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    May 2010

    21. The Lakes of Florida

    By Charlie Smith

    When I told my father I was going to kill myself he said, “I knew a man stuck his face in a chainsaw. Cut his own head in two.”

    We were on the back porch of the boat house, cutting chunks of sugar cane off peeled purple stalks. A half gallon jar of chilled green sugarcane wine sat on the table between us. We were both drunk as skunks.

    My father cupped his barbigerous head in one hand and stared off across the lake. Dusk was feeling its way out of the sky like a blue silent rain. I had been crying but I’d stopped. It was something I could turn on and off like an actor. My father put down his butcher knife, took a swig of wine from the jar, and looked me in the face. “I tried to kill myself once.”

    I didn’t say anything.

    “It was out in Australia during the war. This girl . . .”

    His voice trailed off. I wanted to hear more about the man who sliced his head in two, but it was my father’s turn to talk. He tapped his long forefinger nail musefully on the table. The water from the wine jar, mixed with cane drippings, had soaked into the cypress wood. In spots it had dried, leaving a fruit sugar dust.

    “How’d you do it?’ I said.

    “Do what?”

    “Commit suicide.”

    “By crocodile.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “As my implement. My weapon.” . . . Read More.

    20. The Moth and the Star and 21. The Owl Who Was God

    By James Thurber

    A young and impressionable moth once set his heart on a certain star. He told his mother about this and she counseled him to set his heart on a bridge lamp instead. “Stars aren’t the thing to hang around,” she said; “lamps are the thing to hang around.” “You get somewhere that way,” said the moth’s father. “You don’t get anywhere chasing stars.” But the moth would not heed the words of either parent. Every evening at dusk when the star came out he would start flying toward it and every morning at dawn he would crawl back home worn out with his vain endeavor. One day his father said to him, “You haven’t burned a wing in months, boy, and it looks to me as if you were never going to. All your brothers have been badly burned flying around street lamps and all your sisters have been terribly singed flying around house lamps. Come on, now, get out of here and get yourself scorched! A big strapping moth like you without a mark on him!”

    The moth left his father’s house, but he would not fly around street lamps and he would not fly around house lamps. He went right on trying to reach the star, which was four and one-third light years, or twenty-five trillion miles, away. The moth thought it was just caught up in the top branches of an elm. He never did reach the star, but he went right on trying, night after night, and when he was a very, very old moth he began to think that he really had reached the star and he went around saying so. This gave him a deep and lasting pleasure, and he lived to a great old age. His parents and his brothers and his sisters had all been burned to death when they were quite young.

    Moral: Who flies afar from the sphere of our sorrow is here today and here tomorrow.

    . . . Read More.

    19. Silot, a Valet

    By Félix Fénéon

    Silot, a valet, installed an amusing woman in his absent master’s house in Neuilly, then disappeared, taking everything but her. . . . Read More.

    18. Push Through Me

    By Christian Rose

    My reflection’s out there on the other side of this tinted floor-to-ceiling hotel window, hovering five stories above the beach and staring back at me from a place in the night where the sea and sky would meet if I could see through this impassively dark and reflective tint but I can’t, I just know the horizon’s out there in the night like I know Dan and Pat are still out there in some emergency room, and it’s my fault because I’m the one who convinced them to drive twelve hours south to Myrtle Beach for spring break in the first place.

    I’m pacing, panicking, kicking the face of some televangelist who’s preaching on the TV with the sound off but the screen doesn’t break, the televangelist just keeps ranting, red-faced, pointing a finger, spittle leaping from his lips, beneath a banner that says Let Yourself Be Saved.

    I limp over to the dresser and drag it against the hotel room door, barricading it, then call down to the front desk for the hospital’s phone number but the woman at the hospital won’t tell me anything and when I try to set the phone down it slips from my hand, covered in blood.

    I peel the sopping Polo shirt from my right hand and glance at the deep cuts across my palm. The sharp, screeching pain is duller now, throbbing like a heartbeat in my hand. . . . Read More.

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