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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Flash Fiction: 668 words [R]
By Lorette C. Luzajic

Clean


—After Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) by
Robert Rauschenberg[1]
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?
—Train, “Drops of Jupiter”[2]
 

The little white house was haunted, but we’d expected as much. The wounds were still fresh. We’d moved to put death behind us, but the past is always with you. Still, the house was spare and sweet and the yard was cheerful with tulips.

My mind never strayed from what we had lost. The air was filled with spirits. I could tell by the signs that he was nearby—his favorite songs on the radio; anchor insignia on the shot glasses left behind in a cupboard; coming across the stone I’d lost, the one he gave me when we were first married. It was pale and smooth and polished by the sea.

I was crazy and the only thing that held my grief at bay was you. I wouldn’t have loved you at all if he had not begged us to look after one another. Still, how could he not have known? There was nothing left in me that could save someone.

It didn’t matter: we were to escape his fate together. Love doesn’t conquer all, but maybe it could conquer something, maybe it could make us clean.

That’s what we were thinking that first afternoon we moved in, unpacking dreams and hope and possibility. The little white house was a clean slate, a safe place, a fresh start. In this house, we would be far away from the poisons that consumed us. You would make pancakes in the morning. I would fold your jeans. I would do anything for you, and you would do anything for me.

One night, after a long and peaceful while, I returned home and found you pacing the yard. Your heart was beating wildly and your eyes were wide and crazed. I saw him today, you told me. I knew before you said another word that you had fallen.

He’s going to send the Russians in, you said. To punish us, to take revenge, you said, for taking up with your brother’s wife.

The weight of your paranoia was crushing. How many times could I watch you go back to this shit? You were so ashamed. When I accused you of loving it more than you loved him, more than you loved me, you wept. Not because I wanted to, you said.

Later, I saw you pushing strange tubes into the kitchen pipes. You said it was an experiment, because I might be trying to poison the water. You saw the cameras that I had planted in the cat’s eyes to keep tabs on you. Here where you were now, there were double agents around every corner.

I had seen it all before and now I was there again. It went on and on. You would break free, and I would feel the sweet relief of hope. The half-starved look would leave your eyes. I would believe you could be whole. Then you would fall again. You were awake for weeks at a time. My life was a nightmare of spies and hospitals.

The day you died, the tulips wilted in their vases, before I’d even got them inside. I’d gone from room to room, trying to perk up their stems. From the window, I saw you sauntering up the walk, baseball cap cocked. You had that goofy smile on, the one that was just for me.

My heart skipped a beat, the way it always did when I saw you coming home. But when I looked again, it wasn’t you at all.

The call came that afternoon.

I stood in silence inside that little white house, my heart empty, eroded, clean. Just like the two men I loved most in the world, erased by methamphetamine.

It would be a long, long time before I would feel anything again, maybe never. I saw the years stretch out ahead of me like rain.

 

—From Pretty Time Machine (Mixed Up Media, 2020), a collection of ekphrastic writing by Lorette C. Luzajic; appears here with her permission.


Publisher’s Notes:

1. For details and photographs about this artwork, see the essay by Sarah Roberts, Erased de Kooning Drawing (July 2013), at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Rauschenberg Research Project.

2. “Drops of Jupiter” is from an album by the same name written and recorded by American rock band Train; performance video, overlaid with lyrics, may be viewed on YouTube.

(Links above were retrieved on 11 August 2021.)

Lorette C. Luzajic
Issue 9, August 2021

is from Toronto, Canada. Her prose poetry and flash fiction are widely published in literary journals and anthologies, with recent or forthcoming appearances in Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash, Club Plum, Red Eft, and Indelible. A recent story won first place in a contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly, and her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent of six collections of prose poems are Pretty Time Machine (2020) and Winter in June (2021). Some of her works have been translated into Urdu.

Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 30 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Two Must-Read Books by The Queen of Ekphrasis, commentary in MacQ-9 (August 2021) by Clare MacQueen, with links to additional resources

Featured Author: Lorette C. Luzajic at Blue Heron Review, with two of her prose poems (“Disappoint” and “The Piano Man”); plus “Poet as Pilgrim,” a review of Pretty Time Machine by Mary McCarthy (March 2020)

Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize

 
 
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