spacer
<< contest << cover
spacer
spacer

Knock Our Hats Off Contest Winner
Serge Segal
Honorable Mention Fiction

Author: An Interactive Story

I

Author.

What an exhilarating feeling. To be in control, totally. The mark of omnipotence. At the stroke of a pen to create, maim, destroy. Recreate, alter, pretend, tolerate. Adjust, obliterate, seduce, manipulate. To sound hollow, temporarily, then to fill in the gaps with words, any words, somehow credible, for a fee - eventually. Almost a lawyer’s trade. All in the while calling the sport art, the likelihood of failure never acknowledged, the pretense of the chase omnipresent. Or, wherever it fits, vice-versa, with the entailing compromises. The chase for acceptance determining the subject, the tilt, the choice of words, the rhythm, the spoils.

Call this freedom. The bull we all have managed to digest in order to survive. Reader, beware. For the sake of art, of course.

Malcolm Smittenkitten. Destroy. No, wait: maim. Matthew Brewster. Maim. Matt Brewster. Destroy. Lincoln Katzenbach. Destroy.Carlos Menantos. Alter. Carlita Menantos. Obliterate. Gruber Kittering. Alter. Alter. Hold on to it, to some of it. There might be something there. Gruber. Gruber sounds O.K. Gruber Smittenkrantz. O O O O that Shakespeherian rag. That T.S. Eliot in all of us. That egomaniacal certainty, surging…

II

Here comes Gruber Smittenkrantz. In context.

Gruber says “Oh,” to Jane.

Jane turns her head. Fitfully.

Jane is thirsty. She holds the bottle of (reader’s choice) to her lips. Who cares? Jane is thirty (see? easy does it: a simple spelling adjustment brings an adjustment in action). Now, that’s more interesting. Jane wears a bikini. No, a bikini wears Jane. Wonderful lass, with the right touches in the right places. Light touches. A toile by Gauguin. Pure art. What first attracts Gruber from afar is the curvation of her body. The glint in her eyes, stroked by the first rays of the sun from below the horizon, serves to confirm. Silk, skimpier-not-be, sheer pink bikinis. The perkiness of her tits at this hour of the morning. The otherwise empty beach.

People are lazy on Sundays. Not Gruber. Not this Sunday, when he comes to see the sunrise.
“Did you get hurt?” asks Jane.

Gruber is holding on to his left big toe. Jumping like a one-footed kangaroo and groping for support, any, in the air. Jane is there. She stretches upward and offers her right arm. Gruber grips on. What soft, heavenly flesh. Should Gruber mention this, instantly? He can’t do that. It is too early in their relationship. He utters instead, compliantly, the expected “Yes.” The tone is weak. His cheeks are flushed. His eyes are those of a puppy (necessary, at this juncture).

Jane wants to see. More of him. Bliss.

They sit on the sand, next to her silk robe. Gruber’s crotch is scorch(ing). Bulging as it does. Naturally. He bends his leg at the knee. Jane is in front of him, harem cross-legged. Her eyes stare intently at his – allegedly – injured toe. They see nothing else. The rest of her has learned not to react. Or has it? We have to adjust. Some color appears on her cheek. Actually, on both. Slowly. Like the tide. Gruber’s thigh tilts upward. Parts of him, having to do with his manliness, unveil irreverently from under his swim trunks ballooned by the breeze.

“You shouldn’t jog bare-footed,” Jane says. She takes wet sand in her hands and covers Gruber’s toe in it. She touches his ankle. Her hands reach up to his calf. Bliss. No, actually more bliss. Bliss plainly came before. A writer has to alter, to avoid repetition. Thankless task. To be Gruber now, on the beach, so much better.

Gruber bends forward, not much. His belly touches his knee. He extends his hand.

“My name is Gruber,” he says. He does not mention his surname. He likes Jane’s smile. He does not want to make her laugh. Not yet.

“Jane.” “ Biddick,” she adds, before long. Perceptible enough.

