Tuesday, October 26, 2010

La Villa Delle Arancia

Serene - 392 words
Sarah Van Name

The lower branches of the orange tree are stripped bare from the six- and eight-year-old neighborhood ruffians who gallop triumphant through the streets in the early evenings. I watch them pour like rivulets of water from their separate doors and flood past, blood orange juice dripping down their sharp tan chins. But the best thing about the Villa Delle Arancia is not the oranges. It’s the roof where one can eat them, if one is me.

The roof juts out in front of the window of the room I share. Too many times I’ve been out here as the sky is slipping into that dusky red and Barbara, the Italian housekeeper, has called up from the drive, “Scendi! Ti ucciderai!” But I don’t, and she turns away, muttering, “Ragazza sciocca, queste ragazze Americane…”

It is, maybe, during supper time that the place is most perfect. I can peer in through the windows of the slim long apartments and see the big Italian families eating their meat and bread and cheese, the black-haired mothers passing serving plates back and forth. And I sit serene, knees bent, my hands sticky and red with juice and staining my legs.

One such night, when the weather was getting cool, I heard the first door slamming and, like a choir of bells, the rest followed. The scrawny boys fled their dinner tables and raced down the alley, and I saw the tree branches shake and sway as they grabbed the oranges they could reach. Just as they disappeared around the corner, a last door opened and closed like a late entrance to a symphony.

A little girl, her hair braided down her back, ran forward and stopped under the tree. The branches were stripped. She looked at the tree, at the end of the alley where a cloud of dust was settling from the boys’ feet. Her eyes started to water.

“Adriano,” she wailed, “torni, torni, ho voluto un’arancia.” But no one came back around and the noise of their shouts faded.

“Gabriela,” I said, and until then I hadn’t even realized that I knew her name. She looked up at me, red-nosed and sniffing. I plucked an orange from the high branch; she held out her hands, and I dropped it into her open palms and watched her scurry like a windblown leaf down the street.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Storm (or, the last AYIP that I have to catch up on)

Table - 400 words
Sarah Van Name

You slept through the worst of it. Before I went to bed I clicked on the TV and saw the solemn, rumpled weatherman point at the white circle, rotating slowly like a dying merry-go-round as it drifted inland. “Looks like it’s gonna hit us,” I told you. As we fell asleep, my arm wrapped around your waist, my body curved around yours as if to protect you, I could already hear the rain starting to hum its primal lullaby.

You didn’t wake up when the thunder crashed and shook the frame of the bed; you didn’t wake up at the lightning that spasmed across the surface of the blanket so bright I could see every detail of the room. You didn’t wake up when I pulled back the covers, extracted my hand from yours, and got up.

The cat was cowering under a table in the corner and hissed when she saw me. The power had gone out. There was no slight buzz, no slip of water in the pipes, just the rain and thunder and silence. The air conditioning was trapped for now, but soon – tomorrow – the hot air would start to seep in and it would get muggy, eventually unbearable. But for now it was quiet and cool.

When I was a child, in the winter I would sit on the floor by the front door and look out the window to wait for my dad’s headlights to approach down the driveway. I’d stare out for minutes and minutes, looking at the shapes and lines of the trees, the bushes, the shadows cast by the guide-lights on the side of the pavement. When I was a child I was scared of storms. And I was scared now. So I sat on the wooden beams and looked out the window, not waiting for anything.

I had been there long enough that I found the cat slinking under my hand, when there came a crack of light that reached down from the sky as if it were cutting it in two with scissors, reached down to my neighbor’s tree. As if it were happening in a slow-motion movie, the tree split, and fell, intersecting with the power line that stretched between the houses. The line fell with it. When they hit the pavement, a seizure of light traveled down the street, following the water that poured and poured across it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Future Memories: We Take a Walk.

Walk - 358 words
Sarah Van Name

We take a walk. We hold hands. We watch sparrows land on the ice and fly away again. We talk about the sky. The cold leans into us, gnashes its teeth at the tender exposed skin above our coats.

We check into the hotel. We check into the hospital. We check into our respective returning flights, spaced months apart, with a slow-growing familiar frustration blooming in our stomachs. We check baggage. When we take walks, we hold hands, and we check the position of our fingers.

We paint the wall white. We sweep the floor carelessly. We make room for a piano, we try to tune the high F# and conclude that of all the things that must be sacrificed in a life, it is one of the least painful. We play a song which hits the note. We conclude that maybe it is one of the more painful. We make macaroni and cheese from a box, from scratch, in the microwave. The glass drips down, too slowly to be perceived, and gets thicker at the bottom.

We feel the salt of the ocean. We spill salt in the kitchen and milk. We had bad luck. We have good luck. We steal flowers from community plots. They stay bright in a glass of water.

We draw pictures on each other’s backs. We go to shows. We dance salsa and swing. Music rises, crests, and draws back over and over in the space between us. The levees break, the phone rings, the shuttle crashes. We sway. We mourn. We comfort each other. Against all intentions, we are sad at the same time.

