Crash, by David Luntz
My neighbour is mowing his lawn near a row of white and yellow-streaked tulips. He’s trying to avoid me. Which is weird. Normally he’s quite friendly. Maybe he senses I’ve been dreaming about his house. Some people are just intuitive like that. And now he fears I know about his lewd South Sea photos suspended in bubbles of cellophane on the second-floor’s northwest passage. That passage he’s been trying for years to find a way through as a short-cut to his bathroom. His special hush-hush project. Or maybe he feels just bad about never having me over, not once in twenty years, and now he’s put out knowing I’ve seen anyway his prized Mississippi Company’s commission of The Raft of the Medusa. Or the pieces of glittering Klondike Bar foil he sprinkles periodically on the basement floor, so he doesn’t fall down a two-mile shaft to a coal seam that stretches all the way to Scotland and peters out in Andalusia. Or how, sometimes, he goes up to the attic to tap morse into the void to contact aliens or to put on dresses and makeup. Or that tucked behind the gas chamber in the boiler room sits a shoe box made of butterfly wings sown in tears and magpie quills.
Because, dear neighbour, remember how that magpie’s heart thumped like a jackhammer when you picked it up off the street? How it jerked a few times and then went still? Remember how you cried? How you hid it? Nothing to be ashamed about. Everyone has a bird in their life that never made it. And now, now that I’ve caught up and on to you, because you can’t escape me, I want to tell you, It doesn’t matter, the house, the bird, everything I know, because you’re there, at the vanishing point of oblivion, and it will all crash soon, maybe tomorrow. Because you’re like a train driver who can’t see the broken rail beyond the curve you’re turning into and I’m the hapless hiker on the mountain looking down on it all, pointing and screaming into the wind, too far away to be heard and seen. There’s a brief moment, where I think he looks up and sees me waving, where he could stop the train and things could be different. But then I see it’s all hopeless, because his feral eyes burn like a starving mountain lion’s begging me please, please tell me, tell me your house has all these secrets too, and I don’t know who says it first, but the words echo in the air, “Have a nice day,” and I walk past him.
Work is forthcoming or appeared in Pithead Chapel, Vestal Review, Reflex Press, Scrawl Place, Best Small Fictions (2021), trampset, X-R-A-Y Lit, Janus Lit, Fiction International, Orca Lit, and other print and online journals. https://twitter.com/luntz_david
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