Ben wrightfictionportfolio

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Information about Ben wrightfictionportfolio

Published on January 7, 2013

Author: BenWright1


Ben Wright Fiction PortfolioChorus We didn’t want the new neighbors, with their new house and new oak floorboards andhammering from 6 a.m. to half past 10 every night when they would zip up their sleeping bags andsleep in the sawdust. We didn’t want to see their new cars or three chimneys. We didn’t want them. The winter was cold, but we still lugged the week’s trash to the edge of the property, inevitablyripping a bag, leaving a trail of wrappers and newspapers and matches in our wake. When the trashpiled up too high and the coyotes and raccoons were dragging our secrets to the neighbor’s lawn,Mama would send us out to burn it. It was here, smoking a cigarette between us and hacking until ourvision went yellow, that we got the idea. The vein of anthracite coal, according to the town museum’s docent—a doddering old lady whohad lost three husbands to the mines and wore her glasses upside down—ran from the old mine next toour house down Brushy Pines Road, under the new neighbors’ house, making a right turn at Shady OakDrive, underneath every one of the houses in the new subdivision until it reached downtown, where itdisappeared for a while before reappearing under St. Ignactius cemetery and continuing due north toBerwick, where it stopped underneath James Howard Taft High. Heck, the docent said, if we dug farenough under our houses, we could stay warm for the rest of her winters. We remembered finding nuggets of coal in our childhood excavations. We remembereddragging it across the bricks of our house into crude pictograms. We remembered the smoldering,coughing fire in our sandbox until Daddy saw the smoke and stomped it out. “Hey there,” the neighbor said as he approached the mailbox one Thursday. He had a bowtie andan accent. We stared. “Thought we’d invite y’all over for dinner tomorrow night. How’s that sound?”One of us nodded, but no one fessed up to it later. The neighbor got his mail—two letters from Ohio, a bill from the newspaper, and a pamphlet1

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolioabout fertility solutions—and went inside. Upstairs, a curtain nudged to the side until we disappearedover the hill to the old mine. The trash pile was growing. Every morning we put a fresh layer of lye on top to keep theanimals away so Mama wouldn’t make us burn it, yet. The neighbor’s dining room table was a door on two sawhorses that leaned precariously whenwe pressed down on it. The neighbor’s elbow kept knocking the doorknob when he passed the potatoes.His wife asked questions that hung in the air like a sickness. We asked her if she was flushed because she was pregnant or afraid. The neighbor pouredhimself another glass of wine, then another. We asked if we could smoke, but we didn’t have anycigarettes. We ate five bites of their stringy roast and all of their carrots. The neighbor asked how thesoil was for growing round these parts. We asked if we could dump his trash in the old mine, how itwould save him in the long run, how we wanted to just fill it up, after what it had done to our Pa in ’57. On trash day, we would get up early and drag the neighbors’ trash to the mine. The pile wasgetting higher. One of us shot a coyote, and one of us threw its body on the pile. We tripped over each other to get out the door the next Sunday, as Mama, on the couch asusual, held the book of matches limply in her hand. We were out there for hours as the fire burnedthrough the layers of trash we had collected. We let the smoke surround us and soot pile up in ournostrils. Somewhere, near the top of the pile, the fire had taken to the rock. Somewhere, the fuse hadbeen lit. All we had to do was wait. It started to snow. Later, the front half of the house started to tilt forward. Mama rolled out of bed one night. Ittook two of us to pick her up and another two to set her bone in a splint made from her rocking chair.The carpet creased and we had to lug the refrigerator to the other side of the kitchen. Lemons rolled tothe end of the counter. The pipes burst a few years later. Eight months later, we watched from the windows as the neighbor’s wife tore open the front2

