Meg Pokrass is the author of

Damn Sure Right, a collection of stories from Press 53. Her second collection, Happy Upside Down, will be released in the Fall of 2013. Meg's stories and poetry have appeared in PANK, McSweeney’s, The Literarian, storySouth, Smokelong Quarterly, Gigantic, Kitty Snacks, Wigleaf, The Rumpus, Yalobusha Review, Gargoyle, and Roadside Curiosities: Stories About American Pop Culture. Meg's flash fiction "Nights" was selected by author Dan Chaon for Wigleaf's Top 50, 2012. Meg serves as an associate editor for Frederick Barthelme’s New World Writing, and lives in the foggiest part of San Francisco, where nobody can see anything.

4 Stories

posted Jul 30, 2013

If Things Move Under the Trees

The elf was alive. I was drunk, but he was alive, and he was not dry at all. Rain-wet and not very cute, a lawn elf, a.k.a. my boyfriend Kyle in a lawn elf suit... looking like a petulant child. Boy elf, kind of pretty.

My daughter had left the party. She had seen enough, with her new boyfriend sober and Mormon-looking, with large, arrogant teeth.

My Kyle was again, drunk and wet from the rain, with the viewpoint of an imbecile. But, is it normal, when drunk, to close your eyes and sing with your belly sticking out? I ignored him and went under the trees with Charles who claimed to have a motion detector. Charles said, "Let's go see if things move under the trees," and I said, "Hand me a cup," and he did. I drank what was in the cup adding red to the four glasses of white and the two of rum with eggnog and that to the earlier death of five Mexican Wedding Cookies and one large square of home-made fudge.

"I am going to throw up," I said, looking around for a towel.

"No you aren't" Charles said picking me up, calling me a hand-maiden, and ignoring Kyle-elf. Charles-the-mighty... he carried me to the trees while Kyle watched, wet with real elf tears that were incredible magic windows to his fucking elf-soul.

"You are walking backwards Charlie unicorn," I said and he said "Because your Kyle is one helluva lawn elf again," and I said, "Does that mean we will fuckaroni?"

"Shhhh!”

Charles hissed so I kissed his solid lips which tasted chocolaty and strangely had the shape of my favorite coffee mug, the brown glazed one I spent some money on. Kyle knew I was no angel, but I was a hard-headed woman like in the song and I kept things neat as a pin. Also, I liked men the way I liked the special kind of holiday M&M's... guilty and pretty.

Mainly I wanted to die in the forest with a unicorn, not in a hospital bed or on a medical chair, as all of the old people in my family had, between the last twenty Christmases. So I thought this was a step in the right direction.

Night Flower

You don't go to the party because you want to flower alone at night, and the color of your face is a shade off from young, and the trunk of your car is so easy to break into that you don't want to park anywhere.

You head back to your springy apartment missing the frustrating charm of night bugs, and because people would watch you enter the party naked in your clothing because this happened again, you wanted a man's body too much.

You refuse to buy bananas, they are retarded and bruise easily.

And you would not like the exit. You would not like to say "Bye, I'm leavin' a bit early here, so damn tired!" and nobody looking terribly sad. AND you go home early because his laugh makes you feel him in your cheap shower, soapy and relaxed... just what you would do with that if he were there too, but you can't.

You go home early because he won't do anything with what is staring him in the face. I mean, there is something not at all useful about it being there at the party.

Lily and the Jackalope

"My God," Lily said. "I think we are looking at the tracks of a beaver!"

Nature camping for Jesus, Arnold erected their tent within a hundred yards of the dam. They wanted to hear the blub-blub of water while they slept and held each other (fully-clothed).

Arnold bent down and examined the little claw marks in the ground.

Did beavers walk on land? Of course they didn't! But... it could be a raccoon, a possum, or another furry animal...

It was often hard for Arnold to think out of the box. Maybe Lily, a small-waisted woman, wanted him to frighten her. Maybe she wanted him to say something scary, flashy and daring. Something to mildly freak her out...

"My God!" Arnold cried.

"This is no beaver track! These are paw-markings of Jackalope! Look at this scrape, like a slit in the earth, right here? Look-it this! I kid you not!"

"Eeeek!" Lily said. "You are maybe very right!"

She secretly hated camping. A bit frightened at the rare possibility of Jackalope, she wrapped her coldish arms around Arnold's thick waist.

"Isn't it true, honey, that a Jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice? And that it lives in a mossy cave, a sort of rabbity dragon's lair?"

Her hands were clammy. She had to pee and tucked in her fanny. Geez, and there were no bathrooms, anywhere. She thought about Jesus and all of the stuff HE went through.

Lily was a smart woman, but it was a struggle for her to remain focused. Sometimes Lily got the mythical Jackalope confused with the murderous Bigfoot. Being a religious woman and a Republican made the concept of truth a confusing matter at times. She became a religious Republican after hitting her head during a traumatic accident involving falling out of a tilt-a-whirl in the early 1990's. The mild brain-damage she received on impact created a phony-sounding Scottish-brogue she never quite got over. This syndrome was called "Foreign Accent Syndrome,” and it tended to flair under emotional stress. If the Scottish accent didn't sound so phony, it may even be cute.

The only physical scar Lily sported from the traumatic head wound was a demure looking 'L' -shaped scar... a nearly elegant mark, for "Lily" on her forehead. She was lucky the gash had been so shapely. So much of life was fated by Jesus.

Unlike the myth of global warming -- the Jackalope was so real to her, Lily could feel the mythical beast devouring her fingernails. She could sort of, almost, touch it... nearly.

