Possibly smell

The woman feared she was losing her sense of smell and, perhaps more importantly, feared she would thus lose her ability to determine what her home smelled like and whether her home smelled bad — did the trash stink? Did the litter box need changed? Was there food moldering in the disposal? She purchased many scented candles to mask the odors she worried she used to be able to smell but that she could only imagine now. When guests visited, some wondered why she burned so many candles, and wondered what she must have smelled to make her burn so many candles, and consequently wondered what they were supposed to smell, or not supposed to smell; but fewer among them wondered what the woman didn’t smell, or what she imagined she smelled but didn’t actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might actually smell, or what she imagined she might not smell but that her guests might not actually smell either but could possibly smell.

Candace Nimms

Purple notebook and persimmons

Filled with the year so far, addresses, names, the hard, the impossible, a list of groceries still waiting, notes for a book about leaving, this purple notebook almost left behind but found in time to be thrown into the car, on top of clothes from the last closet, the closet door opened quickly as quickly as a mouth gasps open, or wraps itself around the hill and valley of a spoon, or grasps a prayer please please before the spoon lifts, the hand shakes, the curious brain whose nearsighted and afraid eyes read words in the notebook on the table at the new house, while the mug of tea leaves a wet circle of O that will stain the purple notebook now away from the table, now on a shelf near the front door then orange persimmons on my porch in the morning and the young dog stares at me unable to turn away.

Carol Ellis

Television: evening news

The news is always urging you to do things: vote, unplug your appliances, watch out for phony doctors, get a concealed carry permit. It makes you sit up straighter, like the anchor’s hands are cupped under your armpits. But you just change the channel. Maybe if they knew your name, they asked you personally, you’d actually do it. 

The public radio donation drives are the soundtrack to your commute once every three months. Every time you hear them say, “Only YOU, our listeners, keep our stations running,” you think today is the day you will donate.

In an emergency situation, you must point at the nearest person and say, “YOU, in the red jacket,” make eye contact, and yell, “Call the police!” This way, the responsibility will not be diffused. You heard this on a six o’clock special report.

Shannon McLeod

My method

It used to be nothing compared to my strategy or my approach or the way my system turned into a formula and then became a technique. It was nothing until I became adept at the new tactics through close observation of scarification on leaves. Only then could my method advance.

Lee Upton

She said it

She said it. To her. It was not about a him. Are you relieved; I am. What it was that she meant, I’ll tell you. Will I. Later, will I. You were thinking you knew me, I know. But there’s an awful lot of us waiting. It’s a small room, this.

Olivia Clare

The sort of morning

A layer of fog this morning. It seems not to float upon the earth so much as suffocate it, like the lead aprons patients wear during an X-ray. It’s frosted the grass gray, reforming it in its own image; if the horizon were farther away, the line separating earth and sky would be indistinguishable. My breath, too, the fog transmutes into itself, vapor to vapor. Every few seconds, I hear the plick of leaf-frost as it melts and drops on the leaves in our yard, which hasn’t been raked yet this season. The marching band tooting a half-mile away in the monochrome stillness feels either comic or grotesque. 

It’s the sort of morning I imagine for Agincourt, or Waterloo, the solid-seeming fog about to be shredded by cavalry, cannon fire, a flock of arrows unseen until they land in your chest. The fondant of frost crackled by limbs, upended horses. We don’t fight like that anymore.

Michael Busk

Monster

In 1894, when he was only twenty-two years old, John Lewis Phipps took possession of Oakley Court, a Victorian Gothic country house in the parish of Bray that, years later, due to its proximity to Bray Studios and Hammer Horror productions, would serve as the set or backdrop to a slew of horror films, among them The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile. In the latter of these, which takes place in a fictional Cornish town called Clagmoor Heath, scene after scene is obscured, either by fog or by smoke or by mist, clouds, or steam: whether it is the arrival of Harry Spalding and his wife to the village, or bartender Tom Bailey’s unearthing of Mad Peter’s corpse, hardly anything in the film happens without some reminder that a veil is being drawn across the viewer’s eyes, the one exception being the appearance of Anna Franklyn, played with an almost alien grace by Jacqueline Pearce, who has let herself into the Spalding home to leave a large bouquet of lilies—a sunlit scene in which Pearce displays such preternatural clarity and calm that one cannot help but begin to suspect that her simple radiance is in fact the greatest distortion of all, that it is Anna herself who is responsible for the grotesque deaths of so many villagers, which is later revealed to be exactly the case: Anna, it turns out, is the reptile of the title who, having been cursed to change form by the members of an obscure snake cult, in retaliation for her father’s disclosure of their most closely guarded secrets, is now drawn, when in her reptile form, to feed upon human victims (despite the fact that the manor in which she lives contains dozens of caged animals for her to eat), and her predation does not end until a fire destroys her home, killing Anna along with her father and their sinister servant and presumably all of the trapped, innocent animals, finally freeing Clagmoor Heath of its monster, at which point it is Oakley Court, erstwhile home of John Lewis Phipps, that is shown, in the last frames of the film, engulfed in flames.

Dan Josefson