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliodoor, ripping at her hair and clawing her husband. We watched the ambulance roll up, in no hurry. Wewatched the medics bring out their baby, bright pink, putting it gingerly in the ambulance. Theneighbors didn’t come back for a week, but they did. That night, four of us saw Daddy limp down thehall and go into the bathroom. A city inspector came to the door a week later, serving an eviction notice. “There’s been a fire,”he said. “Underground. The carbon monoxide levels here are five times the lethal limit.” We stared past his head at the steam rising from the seams of the road. A cat was lounging onthe asphalt. Mama screamed from upstairs. We’ll take it into consideration, we said. Thank you.Breathing felt more like swimming. The air was thick and syrupy. We moved glacially, slowing downto a crawl. Later, after we watched the sinkhole open and swallow that kid whole and the neighbor’s housecollapsed and burned and Main Street split and Mama passed and burned and half the houses in theShelter Creek subdivision ripped at the seams and the cloud of toxic gas killed all the flowers in thecemetery, the inspector came back, wearing a gas mask. We watched him step through the sigh of our house, sinking into the carpet, kicking the soggyfoundation. A meter at his hip squealed. We huddled in the kitchen as his flashlight beam swept overus, barely pausing. We saw Daddy come into the kitchen and scream noiselessly at the intruder before sinking intothe ground. We watched the inspector push through the crumbling back door and trek through theovergrown backyard, to the edge of the old mine. Steam was rising somewhere in the distance.Somewhere else, the neighbor gasped for breath on his way to the mailbox. The inspector wrote something on a clipboard. One of us rubbed a match on our hands. Wewatched, and waited for the fire.3

Ben Wright Fiction PortfolioMooncalf Six months after our wedding, after we sat down in our silent house, my wife is pregnant. Weare joyful in doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing for ourselves. I go to work, smiling butworried; she goes, aglow and full of secrets. She is by far the happiest employee there. I answer myoffice phone as if I am expecting each call. When I tell customers I have to check on the computer, Iam looking up their names on baby name websites. I smile at them. They smile back. “Okay,” I look upfrom the screen. “We just might be able to work this out.” When I come home, she is usually doing yoga in the living room, watching talk shows. I sit likean audience on the couch. “I felt her kick today,” she says brightly. Her arms are a circle, her bodycontorted, belly pushing up diminutively against her shirt. “Lovely,” I smile at her. “It could be a boy.” At night I whisper to her belly and go to sleep. My wife snores when she sleeps on her back butI dont push her over in the middle of the night. I watch her flat stomach and feel the mass building. The doctor, ancient, says everything is going all right. He puts his hands on her middle and I amjealous for a second. He sticks needles in her, calculating. Putting his ear next to her unpopped navel,he frowns. “Theres not enough humming.” My wife looks at me and shrugs. Neither of us have readabout this. He leaves before we can ask him anything else. The nurse leads us to where we pay and tellsboth of us to take folic acid, that recent research suggests that the health of the father is just asimportant as the mothers. “Stay positive,” she says. “You pay at this window right here.” (I have a recurring dream of my birthday. I open present after present, opening each boxenthusiastically. Inside are deformed babies wailing for their mothers. Harlequin babies with crackedbleeding skin ruin the carpet, cyclopean infants gurgle spit bubbles onto my shirt, tridactylics grab mewith lobster hands.) I wake up and feed my wife vitamins. Her stomach resonates a low C some nights, but usuallythere is a hollow silence. She tells me that fingerprints are etched onto the skin as the baby feels the4

