Category Archives: Michelle Elvy

Michelle Elvy’s Flash

Lola, Salmon, Juneau by Michelle Elvy

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This photo was taken in June 2006 in Juneau, Alaska. It rained constantly while we were there but there was something about the life and the light that captivated us. We traveled through Southeast Alaska that whole season and sailed passed icebergs, glaciers, and whales. We collected thousands of photos and memories. But somehow it was a portion of this unassuming picture of my then four-year-old looking out the window of the Juneau Public Library which became the banner for 52|250. I like it here on this last page of 52|250; there’s something about the young child looking out, the brightly colored fish between her and the murky wet cityscape. Maybe it’s this: maybe it says goodbye in the right way. And onward! — Michelle Elvy

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Juggler by Michelle Elvy

I used to be a juggler. Got pretty good, too. Started out small, used three beanies my flatmate Stefan gave me. Stefan was a lively juggler, could use anything at hand. I once watched him take a salt shaker, a wine glass, and a roll of toilet paper and toss them in the air. I held my breath, expected them to come crashing down on the floor, but he kept them suspended for five minutes. All while belting out Nina Hagen.

So I started juggling with Stefan every Sunday in the Stadtpark. I was terrible at first. Man, you gotta breathe, he’d laugh. Sure enough, breathing helped. I could even ride a unicycle. We started busking and we breathed and balanced our way all over Germany. Made some money, got another partner in our act. Beate was gorgeous and could swallow swords. But she left us eventually for a poet named Peter in Paris, and after that the chemistry was gone. Stefan went back to Hamburg, I flew home to Pennsylvania. Found myself in a cubicle wearing polyester shirts and simultaneously drinking whisky from a flask I kept hidden in my bottom drawer while suffocating.

Now I’m back in Hamburg, wondering what happened to Stefan after all this time. I go to the Stadtpark on Sundays and juggle. I’m not so good any more but there’s a girl with red shoes who keeps her distance but always watches. I’m going to talk to her one of these days.

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The Gift by Michelle Elvy

Jane bought Jerry a new phone for his birthday because he didn’t want to share any more. They had shared everything in their life together, and she really didn’t need her own phone, but when he said sharing had turned to controlling, she thought she’d try something new, let go a little.

Now Jerry texts and telephones all day while Jane wonders when he’ll start talking to her again.

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Ol’ Ornery’s Home by Michelle Elvy

Twila was an ornery thing. No one liked her though she’d lived in our neighborhood forever. They said she was crazy, possessed even. We believed it — her wild orange hair and wandering eye were enough to make us know it was true. We played a game to see who could look her way the longest: if her eye wandered your way and caught you, you had to pay up with your week’s ice cream money. Jimmy and Terry collected a lot of my ice cream money back then.

One day I skinned my knee, slipped off a stone at the creek. I was hurrying past Twila’s house, my eyes stinging from salty tears and afternoon sun and the dirt I’d rubbed into them with my muddy hands. I hobbled past quickly but just as I was near the corner, almost safe, she called me back. It was the first time she’d ever spoken to me. No use pretending I didn’t hear either.

“Boy, where you goin’ with that knee?”
“Ummm…”
“Come on inside,” she said, raising an eyebrow over her Evil Eye which in that moment did not seem so evil.

So I wandered up her porch steps and went inside, where she bandaged my knee in her mothball house without saying a word. Then she sat me at the table and cut watermelon into small triangles and didn’t scold me when the juice dripped down my arms to elbows and pooled on her polished wooden table.

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Nothing Happens at Sea by Michelle Elvy

“Nothing happens at sea,” he had told her, and for the most part he was right. Mile after mile is the same: the blue sea-sky-scape he’d always known, the slow undulation of ocean swell, the maddening froth and staccato rhythm of storms, the constant hum of wind over canvas. An occasional pod of dolphins, an occasional albatross. An occasional moment of terror with an unfamiliar noise. An occasional evening symphony in the cockpit – sometimes Brahms, sometimes Zappa.

On this passage, there’s Christmas pudding, too. Every day, because she gave it to him as a parting gift. She is in the pudding. She is everywhere.

He had laughed when she gave him the pudding, 40 tins in all — one for every estimated day in the Southern Ocean — for the rich bricks will last much longer than his passage from Auckland to Punta Arenas. “So you won’t forget me,” she had said, patting the boxes gently. “I will not forget you,” he’d said. “But will you come back?” He had not answered, for as sure as she is from there, he is from nowhere.

But he feels the answer pounding in his chest, and he thinks it was wrong to say nothing happens at sea. Because he sails east but looks over his shoulder with every sunset and feels his heart change. He feels her hot whisper in the cold wind, and he’s not so sure he’s a nowhere man any more.

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Sunken Treasure by Michelle Elvy

When Jackie and Jim first rolled round in the sack, they were teens, mere beginners. All limbs and movement, no tact or grace. It didn’t matter, of course: enthusiasm and energy made up for lack of finesse. One night Jackie lay next to Jim, sweaty and heaving but confused. “There’s got to be more to orgasm than this.” Jim left the room quickly, returned with his mask and snorkel. “What the hell are you doing?” she said as he climbed up the foot of the bed with his snorkel gear dangling. “Free diving,” he grinned, snapping the strap on his head, “Going in deep, looking for treasure.” He found it alright, but it took a little roadmapping and a lot of giggling along the way. They spent years mapping each other’s bodies, diving and snorkeling and learning how to breathe deep.

Ten years later, Jackie’s holding her breath. Jim’s gone and Ralph’s down there looking for treasure. She’s not sure he’s ever gonna find it at the rate he’s going. She considers asking him if he needs a GPS, bursts out laughing. Then the tears come and Ralph’s out the door. It occurs to Jackie then and there that the years with Jim were good ones, even if in the end she needed less finesse and more constancy, more companionship. At some point it turned sour and the fights were as frequent as the orgasms. But it was real, and she misses real.

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The laugh which was always there by Michelle Elvy

When Henry Watson’s 1980 Buick LeSabre skidded off the road, he expected to see his life pass before his eyes. They say that happens, the whole birth-to-this-minute flash. Instead, he saw only parts of it, some parts he’d never seen before, like when his daughter found him masturbating in the closet — he’d felt mortified, almost zipped himself. What he saw now, in the moment the LeSabre careened round the corner and dived into the muddy ditch, was not the look of disgust he’d assumed (which had covered his face) but something else entirely – amusement or possibly even understanding. The masturbating turned into blending malts in the kitchen with the lid left off: there was his wife in the corner, long before cancer ravaged her perfect body, her mighty laugh exploding at the eggs on the ceiling and the malt powder on his checkered shirt, her soft hand caressing his unshaven face. There were other moments, too: a sudden and violent slap across the face of his three-year-old son which he’d regretted for thirty years, a blinding sunrise in Athens, a scowling man outside the shop where he purchased his coffee every morning for thirteen years, the whitetail of a buck gamboling away yesterday as he lowered his Browning and didn’t fire, a waterfall somewhere in upstate New York – roaring like his wife’s mighty laugh which was here again, too. The laugh which was always there, even as he lost sight of everything and the world went black.

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