Penelope Weiss

The Fish Incident

               Did you ever feel persecuted, abandoned, at your wits’ end? That’s how I felt when I found a dead fish in my driveway.
               I was sure my neighbor had left the fish there, but I couldn’t prove it. It was a conundrum, as my father used to say. My mother says these conundrums are my cross to bear. Then she starts talking about forgiveness. I still don’t understand the connection.
               For three days I sat on my porch, wondering what to do. When the garbage man came by and asked if he could take the fish away, I said, no, not yet. I wanted to think about it before I removed the evidence. In the meantime, the children stayed with my mother, like they always do when I’m wrestling with a conundrum.
               After three days it was time to get on with my life and my job at the supermarket. I wrapped the fish in butcher paper and threw it in the trash.
               When I picked up the children at my mother’s house, I told them the same story about being sick that I told them when I dropped them off. I know they didn’t believe me. Ginny, the math whiz, is 12, and Carla, the all-around goofball, is 14. They know their Ma is a bit crazy. As for Albert, my husband, he left me and the kids about five years ago, and we hadn’t heard from him since. He was always talking about hunting polar bears with a bow and arrow, so maybe he went to Alaska, where I hoped he was well and truly lost. That’s another conundrum, and don’t tell me it’s got anything to do with forgiveness.
               Wouldn’t you know, Albert showed up last week, complete with a rifle and a face like a grizzly bear. I was so surprised I dropped a frying pan on his foot. Lucky for me he was wearing boots with steel toes. He banged on the floor with his rifle and yelled in my ear, “Honey, I’m home.” I don’t know what I ever saw in Albert, but early on he was very good in bed.
               My first thought was to throw him down the front steps, but although I’m a big woman, and strong, too, I was never a match for Albert in the wrestling department. Also, I didn’t like that glint in his eye.
               Later that night, after Albert had shaved off his beard, I told him about the dead fish.
               “I’ll cry tomorrow,” said Albert. Then he kissed me.

At Summer Days

               A year ago, I was living at the halfway house called Summer Days. That year, the autumn equinox happened on the 21st day of September.
               On that day, the sunflowers still rode high on their green canes in the garden behind the main building. No one had dug the last row of potatoes. The tomatoes were falling off their vines. The basil was still green.
               The Hubbard squashes and the pumpkins someone had planted never grew. But I remembered that many squash blossoms had appeared early. The runners even made it all the way up to the ridge that divided the garden. The ridge was the home of asparagus and milkweed. I never knew that asparagus bushes were so beautiful, with their feathery tendrils and their little red berries. The mature plants look like fat green penises. I’ve never told anyone that before.
               Milkweed is beautiful, too, first the round reddish flowers and then the fleshy pods (or is it the other way around?). I love to watch the silken clouds of seeds as they burst out of the dry pods, those magical shapes that vibrate on the edge of life. As the seeds float into the sky, I imagine it means there’s hope, at least for the monarch butterflies.

Let's Dance (Blue)

About Demons
               Demons populate the world. They are big or small, lightheaded or hard hearted. They curl up in human stomachs or brains. They dart under leaves in the forest, sit atop mountains, swim in fantastic oceans. They live far from human homes or squat in basements or cellars. They sing in drainpipes or gurgle in gutters. Some are known as succubi or incubi.
               I know because I’m one of them, although I’m just an ordinary demon and I live in an ordinary house. I’m a writer demon, if you must know. I write down everything with a special pen that never runs out of ink.
               I made this pen myself when I was very young, with an incantation I learned from my grandmother, who is a special sort of demon herself. She’s a cooking demon, even though most demons don’t need to eat. She cooks up a mess of spells every day, some good, some bad. She gave me the pen-making spell because I am her favorite grandchild. I’m still proud of that.
               Grandma lives with me. She’s quite old now, of course. She hardly remembers me, but I always tell her how she’s the best cooking demon ever in the history of the world. Even though she can’t cook anymore, she can still mutter spells. I write down every one, in case there’s a new one in the mix.
               One day I asked Grandma about her trip from the old country to America. What kind of a boat did she and Grandpa come over on? And how did they get to a port from a village near the town of Bialystok, Poland, to sail across the Atlantic? How did they find out about the sailing? How did they pay for it? Were they sponsored by someone in the U.S.? How did they get papers to make the journey?
               Grandma didn’t remember much about the whole thing. “Boat?” she said. “Boat, I think name was Mayfly.” “What?” I said. “The Mayfly? How could that be?” I almost burst out laughing.
               “Landed on Illness Island,” she said. I broke down laughing. I know they landed on Ellis Island, and they must have passed the physical/illness tests. Possibly they knew someone in NYC. After that, I guess they sent for Grandma’s sisters, my great aunts Yetta and I can’t remember the other sister’s name right now.
               My desk is piled high with paper these days. I don’t know where to put it all. I’m a bit nervous about the world’s paper supply, but I’m sure Grandma will spit out a paper-making spell any day now.

Penelope Weiss grew up in New York City and now lives in Shrewsbury, Vermont. Storiana, her collection of stories, was published by Casa de Snapdragon Publishing and is available on Amazon.
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Blogger Patrick said...

So true and cleanly poetic.

8:56 AM  

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