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliocapillaries of the uterus; that sadness creates whorls; happiness, spirals. Im on baby names that begin with S when my wife calls me at work. She speaks slowly, tryingto be calm. “John.” I cant think of anything to say. “Something went wrong. I cant stop bleeding.” When I get to the house platelets are floating in the foyer, following eddies in the air. Theatmosphere is thick with them. I follow crimson rivulets to the bathroom where shes sitting on thetoilet staring at a liver blossoming on the tile. It looks like a painting. This liver, the size of a quarter,exhales blood exquisitely. She has been crying but shes stopped. “I was brushing my teeth,” she says.“When it fell out of me.” I pick it up delicately and wrap it in a paper towel. “I guess we should go tothe hospital,” I say, trying to be helpful. “Are you all right?” She bursts into tears again. “Its beenringing for hours.” Its then that I notice the sound, almost like tinnitus, leaking from her belly. In thecar, the paper towel sits between us, heavy and soaked in a pale yellow loss. We tell the nurse our emergency in hushed tones. Someone behind us in line groans deeply inpain. Blood starts to float up from my wifes skirt, mixing with the chemicals in the air. We sit on theplastic bench, expectant, for hours, passing the towel between us when it gets too hot. When the ER doctor finally sees us she hasnt bled for hours. We present him the paper towel,which is flaky. He opens it like a Bible and looks up at us, squinting. “What, exactly, are you trying to pull here,” he begins, breathing deep. My wifes shoulders begin shaking. I put my arm emptily around her and stare at the clockbehind the doctors head, swallow, and feel hopeless. She finally speaks in a whisper. “That came out of me.” “Mrs. Tofts, I dont know what to tell you. I dont know what you are doing behind closed5

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliodoors, but having animal organs in your body is not healthy, or, obviously, natural.” He balls up thepaper towel and tosses it into the trash can. “I cant prescribe you anything because youre pregnant. (Not that I think theres anything toprescribe here, except maybe lithium.) Is the baby still humming?” The doctor meets her eyes for asecond and decides to ignore the question. “Good luck getting an obstetrician at this hour. Make anappointment.” The veins on his hands are green in the light and he scribbles on a piece of paper. And then we are in the car again, cavernously quiet and impossibly dark. It has been this waysince the moon drifted away, inch by inch year after year until it became unintelligible against theconstellations, cold as everything. The car takes forever to heat up. I can see my breath slink out of mylungs and stick to the windows. It all starts when the damn thing wont get out of the way, flattening itself underneath my tires.My wife begins wailing almost immediately, hitting me and screaming that we cant kill again today,not on her watch, stop, stop, stop. I whip the car over but we get out slowly, approaching the body. Thewhole road blinks red on and off. My wife picks up the rabbits mangled body and bunches up the fur in her hands, grinding herteeth. I watch, noticing something with each red flash. Guts are leaking out of its mouth, and a yelloweye has popped out and rests on the ground. The door of the car dings melodically, and the back of theeyeball looks like a miniature planetarium. Hair falls out in clumps. When we get home my wife rips the sheets off our bed and slams them into the washer. We lieon an empty mattress for the next hour and a half and sigh when we slip into the steaming bed. Thatnight I rub her silent belly in false mourning, wondering if her insides are like an empty church, or anamphitheater in June, if the echoes of whatever was left of our baby made sounds in the dark, and whatit would do in the light. Days later, my wife confesses to me that the rabbit stalks her, that when she turns around while6

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolioshe brushes her teeth, foam flowing out of her mouth and plopping into the sink, she can see it standingin the hallway, sentinel of the dead; that it trips her in the dark, sitting on her chest and sniffing out hersoul, that she felt whiskers scrape across her face as she slept, that it was all she could think about, thatit will steal our baby. (Once, when I was seven, I woke up in the middle of the night and heard screams. I was at myfathers house, where the bullfrogs and crickets kept me up until I could no longer fight the sound. Ittook me a while to locate the source of the screams. The moon was still close then but was a dyinglantern and I could barely make out our dog, a big black mangy thing that usually smelled likewhatever dead thing it had rolled in that afternoon digging near the edge of the yard, its tail waggingslowly. A brown mama rabbit sat on the other end of her burrow, watching the massacre, just wailing.The dog had found the rabbits hole and was exterminating her kits one by one. The neighbors on eitherside of our yard opened their windows and stared at the bloodbath. The mama rabbit cried until myfather scared it off with a shotgun blast into the trees.) She refuses all food for a while, claiming she could feel the rabbits crushed body between herteeth or a yellow eye resting on her tongue. Finally, I get her to accept spinach that she strips of itsleaves using her teeth. She nibbles on a piece of lettuce as I heat up soup. “You gotta eat,” I plead. “Forthe baby.” I watch her staring at clover on her way to the mailbox. Shes barefoot, ankles swollen withextra weight. She stands ponderously, and then moves on, forgetting about the mail, wandering insidewhen the sun is covered by clouds. We forget to call the OB the next day, and the next. I barely look at her stomach until she callsme at work, sobbing with relief, putting the phone to her stomach which is trilling like a songbird,whistling beautifully into the void. I call the ancient doctor and he makes an appointment for a housecall as soon as he can find his glasses. The next morning, hours before my alarm is set to go off, my wife runs her fingers through my7

