Good Luck: Episode Twenty-One

Read the first part of this story, “Birds,” right here.

 

The man from New Jersey is woken by gunshots in his apartment. He is lying on the living room couch, facing the buttoned sofa back, and here is another shot, behind him. He rolls off the couch and covers his face, cowering, “Stop.” His wife is standing in the doorway, tears streaming down her face. Out of bullets, she drops the gun on the floor. Down the hallway she flees; barricading herself in the blue room. She calls the police.

Birds

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Twenty

 

A bird flaps by, trapped inside the building. The man from New Jersey looks up, sees it land on the blue pipe where the gas comes in. A crow, big and fat. He puts his wrenches down and walks away from his coworkers who are busy calling each other cocksucker. The bird flies off again, circling over the vats and drums. He walks through white powder. The crow lands on the electric conduit and turns its eyes on him. He steps over to the door to the outside world. A sign on it reads: Door Must Remain Closed Building Is Pressurized. He enters the code, steps outside, through the doorway, and holds the door open so the bird can’t see he’s there. A minute later it flies past, takes its place in the sky. The man from New Jersey walks back to his job. They say to him, “Where’d you go, cocksucker?” He says, “I let that bird go.” “What bird?” They would never notice a bird.

 

I’m at the wedding of a guy I work with. Bill, another guy I work with, who’s older than me, gives me advice.

 

He says: Now that you’re almost thirty, one thing I would tell you is this—and everyone I tell this to says, Bill, man, you were right—that if you’re interested in somebody, just let them know. Say, hey, I’m interested in you, you seem like a person worth getting to know, let’s get dinner.

 

And then he clenches his jaw and slaps an invisible ass in the air and says, quieter: And man, have some damn fun with it.

 

I say: Thanks Bill.

 

I met Richard at a local bar. He sat alone in a corner booth and brushed my hand as I walked by, on my way to the restroom.

My friend, Whitney, had gone home for the night. I decided to stay for another drink. Richard offered to pay for it.

“Thanks,” I said, puzzled by his charity. I agreed to sit with Richard, despite the fact that he looked thirty years my senior and was dressed like an old yuppie.

Richard told me that he’d recently moved to Grass Valley; that he’d rented a three bedroom house with a creek that ran through the back yard. He said that he liked the clean air and evergreen trees, and the fact that his money went further in the small town than in New York, where he’d earned his small fortune.

“What about you?” said Richard.

“What about me?”

“Tell me something about yourself.”

“I work at the department store downtown,” I said.

 

I’m busy.

Doing what?

Writing my novel.

Still at it, you?

Nothing left to do.

What’s it about?

It’s about you, he said.

Oh yeah, sure.

Really.

About me?

You and me, he said.

Us, then.

Right. That’s right.

What’re we doing in this novel?

 

[An excerpt from WRITING, WRITTEN which is now available from Fantagraphics Books. Order your copy here.]

Flamingo

By Brian Kelly

Short Story

If I ever said I loved Francine it was to get her to set the kitchen knife down on the countertop before something awful happened. To her, I was the “looney.” Especially after she rocked back a row of wine coolers.

“You got a sick head,” she stammered, swinging the blade at me. “When you gonna get help now?”

“Fran,” I said, trying to grab her arm. “I said I love you. You see? I just said it, again.”

 

mika is looking at a plastic bag, is that a cat? she wonders, i hope she’s friendly, i just love petting things so much, i don’t know why i do, oh, nevermind

at home, she ignores the phone and thinks that it’s really funny, i can’t believe it, she buckles under her laughter, it’s still ringing, oh my god, ha ha ha, she laughs, why…won’t….it…stop…buzzing?

later, she eats two things and gives the third away before falling asleep

Racquet

By Jackson Frons

Short Story

Tonight I will see Bonnie for the last time, but I don’t know it yet. We get together roughly once a month. We get drunk. We get high. We don’t have a ton to talk about, but she’s cool. We’re both downers, but she makes a lot of money. And I’m happy about seeing her. I’m happy that the early afternoon sun is out and that it finally feels like fall—cool crisp breeze, sky a vacant shade of blue like animated swimming pools.

