Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: The Man Behind the Glass
By Ryan Tribble
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I can’t wait to show you this day, for it is special. The oaks are ornamented with gold. The poplars are naked and ready for sleep. Our path is strewn with their garments. The breeze is seasoned with the cinnamon scent of the bear-clover. My heart races. The leaves proclaim your coming with crunching. My hands are outstretched awaiting your embrace. Alas! It is only a memory.
I can see you now, sitting and watching Shark. I cherish the memories of watching with you. I still watch as he vainly swims in circles. He rises to the surface, and nibbles your food, thankless. He is your smile, and doesn’t know it. Safe in your home and depending only upon your love. Yet he dreams of a bigger pond. Poor Shark. So unhappy in his ignorance.
Did you ever see Shark swim furiously against the glass? He desires freedom to swim without bounds. Has he considered the dry floor outside the bowl, or even the bigger fish? You spared Shark the choice. I didn’t.
How long will you sit there cold, and decaying? The stale water is dark with algae. White fuzz clings to the body stinking on the surface. Opened beside the withered rose is your fish food -- empty. A cobweb stretches across her bed layered with dust. Soiled dishes drip from the sink. The coffee is burning.
The phone rings, faintly. The dying coal brightens with the breeze, then fades slowly, burning inward. There! Do you hear? Answer it. How will you find it buried beneath these boxes? Have you forgotten the purpose of a drawer? Put your clothes away.
The answering machine is playing. A tear twists its way down your unshaven cheek. It’s her voice. Your heart beats, and aches with memory -- good. It's not too late. Keep crying. I know the feeling.
Careful! Her picture falls and glass shatters across the floor. Frail as she is beautiful. Her breasts slowly rises as she stares into your eyes, then fall never to rise again. Now she lives, and you are dying. When will you learn to listen? The glass cannot be repaired. You clutch it to your bosom, but the pieces cut away at your heart. Let it go.
Have you been to the mirror lately? It’s curiously polished and your face is not. Wax stains the marble countertop where a candle burns. An incense of old urine weights the air. As you gaze into your own eyes, ask yourself, “whom do I love?”
Listen! The call is fainter, and will not come again.
The man stirs in his sleep. The goldfish cruises the perimeter of his bowl, watching.
I can’t figure it out. Up here he is long and twisted, like a smear of paint. A little lower and he is wadded into a sleeping ball. From every angle of this bowl his shape shifts. What does he really look like?
I wonder what happened to her. Together they were obsessed! I never had any privacy because they were always watching. When she left she must have taken the food. Now he doesn’t feed me as often. There must be a way out of this bowl. I’ll try searching the other corner.
He’s awake -- food. He places his hand over his head and groans. The food is outside useless. Why does he leave it there to taunt me? As he stands he stumbles over the cups littering the floor. Hey! Come back! I’ll starve at this rate. He could at least open the window.
He’s back -- now to capture his attention. He opens the windows, but that’s not helping my stomach. He walks toward me. The water ripples with food. I cautiously rise. The food cloud parts as his finger breaks the surface. I smell, bump, and see it doesn’t shift. This is truly him.
I awake with a gasp. I can barely see as I stumble to the kitchen and turn off the gas. I fall to the floor and tremble with tears.
“It hurts! Oh God it hurts! Forgive me! I’m listening but it is too late for her.”
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