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliohair, a weary signal. I am still half asleep, and so is she. Sometimes she reaches for me blindly in thenight. We begin our old routine, moving delicately around her belly, trying not to disturb what isorbiting inside her. We exhale sighs in turn, fogging each others skin. I uproot clover in her hair, anddirt stains the pillowcases and her tongue tastes like metal. She murmurs into my shoulder, “Im sorry,”then she pushes me off and her belly whistles until I go to take a shower. The doctor comes a few hours later just as the sun looks like its going to burn the trees, wearingsunglasses. Immediately he asks for a sheet. We scurry around the house obediently, afraid that ourslightest misstep will worsen the prognosis. Immediately, the sheet goes up like a flag and downslowly, chasing ghosts out of the dining table. The doctor and I sit on opposite ends of the table, diners.My wife removes her dress and lies between us, legs open to him. I stroke her hair, which is a littlegreasy. In my peripheral, her belly rises like a secret inside her. With his sunglasses on, we cant tell where the doctor is looking. He begins an interview first: “When did this organ fall out of you?” His voice is determined yet dreamy, like he is decidingsomething very important all the time. My wifes voice is coming from her hair. “Three, four days ago it mustve been now. I wasbrushing my teeth there was this hollowness all of a sudden.” “And why didnt you call me immediately? As your primary physician I need to stay abreast ofeverything that happens to you.” He begins sticking fingers inside her, putting his ear close so his headtemporarily disappears from my vision. “You know, your mothers pregnancy wasnt a walk in the parkeither. In utero, you were tonally all over the place.” He stops, remembering the sounds. We wait a fewseconds, not sure if he is done. “Yesterday my baby whistled, doctor.” “It doesnt matter,” he snaps. “For all you know it could be dead inside you right now. If thenote was a low D, that can be attributed to the exhalation of the babys first breath, which would be the8

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliodying breath in this case.” The doctor looks at us, we think. We stare back. “Mary, you really shouldhave called sooner.” My wifes legs start to sag in defeat. I wish I could think of something to say defend her, or us. Isigh instead. The doctor rummages in his bag and emerges with a stethoscope that he breathes onbefore putting it near her bellybutton. A few seconds later he looks up, annoyed. “Hold your breathplease.” A glance at me. “You too.” Theres a moment of anticipation. My lungs begin to burn, and Itry to sneak in a breath through my nose, and I see the doctors nostrils flare slightly and his jaw clench.The air feels soupy. He coughs once, twice. We begin to breathe when the doctor begins, speakingquiet: “Theres a heartbeat here.” The stethoscope slides over a vein. “And here.” The metal makeslatitudes around her stomach which seems big as anything. “Here, here, here.” Its like a refrain. “Here,and here.” he takes off his sunglasses and puts them absently under the bridge of her thigh. “There maybe more, but they are all beating in tandem, and some might be underneath. Its hard to tell. Thecreaking of their bones sounds like a forest at night.” Closing his eyes, he listens for a few moreseconds before deciding. “No, not at night. Anyway. Whatever is in in there is spinning slowly.” he sitsback in the chair, closing his eyes before standing up and grabbing for his hat. “I cant do anythingmore for you, Im sorry. Get plenty of rest, and whatever happens, get rid of it as soon as you can. Goto the hospital if theres a lot of blood.” He swallows hard, then moves to the door, pausing as he grabsthe doorknob. “Call your mother.” And then he is gone. The doctors car rattles as it drives, and he raises a hand after pulling out ofthe driveway. We can hear the car for a while as he winds out of the subdivision. We dont say anythingfor a while. I wander to the bedroom and sit on the unmade bed. I hear my wife unhook the phone,hesitate, then dial. Her voice is quiet, measured. “Mom. Somethings the matter.” My mother-in-law lives in a trailer in the Texas desert, hitting the television for hours until a9