I’m walking down Willoughby Avenue to work. I coach tennis in the park. I’m wearing a furry black sweater I stole from my dad. He stole it from a Norwegian television station. My beard is long. My hips hurt from running on cement 28 hours a week. My head buzzes from smoking too much pot last night. Most nights. I’m happy in a sad way. Like I know this is pretty great, the way I’m living, and I wish I could enjoy it more.

After my hometown high school burned to the ground, my parents sent me off to boarding school in the Blue Ridge mountains. It was kind of like that movie Dead Poets Society except instead of reading poems the students traded amphetamines for painkillers and dug underground tunnels into downtown Asheville to smuggle strippers onto campus. Once a kid stole a pony from a nearby farm as a prank and tied it to the goalpost on the football field. It wrapped the rope around its neck and almost choked itself to death. It was that kind of place.

On the day we met, she told me she was named after the sexiest country music star alive. And that she knew how to fire a gun. And that she was one hundred percent Cherokee.

My mama says I’m named after nobody. We don’t have a gun in our house. I have blonde hair and blue eyes.

Well, it was last fall and I was just finishing up moving stuff out of the farm up in Belgrade to move Nana down to Saco into her new condo. And I was picking up stuff in the yard. She had left a blue tarp out in the woods that she was using to put all the rusted, metal pieces on top of. The pieces she’d collect for me. She would dig up rusted, metal pieces out of the ground while she was gardening and she’d save them for me. To make things out of. Which, I wasn’t really making things out of, but she thought they looked cool, so she saved them for me. So I put the last of the chunks of the rusted, metal pieces in my truck, and I was picking up the blue tarp, and I noticed that underneath the blue tarp—stuck to it—was this brown… looked like a sac. Maybe about an inch and a half in diameter. Kinda made out of a tough… felt like a really tough paper. Like Tyvek. Do you know what Tyvek is? Tyvek is what they use to… it’s a sheath, kinda like paper… it’s what they use to wrap houses. When they’re building houses, before they put the shingles on. It’s really strong. That’s what this felt like.

Our first month over there in Najaf, while we were keeping the morning watch, me and Judson would hold our M16s out level with that well-dark sky and count down. The horizon was deep as a mineshaft, black and sucking up all my voice and air. One moment the world was blank, just the faintest blue haze smearing around the edges, and the next, that bullet of light would rocket up and blind you, full and ripe there just above the horizon.

Prize

By Elle Nash

Short Story

Meg walked home from work through the shortcut of her apartment complex and saw a fire engine out front of building two, where Jodi lived. Jodi was older and had a habit of standing outside with her neighbor Blake, who sold weed to everyone in the complex. Meg loved to talk to Jodi because she knew all of the news of the neighborhood and Meg was missing it. Jodi had beautiful, sun-stained blonde long hair, and tanned, wrinkled skin. She wore glasses. She offered to dye Meg’s brown hair to a better shade of brown. Often her eyes were red and she had a soft, spacey look to her. She could remember everything there was to know about what happened in buildings two, three, and four on their end of the complex.

THERE ARE GREAT FIRES that burned everything down that everyone still talks about at all the ruined remaining coffee shops. It’s all everyone still talks about. There are no more wild animals in the world, no more wild animals roaming the Earth, and purebred Dogs are more celebrated than God now. Every day I see there’s proof that things fall apart. Buildings are ruins and the ruins are buildings. The air is less like air, there are fewer trees around, and it’s hard to breathe sometimes. My wife wakes up at four in the morning to pray and she does so staring out the stained glass hallway window, and because I can’t sleep anymore, I have insomnia, I like to wake up with her, sit at the side of the cold bed, and watch her pray through the doorway. I smoke a cigarette and turn on our little box fan. I can hear her whispering to God in a sweet acapella that I try to mouth along to, but I never bother her until she’s finished. She prays for seven hours. I don’t believe in her God anymore.