We wake up together. We wake up alone. My necklace becomes tangled in your hair. We wait for the heat to cut on. We have good dreams and forget them. We have strange dreams and they linger deep into the morning. We lose things in the blankets. We light a bonfire. The snow comes while we’re still on the highway. We argue. We decide, after the anger has melted away, that the time has come to clear the Scotch tape from the wall and frame our pictures.

Picture Window - Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Exit

Left - 495

(Chapter 6)

Ben Azevedo

They left the ship in a docking station Jonesy had a membership to. Shielded from the wind, Jonesy and Miles stepped into the dark cavern. They were alone; most people stayed in the safety of their apartments during storms. A long row of exit signs marked the route to the next building.

All of the buildings in New Chicago’s downtown were connected underground by pedestrian walkways. Not many people were downtown in the storm, but the few that were would have been swept away by the winds aboveground. During the clear season, New Chicago had thriving aboveground marketplaces and shops, but currently it was quiet.

Miles pulled a small device from his pack. It beeped once, and flashed several figures across a small screen. He grunted, shouldered the pack, and headed off along the glowing path of exit signs.

“Where’re we going?” Jonesy asked.

“Roughly, 85th and Dawe street.” Miles’ voice echoed in the dark chamber.

“Did he give us any specifics on the mission?”

“No. But we’ll need these.”

Miles slung the pack around his shoulder, still walking, and pulled another device out. It resembled a pencil in length, but it was about three inches thick. One end tapered to a point, and it was a blackish gray color. He handed it to Jonesy.

Jonesy picked it up carefully. He studied both ends and nodded.

“So we’re going to be hunting the-“

“SHUT UP!” Miles clamped a hand over Jonesy’s mouth. “They can probably already hear us!”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “There should be a track we can pick up south of here.”

He pulled a second short staff out of his pack, transferring the tracking device to his left hand. They continued down the path of exit signs. After a few minutes the tracker blipped softly and Miles turned left. Jonesy followed closely behind him, casting wary glances back every few seconds.

The passage narrowed slightly and reached a staircase. Miles stopped at the top and looked down. They had left the exit signs behind, and were losing light. Miles frowned, flipped a few switches on his tracker, and opened his pack again. He produced a tiny case and turned to Jonesy.

“Ever used one of these?” he asked.

“Is that an eyelight?” Jonesy’s frightened eyes momentarily lit up with excitement.

“Yes. You know how to use it?” Miles was all business.

“Yeah. Gonna be dark down there eh?”

“They like the dark.”

Miles put on his eyelight and started down the stairs. The eyelight consisted of a contact lens with a small wire connected to an electrode that attached to Miles’ temple. It provided multi-spectrum imaging for the wearer, controlled by brainwaves picked up by the electrode.

Miles hadn’t lied to Jonesy earlier. The boss hadn’t given him any details. But he knew what they were hunting, and it wasn’t pretty. Humanity wasn’t the only race on Element. The planet had several other sentient or semi-sentient species.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Flannel - 51 words
Sarah Van Name

the morning after you left was the first
cold morning, radiator and flannel.

you woke alone
and I woke alone.

nature requires that the heat of you
be displaced, not disappear.
though loneliness fills you like water,
I still feel your touch
as best I can,
with everything you left behind.

Oh Adeline - Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (live video)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fuck Bouncyballs, I want a...

Swimming - 360

Ben Azevedo

Chapter 6

The storm roared, and the tiny ship bounced wildly through the sky. The wind was deafening, yet through the terrible howling a voice could almost be heard.


Miles’ scream was certainly audible from inside the ship, the unfortunate place that Jonesy now found himself.

“Miles! Shut the fuck up, man! I’ve gotta focus on this shit if you want to live!”

“You mean I’m not dead yet?! I thought I was already in Hell!”

Jonesy wasn’t going to argue Miles’ point. This was one of the worst storms he had ever flown. Of course, he usually tried to avoid going out in storms.

The ship rocked and vibrated as the Geo Grounder did its best to remind them that the ground was down. Occasionally it would fail, and Jonesy could watch as Miles’ hair pointed up towards the ceiling. Jonesy still loved the feeling of riding the wind currents, but he also knew they could smash into an obstacle at any moment. With no windows or visuals in the thick rain of the storm, death would come without warning.

A green sensor blinked and chimed suddenly.

“What does that mean!” yelled Miles over the alarm.

“Calm down. We just absorbed a lightning strike.” Jonesy was flipping switches wildly.

“Why are you flipping all those?! Did something go wrong?” Miles’ eyes were wide, and his head was swimming as he tried to resist the sudden gravitational changes.

“Miles, listen to me. Relax. The seat will keep you from any whiplash; the more you resist it, the worse you’ll feel later. The lightning helps us, remember? It’s adding power to the ship, so we can afford to divert more to the Geo Grounder.”

“That means we won’t be upside down right?”

Jonesy nodded as he returned to the switchboard. There were no visual monitors, but Tracy had a digital map display that charted the approximate position of the ship in relation to downtown. They were nearly there.

“Assuming no more major current changes, and no disastrous accidents, we should be there in about ten minutes.” Jonesy announced.