He’s close enough now that I can hear his footfall on the pavement and I knowmy chances of outrunning him are slim. I’m practically in a full sprint and my pounding heart is begging me to take it down a notch. I try to will my feet to keep pace with its beat; but I think it’s humanly impossible to run that fast. And then it dawns on me that my footsteps are the only ones I hear. Somewhere along the way, Tristan’s must have come to a stop. And I can’t quite explain why I’m running this fast in the first place. I slow to a jog, intending to just pick up with my original pace; but I can’t seem to suck in breaths fast enough to propel my feet any further. My molten shoes stutter to a stop, as my hands come to rest on my knees. I’m stillwheezily sucking in breath after breath of thick, humid air, when I warily turn to look over my shoulder.Tristan’s standing about fifty feet back, hands on his hips and a completelyflummoxed twist in his forehead, his chest rising and falling with equally winded gasps. Evidently I was running faster than I gave myself credit for. As he silently watches me, regaining his breath as I do mine, the confusion on his face turns to undeniable hurt (and not the physical kind). I’ve wounded him and I can’t evenexplain why. Man, I really am an ass.I start the slow walk of shame back to where he stands, one hand upon my hipas I pull in a few more calming deep breaths. I’m debating whether to concoct some excuse for my behavior…Maybe I left my contacts out today and didn’t recognize his face? Who would blame me for running for my life, if a stranger seemed to be following me? But as I amble closer—his wrinkled forehead already fading in the wake of a welcoming smile—I decide not to dig myself a deeper hole. I’m already astraight-up jerk. I’d rather not add lying to my repertoire.
M.A. George
Intermission. Mare Internum.We will have a brief pause now. If this novel were a theater, you could go out into the lobby, wait in line for a drink, or for the bathroom. Give people a chance to admire your clothes, hair, or jewels. Step outside for some air or a smoke. Backstage the crew would be busy transforming the scenery, actors would change their costumes and redo their makeup, Some would be done until final curtain, others awaiting their first entrance.But we're not in the theater and I am not letting you go outside this story, not really. Where we are is more like a pause between breaths. Whether you're inhaling or exhaling, there's a pause just before, like the pause you can feel more than hear before the tide reverses. Where we are is the point of intersection in the figure eight. Turned on its side the eight becomes the symbol of infinity. You can make this figure with your hips when you dance. Over and over you will return to that moment of balance before your weight shifts from one hip to the other. The balance of this story is about to shift. The scenery is changing, as we make our slow way across Mare Internum. A journey I am not going to describe. When the story begins again, some of the people you have come to know and love, or not, Dido, Bertha, Paulina, Reginus and Joseph will appear less frequently...I don't like it when characters fade form the story, so I am apologizing in advance, but life is like that. We leave people and places and times behind. We encounter new ones. Sometimes we can't see the patterns or connections, but they are there, between one breath and the next. In the ebb and flow of tides. In the rhythm of the dance.
Elizabeth Cunningham
FOXFIRE NEVER SAYS NEVER! By the time the kidnapped turquoise-and-chrome car overturns--turns and turns and turns!--in a snow-drifted field north of Tydeman's Corners Legs Sadovsky will have driven eleven miles from Eddy's Smoke Shop on Fairfax Avenue, six wild miles with the Highway Patrol cop in pursuit bearing up swiftly when the highway is clear and the girls are hysterical with excitement squealing and clutching one another thrown from side to side as Legs grimaces sighting the bridge ahead, it's one of those old-fashioned nightmare bridges with a steep narrow ramp, narrow floor made of planks but there's no time for hesitation Legs isn't going to use the brakes, she's shrewd, reasoning too that the cop will have to slow down, the fucker'll be cautious thus she'll have several seconds advantage won't she?--several seconds can make quite a difference in a contest like this so the Buick's rushing up the ramp, onto the bridge, the front wheels strike and spin and seem at first to be lifting in decorous surprise Oh! oh but astonishingly the car holds, it's a heavy machine of power that seems almost intelligent until flying off the bridge hitting a patch of slick part-melted ice the car swerves, now the rear wheels appear to be lifting, there's a moment when all effort ceases, all gravity ceases, the Buick a vessel of screams as it lifts, floats, it's being flung into space how weightless! Maddy's eyes are open now, she'll remember all her life this Now, now how without consequence! as the car hits the earth again, yet rebounds as if still weightless, turning, spinning, a machine bearing flesh, bones, girls' breaths plunging and sliding and rolling and skittering like a giant hard-shelled insect on its back, now righting itself again, now again on its back, crunching hard, snow shooting through the broken windows and the roof collapsing inward as if crushed by a giant hand upside-down and the motor still gunning as if it's frantic to escape, they're buried in a cocoon of bluish white and there's a sound of whimpering, panting,sobbing, a dog's puppyish yipping and a strong smell of urine and Legs is crying breathlessly half in anger half in exultation, caught there behind the wheel unable to turn, to look around, to see, Nobody's dead--right? Nobody's dead.
Joyce Carol Oates