By The Teeth
I go to Cortinas for the laying on of hands. And to ask her questions about ghosts and sex. It’s really just one ghost, and the sex is implied. Still, I have these questions.
Cortinas has me down on the blue gingham sheet this time and I am looking up at the water spot on the ceiling, breathing deep as I can, puffing up and then deflating my lungs to reach, to somehow dislodge this sorrow space in there. She taps the crown of my head with her index fingers and it feels like an egg cracking. She says it’s a sign of affection when someone dead appears in a dream. She asks if I’ve seen red birds. Every time you see a cardinal it’s the same thing, she says. Someone dead who loves you coming back to see you.
I am torn up, Cortinas, I say.
Cortinas’s face is next to my face and it is comforting. She has tapped on me for two years and she knows what I am torn up about. Not the divorce, not my children getting older, and not the mortgage. I started coming to Cortinas because I was haunted in dreams by the specter of a boy who loved me first. He had eye teeth like a wolf’s, and one hurt the last time I saw him alive. He favored it, sucked air through it when he came 500 miles on a bike to see me in my dark days. Before he headed up north to work. To make art. To get killed.
I can’t remember how long it’s been since the last dream, and I don’t know if you can call it a dream anymore, I tell her. The more I try to hear his voice and my voice and what we said, the hazier it is. That last time, I shouted my words out at him, but it was a vacuum, a too-loud television drowning me out.
Tell him next time he comes, Cortinas says. He’ll come. But he has not come in so long.
Eight Memories of Intoxication That Don’t Involve Drinking a Bottle of Wine Alone Late at Night Dancing and Weeping Manically to Music
My daughter brings home her college boyfriend for a weekend visit to our dull, dry town. I cook a lot of food; they mix a lot of drinks. At one point, I say, “No more for me.” But one more gin and tonic lands in my hands. “This is really strong,” I point out and they burst into laughter. Later they take off to bed and I let the dogs out, turn off the lights, then take a fall face first. The next morning the blood is still on the floor. My eye is blackened, my nose even more crooked. I tell them what happened, and my daughter says her boyfriend made my drinks really stiff. Once again, they burst into laughter while I dread the stories they will tell their friends when they return to school. Or, worse, the stories he may tell his family.
In the Beginning: Annie Green Springs
At fifteen, I take up drinking while my dad once again gives it up and attends AA meetings instead of sitting in bars all night. Funny thing about alcoholics is that booze doesn’t last long in the house— why keep an unfinished bottle of whiskey lying around the house? Might as well finish it off. The dandelion wine in the basement made my friends and me so ill that if we ever did feel a buzz, it was short-lived and replaced by endless puking. We splurged on the good stuff: Annie Green Springs. Fruity. Bubbly. Cheap.
This summer, time passed both at a crawl and in hyper-speed all at once. It’s been a long, temperate season, filled with stretched-out days of Pacific NW sunshine and languid afternoons, then bam! It’s September. Our new issue of Hot Flash Fiction highlights two stories in which time is both compressed and slowed simultaneously. A certain kind of loss echoes back and forth across decades in both stories; it is the absence of something yearned for in small moments and over years, felt, but never quite secured.
By the Teeth, by J.A. Caldwell haunts the reader with a dreamlike narrative filled with yearning for a long-ago lover whose life was cut short. Her imagery of feathers, wolf-teeth, pennies, and shells, creates a pathway back to her soulmate who never really belonged to her, but who’s found a place, however ephemeral and uncertain, in her psyche.
In Intoxication, by Diane Payne, we encounter a woman with a wry sense of humor and a memory cluttered with rough-edged vignettes dominated by a generational imprint of alcohol abuse. The narrator’s unfiltered weave of eight bottle-clutching illustrations across life events engaged us. Despite her flaws, she was likable and imperfect, someone we’d both like to know.
While there’s still time to curl up on the deck—instead of fireside on the couch– we hope you enjoy reading these stories! – Susan Welch, Editor