“Come here often?” Gruber says. He forgets the pain. Then he remembers. “The wet sand does wonders,” he proffers. He sounds convincing. Or Jane chooses to let him seem so. We decide. I, the author and you, the reader. This is a cooperative process. Each one of us for our own, separate reasons, want this story to keep going. Neither one of us shall accept defeat, at least not yet, not now, not at such an early stage.

“We own a house on the beach.” She makes an effort and points to her right. Gruber looks at the three houses at the top of the dune. “In the summer we spend every weekend here.”

We. She said ‘we’. Who is ‘we’? Gruber does not bother to ask. Why spoil this fraction of one’s eternity?

Jane expends some more energy and twists her body. She sifts some sand through her fingers. Her fingers are slim. She is slim. Her red hair gathered up in a single braid at the back of her head glistens now even more in the sun. She could leave at any moment, yet she stays. Fate. Desire. No, not desire, desire is too insignificant a concept to conjure. But fate, oh yes, fate encompasses all. If we write, if we write at all, let us at least write in the name of a higher concept. Not simply in that of a purely animal urge. Anything but. The pretense. The hypocrisy. The art.

“I am a writer,” Gruber lies. Then, just in case, for the sake of a sane future relationship with Jane, he quickly qualifies.

“A technical writer. I used to sell adds for a newspaper and then I found this job. At any rate, it provides me with both security and a comfortable life.”

Still a fish story. Mere typesetter won’t do. They are still some around, you know. But en amour trompe qui peux.

“How did you manage the transition?” Jane sounds knowledgeable. Or at least she keys quickly on the relevant.

“I was lucky, I guess. I took lots of science courses in high school. Then I actually graduated from a technical college. At first, I wanted to travel for a while. I grabbed the first job that came my way, made some money and went around Europe for a couple of years.” As Gruber attempts to smooth over the front of his trunks he ends on a self deprecating note. “It is the story of a simple man,” he says, simultaneously belittling its rebellious mettle.

Jane’s eyes like the story. The mettle of a man is what he carries with him regularly. The waves keep coming closer.

“When I returned, I was offered my present job. I was broke, eager, but hopeful.”

There is still no one around. They watch the waves.

“What time did you get here?” he asks.

She doesn’t bother to answer. Then she turns and fixes his permanent bulge, by now.

“We used to do it in the water,” she suddenly says. She is an honest silly woman.

“What?” Gruber feels obliged to ask.

“Everything. Bondage, mostly.”

‘We’ still haunts Gruber. “With whom?” he presses.

“With my husband.” She traces lines in the sand.

“Where is he now?”

“He left on a long voyage.” As she says that she gazes over the waters like a junkie after escaping wisps of smoke. Or is she catatonic, momentarily?

Waves. More waves. A body. A dead body. The body of a dead man. Suddenly Jane’s eyes back. Jane’s eyes wide. Beautiful wide eyes. Focusing on something. See the sparkle. See the beauty. See the terror. Here is a choice. We see what we imagine that we see.

Gruber sees it all. He twists his head in the direction of Jane’s line of sight. It is his turn. He shudders. Slightly, only slightly, lest Jane shall notice. ‘Oh, the control of a real man,’ he marvels.

III

Which way do we go? The romantic spell is broken. Do we make this a detective story? Do we give it an environmental twist? All we have to do is write that the corpse is covered all in oil, thick, smudgy, black oil. Or do we prone for a science fiction approach, with radiation coming out of the cadaver’s eyes and ears, then, as it reaches land self energizes itself and it starts walking, naked, toward our characters?

Let’s see. How many people read environmental stories? All the realists. And how many realists are there in the world? Not many. Less than dreamers, anyway. Dreamers. There is a thought. The world is full of them. The world is so full of them that there is need of other worlds. That’s why dreamers love science fiction. But then, the environmentalists have always something to prove. The realists, that is. That’s why they act as detectives. As do the dreamers, in their insatiable search of detecting new worlds. All these potential readers. All the potential royalties. Ageless considerations, if one has to eat. You must agree.

