The men and women who populate Cold June, Francine Witte’s new flash fiction chapbook, don’t have much time. They do desperate, magical, outrageous things to bridge the all-too-ordinary distances between them, the indifference of lovers and the clumsiness of communication. The rare happy marriage can almost survive the world’s end, it seems, whereas for many others, even a trip to outer space won’t rekindle the fire. This chapbook won the 2010 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award from RopeWalk Press.
Visit Francine’s website to find out about her other poetry and fiction collections. She kindly shares two stories from Cold June below.
Eunice felt worthless, and so she put her arm up for auction on EBay. That way, she could find out her compartmental value, at least. She imagined there must be someone who would need an arm or want or an arm or anyway, not mind an arm. But to be safe, she would keep the arm attached until she had a bidder.
She asked her friend, Hank, to take the picture.
“The arm is still on you,” he said, a bit stupidly. Hank was balloony and humid and was always popping the buttons off his shirts. This really annoyed Eunice, and she kept meaning to end their friendship, but that would leave her with no one.
“Well,” Eunice said, “take the picture anyway, and we can always crop out the non-arm part of me.” Then, she dressed up the arm in tinkly bracelets and painted on a fake tattoo. She turned on the lamp, knelt at the foot of the bed, and sprawled the arm across a glittery, puffed-up pillow. That’s when she looked at Hank’s face, the drool on his mouth corners, the need in his eyes. “I’ve never seen anything more lovely,” he stammered. “It’s like a Cleopatra snake or something.”
“Would you like to place a bid?” Eunice cooed, undulating the arm in the small moon of light from the bedroom lamp.
“I’ll do even better,” Hank said. “I’d like to marry that arm.”
Eunice thought for a moment, imagining the two of them at the altar, Hank in a tux, wobbly man-penguin, and the arm next to him on the floor in bridal white.
“Of course, I’d need the rest of you to keep the arm from leaving me in the middle of the night.”
Eunice looked at Hank, who was looking at her arm in a way he had never looked at any other part of her. But still, it was something. And when Hank leaned over to kiss the arm, and popped every single one of his buttons, somehow it didn’t bother Eunice all that much anymore.
The Way the Vase Got Broken
Was the cat. First, he did his little purr thing, followed by his sinewy arch thing. This was all topped off by his jump thing and then that, was just that.
My wife is one of those women who could live without a vase, but not without a cat, so she didn’t yell in his guilty, Cheshire face.
Sometimes, I’m sure she likes the cat more than she likes me. I know I could never get away with breaking her vase just like that. And I’m also pretty sure that if somehow, this cat were a human cat and not a cat cat, she would divorce me and marry him.
But, in the end, we get along fine, with the cat, but no vase. Though on Valentine’s Day, when I bring her roses, she accuses me of trying to make the cat look bad.