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolioweak signal arcs across the sky and Catholic Mass flickers in and out. At night, St. Elmos fire cracklesacross the metal walls of the trailer. From a thousand miles away, she shouts across the distance, but itis merely chatter from two rooms away. “A priest? Mom, thats really not necessary. Im not even a member of any church.” Shesstarting to sound upset. I close my eyes and lie down on the bed. Her mother yells something out of thephone. “No, please please dont do that. Please, mom. Please.” I can hear her starting to cry. She hangsup the phone abruptly, and her mother doesnt call back. When I open my eyes my wife is standing inthe doorway. I try to smile at her, but fail. We follow separate orbits around the house for the rest of the night, not talking to each other.The sheet stays on the table until a draft blows through and it slips off, making a mountain range on theoriental rug. Neither of us pick it up, and when we turn off the light it is the darkest thing in the room. Ikiss a mole on my wifes back before going to sleep. Later that night I wake up to the far-off crescendo of the toilet tank filling then hissing intosilence. Then a garbage disposal and my wife sobbing. When she gets back to bed, composed, her bellyintact but there is a void between her legs. I get out of bed and strip the sheets off. She curls into a balland I pull the comforter over her. Until I go to sleep, she is whispering to her belly. We are running outof clean sheets. My wife doesnt get out of bed the next day, and I am awakened by her stomach singing hymnswhich sound contained beneath layers of muscle. She whispers to me during a pause between hymns, “I think the priest is coming today.” It is herturn to try to smile. We wait for the priest the rest of the morning, unable to think because of the music.Failing to hear him pull up, we both jump when the doorbell rings and stare at each other for a beatbefore I stand up and answer the door. The priest smiles at me, at least 8 inches above me and10

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolioskeptical. “I love this one.” he hums in tune with my wifes belly. Stepping inside, he looks around fora stereo and realizes where the music is coming from. The smile freezes on his face. “Your mother called,” he begins, grasping the knots around his waist. We can barely hear himover the singing from her stomach, but dont have anything to say to him. The priest swallows, thencoughs once, twice. His eyes close and the priest leans against the doorjamb. he makes a tiny sound,almost a squeak. “She said that you needed God.” The room begins to swim and the light becomesmolasses until the priest coughs again, opens the door, and leaves. Later, on speakerphone he is more verbose: “God has blessed all of us in different ways. Thispregnancy—your pregnancy—is a gift, think of it like that. Everything, everything is for the greaterGlory. “May God bless your family, Mary & John. Well be praying for you from here.” If he says anything else, we cant hear it as my wife has her first contraction and the singing isreduced to a slow rumble, a far off train. Her water breaks a few hours later as we sit in the livingroom, waiting for something to happen. When it does, the whole house is filled with a noise like an icesheet breaking. I put our last clean sheet under her, lavender and musty, smelling like an attic. The first rabbit born is a fetus, deformed and an angry raw pink. It does not move and floats tothe top of the water every time I try to flush it down. I spit into the bowl and it goes down on the fourthflush. My wife begins to cry out regularly as the sun goes down, and I walk slowly around the house,turning on lamps, wondering if I should do the fatherly thing and say goodbye to silence, wondering ifthe world will look different tomorrow. When I wander back into the living room, my wife is holding an infant rabbit which squeaksand shudders, glistening in the afterbirth. Her eyes are red, and the room is jarred with a knockingsound with each contraction, which are coming closer and closer. I close the curtain as another rabbitemerges, its nose opening to let the world in. Another two follow. They stretch their muscles in the11