Then it is settled. Ars longa, vita brevis. We must go on. In the name of art, this shall be a detective story.

IV

The screams. The screams never come. The fright is there, in Jane’s eyes, but apart the rhythmic swishing of the waves there is silence. Or is that fright? Jane turns and grabs on to Gruber, with both arms around his neck. Close. Very close. He now hears her heart pounding, too. More comfortingly, he wallows in the hotness of her bosom. Her breasts impinge upon the hairs on his chest like two torches against the darkness of the universe. He wants the conflagration to last forever, but...

“We have to bury the body in the sand,” Jane says.

Gruber reaches for his bag.

“I have a cell. I’ll call the police,” he says.

“No. No police.” In her anxiety Jane skimps on syntax.

“I must.” His civic upbringing nags at him with the determination of the small pebbles rolling behind the retreating waves on inertia.

She composes herself and disengages. She stands up and puts on her robe.

“Call them after I leave,” she says, coldly. And she walks away with her robe open, sides flapping in the breeze, a pink phantasm of what could have been.

Gruber watches the cadaver bobbing softly in front of him. He walks over and pulls the naked body on the shore. He can’t stand watching its face anymore. He turns it on its side and sits behind it. As he starts dialing he sees that the dead man’s hands are tied at the back with a pink thong. Much of it lies limp in the sand. He stops dialing. He looks up toward one of the three houses to which Jane’s tracks are leading. He can’t miss, anyway. Her name must be marked on the letterbox outside. “Biddick”, she had said. Still, it could have been a riddle. He unties the cadaver. It is safe now that the tide has ebbed. Soon the beach shall fill up and someone else is bound to do his civil duty. “Be Dick”, she had said. She must need the thong. He throws the phone in the bag and follows her tracks up the slope. Is there anything else beside sex and death?

V

No, no, no. Gruber is not a typesetter. You want him to be a nuclear scientist. Resolved. You rewrite the story.

Gruber the nuclear scientist watches the cadaver bobbing softly in front of him. He walks over and pulls the naked body on the shore. He can’t stand watching its face anymore. He turns it on its side and sits behind it. As he starts dialing he sees that the dead man’s hands are tied at the back with a pink thong. Much of it lies limp in the sand. He stops dialing. He looks up toward one of the three houses to which Jane’s tracks are leading. He can’t miss, anyway. Her name must be marked on the letterbox outside. “Biddick”, she had said. Still, it could have been a riddle. He unties the cadaver. It is safe now that the tide has ebbed. Soon the beach shall fill up and someone else is bound to do his civil duty. “Be Dick”, she had said. She must need the thong. He throws the phone in the bag and follows her tracks up the slope. Is there anything else beside sex and death?

 

divider

Serge SegalSerge Segal. At some point in time, I became a product of Miriam and Gustav, seagulls who are no more. About then too, in a different world, in a different country whose language was perhaps better suited for the pronunciation of my name, I was known as Sergiu. Consecutively after, I became a full product of School No. 3 (old Poinarescu) of Bucharest, and Elena Bratianu – my first teacher who must not be forgotten; a by-product of Gheorghe Lazar in that city – when this venerable lyceum counted for something; extremely brief interludes at Lycée Carnot in Paris and Northmount H.S. in Montreal; then a final product of The High School of Montreal, followed by a black period of internment at École Polytechnique; a by-product of McGill University (philosophy); a final product of Loyola College – Concordia University in Montreal (lots of English Lit. there); a by-product of The City of London College, U.K. (diploma in international law); finally, a full product of the Law Faculty of the Université de Montréal. Each one of the above – and reading, reading, reading – counted on the way to Author and the other 12 already finished short stories firmly slated for a forthcoming book collection. Yes, an attorney dabbling at such as these. Sic transit...

 

to top

spacer
spacer
spacer   spacer