Three Fictions
Girija Tropp

A Place to Stop

The kids had moved the roll of curtain cloth. She tripped and heard the bone break a long time before it snapped. She tried to call; nothing came out. "Q-tips," her son was saying. She had wanted to ask him to get her nausea tablets from the chemist, but they had an agreement; she was not to interrupt him when he had friends over. The pain occured to her like it was something for sale. A semi-trailer turned into their small court, and the blinker was reflected in window panes and glass bricks; in the dark nexus of two living areas and the kitchen, she could see a train disaster on television. There was a tickle in her throat. Her father, an animal trainer, was a solitary man who liked to play tic-tac-toe with the chimpanzees when he was bored.

A Place to Hide

They needed a place to hide that was outside the houses and away from the cities. Some bad people were trying to find them, looking for something specific, like a recipe. At that time, they were living above the grocery store where cheese was their specialty and the cranberry fruit camembert was renowned for its flavor. They made cheesecakes with duck eggs and listened to quacking as the birds pecked at slugs.
They had to erase their footsteps and friends had to erase their memories. Then, for some reason, the wife was nostalgic and decided to come back. Always the woman, the friends said, because on the way back she met a man, tall, willowy, feminine, and made bashful love in a barn. They made vows. She gave him a scrap of paper and he thought it was harmless. The man, a sandpit maker, went back home and everyone could see the name of the woman he had met. It was printed on his forehead, below his lip and on the back of his hand. They knew he was as a goner and that he would be found through his memories. The man was glad to be found because he had hopes of seeing the woman again.
The bad people found the recipe and turned it into a commercial success like McDonald's -- even though people had a tendency to bloat when they ate the product. The recipe was used in the war against terrorism and turned up in a cream for virility.

In the Break

He fired a gun like a girl and jumped out her window. When he returned, he asked for forgiveness and his wife said, "Go see a therapist." The dinner party had stopped for him, but he felt naked in front of the guests.
"What can a therapist do for me that you cannot?" he asked. "You will talk about meaning in relationships," she replied
"A meaningful relationship," someone said, a woman whose hair had gone pink from henna.
He wanted to know what she meant by meaning and his wife said, "Something that coheres even as it fragments like a dream, something that has meaning in its parts as well as the whole."
The guests argued about this. They said she was putting meaning into the relationship and that was wrong because a relationship should be allowed to be itself. Tanya tried to block them out because she was starting to lose her train of thought. "I want something life-affirming and conscious."
Wasn't he good enough? And now she was saying that he was anti-life and inhuman. The guests were uncomfortable, a little bored, a little fearful, because the husband had fired a gun. He was beginning to stir Tanya up and make her seem crazy and it was easy to get her stirred up.
They wished those two would sort their lives out. They wanted everyone to be happy. There was enough of this kind of thing in the newspapers and TV, and besides, seeing the two of them, their own relationships felt precarious.
Someone tried to change the subject and asked if the others had seen Kill Bill. It seemed a loaded question because the husband's name was Bill. Tanya said it was movie about how far blood could jump. When she announced that her husband was a cross-dresser, they did not believe her. But the courts did; they gave her custody of the children.