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliolight, mostly pink but some have patches of fur. Blood soaks into the couch. I try to tell my wife thisbut another violent bang cuts me off. The next rabbit to be born is dead and a flower blooms on thecouch. I pick up all the rabbits and walk down the hall, dazed. My wife shouts for me, “John? John?Where are you going?” All five of the rabbits fit in both my hands. I stop by the bathroom and put themin the sink. One of them whimpers, and another opens its eyes and looks directly at me. I turn the wateron. My throat swells up and my ears begin to burn. I turn off the light and go back to my wife. Shegrabs my hand and squeezes, clenching her teeth so hard I hear them snap and she groans. Two morerabbits, umbilical cords wrapped around each other, kicking wildly. The ringing starts again, louder andmore intense than ever. Another rabbit, and my wife screams in frustration, teeth falling into dust.When the smell of the room hits me, I just want to be outside: blood and sweat and heat, a mine. The tied-together rabbits have stopped kicking, and the whole world is silent for a few seconds.My wifes breathing gets heavier as she passes out. I pick up the rabbits and head outside, perspirationevaporating in the cold. I look up, wanting to be in a glacier while trying to figure out which of thestars is the moon. The rabbits shiver and I rest them on the patch of clover in the yard. One squeaks as Iwalk away, but I ignore it. The light of the house comes out from behind the curtains. She is still asleep when I come back inside. Another rabbit sits on the soaked couch, alert andnew. I go into the kitchen and grab a dish towel, a bowl, and the telephone, and make a nest, putting thelast rabbit inside, swaddling it. Its heart thumps against thin skin, blushing with the anticipation. I dialmy mother-in-law. She picks up on the tenth ring, a little breathless and muffled, mouth full: “Sorry, darling, I was receiving the Eucharist.” Once again, shes yelling into the phone. I canfeel the sun beating her trailer into dusk; the painted sky; long shadows; my in-law looking out hersmudged window; wondering if its the glass or her glasses thats dirty; reminding herself to water herwisteria; trying to hear my voice over the buzzing of the phone, the desert, the distance.12

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolio “Were going to be fine, Martha. Everything is just fine. Those prayers really mustve worked,thanks.” My wife cries out and I regret making this phone call. “Lovely!” she cries. “Marvelous! It might take a few pregnancies for it to catch, dear. It did forme at least. Dont get discouraged over a miscarry. Its all part of the plan. Wonderful. Do remember towrite, and tell Mary Ill send that recipe as soon as I can find it.” She hangs up, anxious to watch theend of Mass. I lock the front door and turn off all the lights in the house. I pick up my wife and the bowl andput both on the bed and wrap myself around them. She groans in her sleep, and her flat belly creaks.The rabbit is stiff by morning, and when I wake up the house is silent.13

Ben Wright Fiction PortfolioHumidifying My middle daughter is leaking out of every pore in her body. Shes steaming because shesrunning a fever, and the entire bedroom is hazy. When I roll her over so she can breathe, and sheattempts to speak, its just gurgling. (Later, when she becomes a hurricane and I stop chasing her, Igargle water, attempting to make every possible sound to try and decode what my daughter might havesaid. I like to think that it was terribly important, like, Daddy, everything is flowing out of me, or maybeDaddy, I love you.) Before I close the door and call the doctor, my daughter might be crying, though I cant tellbecause of all the water, but she looks oddly peaceful, and the door doesnt close easily because thecarpet has curled up on account of a small stream of water beginning from the bed of her fingernail onthe ring finger of her left hand. The next day, my daughter is a Category 2 hurricane knocking downevery stalk of immature corn in the tri-county area. I deduce that she escaped through the tiniest crackfrom where I had attempted to close the window the night before. She vaporized into a cloud beforethat, of course, and then she met the necessary atmospheric conditions to become a hurricane. The meteorologists have never seen anything quite like this. Doreen, my girlfriend andsometimes fiancée, walks to my house with difficulty, and says, upon entering, Your daughter, but shedoesn’t finish the statement because at that moment the eye passed over us. Doreen looks at me and Ilook at Doreen and we probably should kiss. We pile into the pickup, the kids in the back, the youngeston Doreens lap, and we follow the eye for miles, until finally Doreen tells me that being in the eye forso long is like being in the secret place that every woman has. I look to my oldest daughter forconfirmation, remembering her awkwardness, and she is too busy looking at the rain. We stop the pickup and let the storm overtake us as we watch the patch of sunshine move intothe distance and then disappear over the only hill in the county. Then it starts to rain again. My14

