Friday, April 5, 2013

The View from Suburban Chicago

I can hear the humming of small cars zipping around small, tightly curving roads; the idle buzz of sun-soaked conversations.  This is odd because I am not in a roadside café in Italy, but in my third floor apartment’s foyer in the suburbs southwest of Chicago.  It’s three o’clock on a Sunday morning.  The roads outside are not busy.  The neighbors below us are 87 years-old, they’ve been asleep since seven.  Our neighbors to the left just had a baby that, to my knowledge, is not an extraordinarily gifted mimic.  Marilyn and I have no neighbors above us or to the right; we live in the top-right corner of the building. 

She must have fallen asleep with the television on again.

Coat in the closet.  Shoes by the door.  I pull a handful of grapes from the cluster on the kitchen counter and start flipping them into the air.  I stand, head tilted back and slack-jawed, as the first grape falls and bounces off of my check and onto the floor.  I bite thin air when the second one hits my lips before joining the first grape on the floor.  I catch the third and then drop the next three before deciding I might still be too drunk to properly play with my food.  I shovel the last four into my mouth pointblank and decide I might be too drunk to be properly conscious.  In the far corner of the kitchen, atop the counter and nestled between the coffee maker and the toaster oven is a photograph taken of Marilyn and I in cooking class after a particularly spectacular failure.  The right half of my face is dripping the internal workings of a wild berry pie.  Little bits of crust sit suspended in the goo.  Marilyn is bent over the counter laughing and I am wide-eyed, not fully comprehending how the pie got from the counter to my face.  The picture is a commemoration of one of my favorite moments with my wife.  It is, however, misbehaving at the moment.  Instead of standing still incased in amber, as good pictures should, it is heaving and laughing and looking around for an explanation.  I can hear Marilyn’s voice, gasping for air between fits of laughter and ridicule.

How…how did you…

Behind me, I still hear sporty European coupes whirring through curves.  I turn and I see sporty European coupes whirring through curves.  Abstract black humanoids gesture lazily in time with the buzz of conversation.  A waitress sets down a tray of hors d'oeuvres before wandering over to another table.

Smooth saxophone flows from the living room.  There is now a vaguely cubist jazz club rendered in greens and reds and in full-swing hanging to the left of my entertainment system.

It occurs to me that my being drunk might be shielding me from the worst of the shock of seeing all the paintings and photographs in the house coming to life and that Marilyn, who is in all likelihood sober, might be having a harder time with the situation at hand.

I stumble up the stairs and find shreds of Grandma Addie Millar resting on the carpet below an enthusiastically disemboweled hand-carved wooden frame.  A few scrapes lead toward our bedroom. 

After seeing the finished oil portrait, Grandpa Frank had said it captured Addie’s essence.  After seeing the state Marilyn left it in, I assume it captured her lip as well.

1 comment:

  1. Another prompt, another piece of flash fiction. It's fun working with constraints sometimes.

    After a long night out, you return to your house to find that every picture and painting in your house can speak to you. What do the characters in the artwork and photographs say? Write a conversation between you and one of them, or a conversation between two of them.

    Ever the rebel, I decided to cheat and look at the after-effects of such a conversation. And ever wanting for good titles, this is another placeholder I thought up while saving the story in Word.