By AVITAL GAD-CYKMAN.
1. WHEREVER I AM.
I AM CURLED up on the feathery blue bed cover, and curling is so fitting, even my toes join in.
Somewhere else, I am buying dried fruit, almonds and nuts. The health store vendor asks me what’s the first rainbow I remember.
“Mind your own business,” I say belligerently elsewhere. Is this a highway?
I’m driving a car with the windows open and swear aloud, when a traffic jam stops me. Nobody hears my words.
Next to me, a demon with a beard drives a car from hell, bloody red with impenetrable windows.
Nobody sees me curl.
A billboard advertising a condo falls down. It’s the wing of death caressing my car. Everyone survives, as do I.
I’m in a forest, too, wearing hiking boots against snakes and carrying a heavy backpack, strapped around my chest and stomach.
I bend forward under the weight. My head and shoulders are set horizontally to the ground. Luck. I manage to avoid stepping over a motionless squirrel. A squirrel in depression, I swear. It’s simply curled on the muddy path.
I pick up the moist squirrel and shelter it between my hands. It’s that tiny and reeking of sweet fruit. I think I can revive it. One warm touch will do.
HIS CHEEKS ARE still fresh peaches when gray color spreads in his beard like mildew. To manifest sympathy, I stop throwing away old bread and fruit even as they grow fungus. The most unexpected things may imply disrespect if you’re vulnerable.
I realize he noticed the natural processes happening in the bread case and the fridge, as he starts making us lots of fruit juice with oranges, guavas or pears; even tomatoes. We drink in the morning and at night, and also, whenever we’re home for lunch. It’s too much liquid.
A guava escapes him and rolls behind the toaster, where I find it with a display of a fascinating spread of shadows the color of smoke. I keep the fruit there in order to follow the subsequent bloom of green and the final decay into ashes. He says that something is stinking.
I don’t want him to suffer. I fish the guava from behind the toaster but it crumbles between my fingers like a decomposed corpse. “What a waste!” he says. We start buying the adequate quantities of bread and fruit for our daily consumption, leaving no time for aging.
I ask him if he minds the loosening skin over my knees. He says he sees nothing. I don’t ask anything, but he says he doesn’t see anything different in my face either. The jury is still out about coloring my hair, I say. I first try tinting my old shorts in red.
We turn the page, and start exercising, because time acts on us faster while we sit. I find our neglected trekking clothes at the back of the closet, and he shows me patterns of mold on our hiking shoes. We sprint into action, so we’ll get over the hill somewhat early.
AVITAL GAD-CYKMAN is the author of Light Reflection Over Blues (Ravenna Press) and Life In, Life Out (Matter Press). She is the winner of Margaret Atwood Studies Magazine Prize and The Hawthorne Citation Short Story Contest, twice a finalist for the Iowa Fiction Award and a six-time nominee for the Pushcart. Her stories have appeared in The Dr. Eckleburg Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Ambit, McSweeney’s Quarterly and Glimmer Train, and anthologized in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International anthology, Best Short Fictions (Sonder Press) and elsewhere. She grew up in Israel and lives in Brazil. Her website is here.