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliodaughter becomes a Category 3 on day 3. Scientists say this is because of all the heated pools that sheis sucking up, but the experts are just grasping at straws. My daughter has moved forty-five miles; and,after each one, we comb through the yards and fields and streams to look for pieces of her. Once, wefind a fingernail, and another time we find a 7-carat diamond, but these belong to other people. We decide to set up base camp for a while. One night, Doreen sits on my bed in the motel andlooks at me in the mirror as I’m gargling and trying to decipher my daughters last words. After Doreenundresses and I spit out the lukewarm water, we both in, our own way, move on. The hurricane, twodays later, swings back around and that night I sit in the long, open hallway of the motel and listen foranything my daughter might be screaming in the wind, but I never hear anything, though the oldest saidshe hears something. I dont believe her. We track her progress for a while, watching the red line on the computer trace a line through theMidwest, half-hoping that she is trying to spell something out, but there are only swirls, and I amreminded of a spirograph. One night, the youngest asks me where she is. A cloud, I say, or Heaven. The hurricane hunters let me ride in the plane and drop off messages to her, along withscientific instrumentation. I gather letters, report cards, toys, whatever, filling capsule after capsule.Each time I open the hatch, rain flies in, and I imagine that these raindrops are molten parts of herbody, a lobe of her liver, perhaps, or a pancreas. My messages to her are like the contents of a time capsule, and in a thousand years, anarchaeologist might find them: a girls shoe, a magazine, a Chinese finger trap, and these archaeologistsmight think we were very bored, but in reality, I am scared she forgot all of these things once sheattained the power and freedom I could never grant her. I drop capsule after capsule until we reach theeye again, and then we turn around, waiting for a message to appear. It never does. Soon, she veers into Lake Superior, like some animal going to die. Thats what the scientists15

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliosay. The hurricane cant sustain itself off of that cold water, but I say that she was always the firstperson in the pool on Memorial Day, when the water is cold and everyone else is scared. Later, in a motorboat, we scour the lake, finding pike and largemouth bass, cutting them open tolook for something, anything of hers, but we only find flotsam floating on the surface: a house; a wig; abloated body from Peoria; a dog; three wedding rings and a hamster, but nothing nothing nothing of herand nothing of ours.16

Ben Wright Fiction Portfolio Dossier “And the next time I see that little shit,” George continued, “I’ve got half a mind to wring hisneck.” Pat put down her fork. “George, please. Not at the table.” “It’s true, though. McCaffrey’s windshield is dinged up, and two blocks over the Rosens’ is too.I’m not saying they’re related incidents, but it’s very unusual. The child of a drunk is no good.” Next door, Paulie Keane was swapping out digging spoons. The tunnel he had started under the Nelson’s front porch, heading due north, was three quarters of the way to the property line. His father snored in the front room. Paulie had put the biggest stones in his pockets, and, if he closed his eyes, he could almost hear the freeway. The Nelsons’ windshield was the fifteenth windshield pitting reported to the police in a week. There were no leads. The editor of the paper was breaking the story on Monday’s front page, dropping a human interest piece about a baby born without a tongue. The editor had three reporters covering the case, staking out used car lots and pursuing competing theories. A hawk found washed up on the shore of the river, its stomach filled with pebbles, was taken to the morgue where it rotted slowly in a refrigerator. A topographical map now hung over the blackboard in the police’s briefing room, with huge red dots where the pittings had been reported. Someone had solemnly connected the dots, looking for a pattern. The dispatcher said it looked like a cloud. The next night, Tuesday, and nine more pittings later, George Nelson was taken downtown for slapping Paulie Keane, who he found hiding under his car that evening, pockets full. Nelson was released with a warning, and Paulie was interrogated for five hours until his father was sober enough to 17

