The leather camera case sat on the top shelf of the linen closet. Just that week she had grown a fraction of an inch tall enough to worm two fingers under it. She knew its weight. If she could tip the case over the edge of the shelf, it would fall and she’d catch it on the way down. From her angle, she hadn’t seen the shoebox perched atop the case. Not one, but two objects fell. She ducked out of the way in surprise. The camera case remained closed, but she knew from the glass-tinkle-crash that something had broken. Sepia pictures spilled from the open shoebox.
She didn’t want to know how badly the camera was wrecked and she couldn’t put it back on the shelf if she wanted to. The stepladder was in the garage and far too heavy to carry. She hadn’t considered that earlier.
She would take her punishment when Mom came home. Until then, she flipped through the pictures of the smiling grandma and grandpa she had never known.
He hadn’t been thinking when he left his hat and sunblock in the car. He had stumbled over the rocky sand dune toward the mottled pink dawn and the dull steel ocean, certain that it wouldn’t take so long to find her. He had followed the broken line of deposited debris and the tide came and went.
The sun warmed him and then singed him. The glare off the water darkened his freckles. The sand teemed with living things that fascinated and repulsed him. He didn’t like being barefoot on the beach. He swam occasionally for the coolness of the water, but was always slightly sickened by the brush of kelp against him. He never swam long. He might miss her if he was gone from land.
Others filled the spaces between the clots of green-black seaweed and the hungry rise and fall of the ocean. Most were bronzed or weathered, used to the sun and the wind and the salt. They were not like him, pale like rust-flecked sand. He continued to walk, following where the waves had been, where she had been, and ignored the attention that his white legs garnered. He was not here for them.
He found her when the horizon bled. The water lapped at her bare feet and the wind twisted her hair.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.
Sunburnt, he smiled.
He wasn’t thinking at all.
One day, the world fell. People in the southern hemisphere felt
slightly flattened. In the northern, everyone was on a roller coaster
as their guts jumped, briefly into their throats. That went on for a
little over a day. The effect wasn’t quite enough to panic over. The
entire world felt…off. Queasy, no matter where they were.
After a twenty-six hours, it reversed. The northern inhabitants felt
like they were in an express elevator that was a little too express.
Below the equator, men and women put their foot forward only to find
that the earth was a fraction of a fraction of an inch lower than they
Twenty-four hours later, the reversal occurred again. Ivan
Solomonovich of St. Petersburg felt just a tad like he was floating,
while Ben Simons of Perth felt the sky weighing down on his head.
Science had no explanation. In all other ways, the universe was still
in tact. The sun, moon, and other astral bodies stayed in their proper
relative positions based on the calendar day. The tides remained
unchanged. Physics, too, was unaffected. It was only that people, and
perhaps animals based on their behavior, felt that the world was
moving up and down, every cycle two hours shorter. Over the period,
the sales of Maalox and Pepto-Bismol quadrupled.
Philosophers came to one conclusion: while God does not play dice with
the universe, He does play jacks with worlds.