Three Fictions
Marguerite W. Sullivan


While waiting for a ride, I see a solitary boy in the alley. His aloneness strikes me as out of place, as though in the lexicon of earthly pictures this is not natural. The fact that it's morning reinforces this. He can be seen shoving his hands here and there, manipulating something; a look of self-consciousness absorbs his face, the smell of smoke arises whether there is any or not, his feet are like flat unworkable fish that pad in the muck. The distance is just enough to withhold anything crucial. He is neither young nor old and fits squarely in the idea of "boy alone in alley," but the oddness of it makes me stare.
The articles of his geography wall around him in brick and grease. The watchfulness he must have, the sullenness of ideas at work in his demeanor -- this where my intuition leads. His mother, she's somehow out of the picture. The boy is old enough, isn't he, to know what's what (safe to say even the youngest of them know). It's reasonable to wonder where his friend is -- boys still have friends, not a gang like you're thinking, just a friend, don't they, though maybe this went out, something suggests, some time ago.
His watchfulness is visible in his motionless head. His hands drum along his thighs. There's a gap of language that reels the world round and starts here. Something of my brother recurs in his agitation.
The narrative of some television drama initiates in the well of things not really thought. Thinking there is some sort of trouble because the picture is at a loss to console itself by means of other more narrative, more familiar pictures. The eagerness to stand in his shoes and know. Were it me, someone might call and want him for something. Does anybody know where I am standing, who I am, or how to call me by name?
Easy to turn away as though nothing's amiss -- it's still true nothing is -- though I cannot do it. The temptation to call out, Have you done such and such yet? as I might do with my own son, impatient as it's natural to get with idleness.
The magnetism he wields over me makes some action desirable, though walking down the alley would be a narrative gaffe. Any approach would reveal the distressing gaps one lives deep inside, producing a series of offputting syllables, a flow of makeshift interrogatories, an unyielding stoniness. Even at this distance the stoniness shines. The possibility of a simple human sentence is slight.
The clouds swoosh off, and a bright sun changes all elements of the portrait.
Then abruptly in the car, shucked of his fleshy, mute standing about.

The Writer's Wife

Just as though he wrote to obscure the things he trapped in his paragraphs, like winged insects taken in glass jars that might be shrouded by some paper which must have conspired in their capture -- for years he wrote with shrouding and covering up, though his wife told him how good and wonderful it always was, regardless, she could be counted on to respond just as though he had imagined something clearly, had placed the subject on a table in broad daylight, all upright and unaided, humble, untarnished, displayed like that to tell its little story, this thing, one of countless such objects in the path of his circumlocution, prepared to tell its wild and singular story, as if this all along were his goal, and yet (if there were criticism from some quarter it was she who filtered it, she who dismissed it thusly, envy, she said) when all was said and done his goal was other, his goal lay farther afield, at some unknowable even to him distance, which prompted him to hurdle over the things, the sidelined artifacts somewhat squashed and abased on his precipitous route to the end of an unbearably (in more cases than not) long string of words, which underscored the unimposing nature of these things, of all things, really, without exception, this how he felt about it, for example cars and their colors, or waitresses' accoutrements, or packages swamping the arms of some woman, or the creditable effect of the loon in the moonlight -- all such details beside the point, he felt this intensely, and therefore for years as was said wrote his route like a man without time to spare, like a man with something burning a hole or chomping like a pony, bridging across the streaming hours in a sea of pollen-dense verbiage, awash in the litter of unexpurgated things, eager as he was to outstrip them with a final flourish, an arrival, the ending effect of paramount importance of course, and he reached it in a flurry of his own expenditure, out of breath though equally out of sync so to speak with the very agents of his subject, at the very last moment languishing helplessly, dully, like a motorist waylaid by a flat tire and forced to wait around in wild grasses and brambles along a country lane for the prospect of who or what to materialize he knows nothing of.
To his credit it was after his wife packed up the bulk of their possessions and moved them out, the rather magnificent heft of them with all the ease of a dancing elephant (she complained of dirt and loneliness), leaving him modestly bereft in the dimly lit field of rooms where nothing any longer belonged, stripped to the bachelor bones as it were amid gaping closets and mouthy shelves, it was there and then he began to get his hands around the matter, to take the things of his subject one by one, finding a slowness in his grief, and from the laggard pace his grief had ground him into, to discover in each item from each line some miniature mirrored cabinet which he could open and gaze into at great length, for unparalleled stretches of time, gazing like a man having his morning shave -- like all the men, he would think, all the men in all those days in all those years in all those squalid rooms (the squalor came to him freshly) having a morning shave, he couldn't help but think of them -- and he would look some more at the thing twirling in his mind and lose himself in a hundred thingly tales of no consequence.

Man in a Brown Shirt

He came well after one o’clock despite being told that earlier would be better, came in his sedan with bumper stickers announcing an array of obscure allegiances, came with his shirt tucked out and his radio too loud, expecting some sort of feast though lunch had come and gone, came with a hearty hello and a less than altogether genuine gladness to see me, you can go all the way to Colorado and still be seen for what you don’t have, me the grim official in charge of household mood, the productivity of urchins, boisterous in my prodding enthusiasms, spilling over as they were in a kind of pudding half-curdled from the getgo, well we all came out, cheered and cheerless, in a way to be together, I had hopes of the affection of this togetherness, the sort of warm hurrah oozing from old black-and-whites on lonely screens everywhere, but standing there was like the slow boat of times gone by, a cleaving to pauses, a horror of missed participles, a blaming of air gushing in my lungs like love, I nearly said it, love. . . his hysteria confabulated in a swift guffaw, his hysteria took us whole -- I nearly said, Don’t park it here in an uncharitable moment, that was all, clamming up in a ginger smile, brushing the crumbs from his mouth, waves of nothing we’d seen before though we knew it to look at it.