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliocome pick him up. Paulie confessed to throwing stones into Mr. Kemp’s pond. The police called thecase closed in anticipation of tomorrow’s newspaper. By Wednesday, 56 more pittings were reported, and the map resembled a bone, or maybe thejagged edge of a mountain. Thursday at 7:15 Leona Kowalski opened her curtains and saw her bay window a fractal, and fivedead blackbirds lay in her begonias. Down the street, a screaming match between the Statzes and theVincenzos was taking place. A whole coop full of chickens was cold that morning, dead on their roosts.A brick was thrown through the elder Keane’s beat up Coronet, and another brick was sent to the editorof the newspaper, but was lost in the mail for three weeks. Paulie Keane didn’t come to school Friday, or the next Monday. The chief of police noticed hisbathwater rippling as he sat silently in the tub, but decided he was just overworked. There was a lull in the pittings Friday, until Marjorie Shoemaker went to put on a necklace andnoticed a chip in the middle gemstone. Every single piece of china on display at Sears was discoveredto have a pit in it Saturday morning. George Nelson fell asleep that night in his Lancer, shotgun across his waist, until DeputyLaroux knocked on the window around 2 a.m. George fired into the gloom. His wife, embarrassed,later picked the glass out the Deputy Laroux’s face with a pair of tweezers. Laroux decided not to presscharges and was back at work by Monday. The morgue’s freezer was full of dead birds. Paulie’s father asked the Nelsons if they had seenhis boy. Sometime during the day, a single crack appeared in the windshield of every car in thecourthouse parking lot. Mary Francis Xavier dropped her favorite serving dish on her way from thekitchen to the dining room, but no debris was ever located. At 11 p.m. Paulie Keane’s father asked the patrons of Flanagan’s Pub if they had seen his boyanywhere. Military personnel at nearby Camp Bradley were ordered not to have civilian visitors until18

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliothe pitting epidemic passed. By Monday afternoon, the total number of pittings in the tri-county area was 573. Most boyswere grounded until they gave up names. John Bins, a retired physicist from the Manhattan Project,held a press conference blaming the pittings on high-altitude nuclear tests by the Soviets, which raineddown ionized bits of antimatter at night. It would all be over, he said, if we would just go back to the way things were. The Nelsons slept in separate beds that week. No pittings were reported during Tuesday’s rainshower. Jane Spitz reported her televisions glowing a bright blue before exploding, but couldn’tremember what program she was watching. A fox was found in the park burying a boy’s shoe, size 8.Paulie Keane’s father called Paulie Keane’s mother, whom he had not spoken to in a very long time.He wondered aloud where his boy had run off to. Three teenagers were caught hurling rocks off of the railway overpass onto passing cars onThursday, and were beaten up and arrested. They were from the city, and had skipped class that day tocause a ruckus. More pittings were called in, necessitating a new phone line that wouldn’t be installeduntil sometime the next week. The mayor issued a statement calling for rational thought as he looked at the unsightly pit on thecandy bowl on his desk. Sandra Koufax attempted to call the police, but, due to her hysterical state, reported seeing herbathroom mirror bubbling up like a great big boil and exploding to the operator instead. The men of thetown eyed each other suspiciously as they drove to work. Paulie Keane’s body, missing a size 8 shoe, was discovered in a trashcan in the park. Hispockets were full of pebbles. Police are pursued several leads, but temporarily closed the case with thefollowing year’s Seattle Strangler case. That night, Paulie Keane’s father ripped the trashcan away from the shed it was attached to and19

Ben Wright Fiction Portfoliothrew it into the river. He ordered a drink at Flanagan’s, saying “Paulie” instead of “whiskey.” George Nelson’s class ring slipped off his finger as he unlocked the door to his house. Hecursed as it fell between the boards of his front porch. He noticed the tunnel after he had crawledunderneath the porch, ruining his good slacks. He made a mental note to board it up so cats wouldn’tget in there during the winter. That night, he dreamed he was on the freeway, trying to flag down a carto help him get to somewhere he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember the name of.20

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