Good Luck: Episode Thirty-One

 

A cloud was born over the Cape of Good Hope. It was first seen at sunrise by an ostrich staring out at the ocean waves breaking on the rocks. The ostrich often stood watching at first light hoping to see the Flying Dutchman, a spectral ship full of the spirits of sailors damned forever to fight that rough current at the tip of Africa. The ostrich saw no ghost ship, only a solitary cloud hovering over the sea in fair weather, and was disappointed.

The new cloud said googoogaga, but it was so high up the ostrich couldn’t hear. The ostrich didn’t speak cloud anyway. The cloud rolled over in the sky and cried for its mother and father but it had no mother or father. It had been born by warm air rising and expanding in the atmosphere, which, after rising high enough, had frozen into ice crystals that’d bonded with dust and pollen. But the cloud didn’t know this. It looked around for its mother and father and, finding none, it panicked and cried. No tears came. It was so young and inexperienced, it didn’t know yet how to make rain.

 

i had a son over the weekend

 

i have a son and he’s three. he has chestnut hair. the thing is i just haven’t been fertilized yet. but once i am, once he’s born, and once it’s been three years, i’ll have a son who’s three.

 

I wake. I reach for my watch. I press the light button on the watch. I shut my eyes and try to fall asleep. I can’t. I get up. I sit on the toilet. I try to pee while I sit on the toilet. I brush my hair while I sit on the toilet. I wash my hands and brush my teeth. I dress. I go into the kitchen and prepare breakfast. I let the cat out. I let the cat in.

Karen

By Daisuke Shen

Short Story

 

One thing about Karen that you should know: she is a good person. Sure, she has her faults, like ordering catering for the office from Applebee’s. Even Steel wouldn’t eat it, and he usually eats everything.

 

Home Depot Harvey says when it comes to entryways you can’t go wrong with a pergola. The culturally appropriated East Asian architecture in rot-resistant cedar suggests a certain refinement of spirit, i.e. “Why, yes. I did read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college,” while simultaneously declaring, “Here is the front door. This way. Come inside. Relax.” I buy lumber and a DeWalt cordless framing gun and put them on VISA. Between my Chase and Alaska Airlines Mileage cards, my limit is $10,000. I haven’t been watching my purchases.

It’s Saturday. Lawnmowers cry from front and back yards. A house finch shoots out of an Oregon Grape and nearly kills me. I google “How to build a pergola” and watch a tutorial on YouTube. This is going to be trickier than Harvey let on.

Anne sticks her head out the window. “What are you doing, babe?”

“Pergola,” I say.

 

At the gas station, I wanted to disappear. A ghost made of tissue paper twisted from a tree branch. There wasn’t any wind, just normal air. It smelled like springtime, but it was October.

A man fell over on the sidewalk. He caused such a mess, it appeared eggs had fallen out of his pockets. I looked away.

An hour earlier I’d signed a lease on an apartment by the beach. The broker’s office had wood paneling. The world was scattered with long windows I couldn’t see through. Plastic batted against glass. Everything was a little smoke-damaged.

An SUV pulled up. A woman stepped out, messed with her purse, then got back in and drove off.

I paced a bit, picked a quarter off the ground.

I thought about trying to steal the gun from behind the counter. But what if they didn’t have a gun? I wanted to commit to something. I wanted it to be obvious.

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.