She hoped the accent would not bother Arnold... for she could feel it starting. Goose bumps from worry were beginning to pop all over her arms, and she could feel a moist spritzing of Scottish lilt inside her autonomic nervous-system. Suddenly, Lily imagined Arnold in a kilt.

Arnold said "If I recall, the Jackalope has a feedbag belly hole which can act as an explosive when threatened. Like a Muslim bomb."

Lily remembered the last time she devoured steamed clams, and with what gusto. Steamers were served at the Tea-Party Fundraiser in Dallas where she and Arnold met, and fell in love. They saw each other and could not stop staring. One of them (she could not remember which) started some silly conversation which led to chair scooting... Soon Lily and Arnold were sharing French bread, dunking it in each others clam sauce.

"The jackalope will drink its fill of whiskey in a person's hayloft and its intoxication will make it easier to hunt," Arnold said. Arnold was drinking beer. This was his third.

"In some parts of the United States it is said that the Honeypot Jackalope (the prettier type) has meat with a taste similar to snapper."

"To toads also? Mind you, it may resemble toad.. ye know," Lily said, winsomely. She had tasted breaded toad when she was a small girl, a pot-smoking, wayward Democrat. Those days were so long behind her, they felt like the Great Depression.

"No, no," he said.

"Pickle jar, maybe. Not toad. More like snapper."

He gave her a bashful, sideways smile. She scrunched up closer to Arnold.

"I fell fairt," Lily said. "Especially because I have eaten at Melissa's Mop Bucket and she promised me with haiver that what we were eating was Jackalope. Once you eat a Jackalope, mair prone, you are... to be eaten by one!"

"I will protect you, Lily," Arnold said. He imagined her with a warm, lovely rabbit muff in her arms. He wanted to be that rabbit muff for her. Poor Lily had never found a way to make good money, the kind of money it takes to buy muffs and trinkets, but she was a good sport about all of her hardships. "You are sweet as an auld pussycat," he said.

"You are too, Arnold."

"It uses this ability to elude pursuers, chiefly by using phrases such as "There he goes! That way!" Arnold said.

"Ae moment please!!" Lily said. "A dinna ken!"

"You know what, Lily-girl? This may be a no-no, but I would like you to start wearing Patchouli oil for me if you will. I like that on a girl. I will buy you some when we get back to town."

Lily smiled. She craved tamale, but did not say anything about it. For dinner, there would be shrink wrapped raisins and oat-bars. She imagined someday owning a velvet purse, dabbing patchouli oil on her neck. Of course, one who carried such pretty things could have it snatched. Life was a big gamble this way. Sad but true.

Still, it gave her hope that a real Jackalope lurked somewhere. And if a Jackalope could survive in this world...

"Arnold, Ach. Eef we are canny, afore we meet this Jackalope, I would like to take it home. Tame it!"

Arnold doubled over. This girl was bold. This girl was Scottish, too.

Giant Killer

We meet at a Divorced Devout's potluck. He is as cute as Jesus would have been after playing racquetball. Sweaty and ropey, smiling like a choir boy. This week I joined the group... a big step.

I sit on the same side of the picnic table as him, that first day. He has Jesus-blond hair, short and bird-fluffy.

How many men have I kissed right here in this very spot over the last forty years? One. Morris, who left me for an atheist waitress at Hooters. Now I am a middle-aged sinner.

He says his name is "Goliath." An adorable lie.

I fidget a bit, beat my foot to an old John Denver song "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy..." and continuously, look around behind me as we are being stalked by Lucifer.

An enormous sadness radiates from him. I want to gather him, break his bread and let it melt in my mouth. I want to make him forget his ex. I am wearing heels and stockings, a short yellow dress, which hugs my body. I adore men of a certain type-- this type. He is Jesus plus Meatloaf meets The Little Prince. Shorts, white T-shirt, pot-belly peaking out... a sexy rock-star curl to his lip.

I'm a townie. A lonely woman with a great love of unique pot-holders. I already want him.

I slide my face up close beside Goliaths' cheek and say what's that scent? It hardly matters what he answers -- he turns his head and gives me his business card. A-Promise Insurance, Bill Bithers, four phone numbers and three e-mail addresses. His eyelids are soft and sweet. Though he sells insurance, I am undaunted.

*

The next night I drive to his houseboat. He's invited me for celery and dip. He no longer has the same, fluffy hair. Butch as the devil himself. Athletic, creamy generous pectorals, unexpectedly vulnerable against his sea-captain tan. He is dominant; he will always be dominant. My Goliath.

I bend down, kiss him with lipsticked-lips.

We share a bottle and a half of Chianti, sitting on the deck of his houseboat, watching the twinkling island of Alcatraz.

Later, on his captain's cot, he moves against me like gently lapping water. I kiss his chin and taste celery dip. I slither my hand over his rock-candy-mountain. He playfully pushes my hand away. We are halfway-to-hell in a spinning-teacup; this is a game, we both know what is happening here. He is here... I am here...we are divorced and unholy and I am moist and perky as a peasant. He can have his way with me, because he is a giant-killer. Now! I rasp.

I won't break the good china! he squeaks. Nothing makes sense, which is fine.

Soft sleek digging hard moaning wide with want; my singing mouth is next to his deaf ear.

It's VERY OKAY!

Is this nice? Do you like this? Is this what you like?

Divorce has done its damage. I beg him to thrust his giant-killing club into my Dragon's Lair. He nods, kneels on the bed and skips into me with his staff, holds me like that for so long I can't wait for the songbook. I grab feverishly for his invisible hair with my hands.

He pushes and I am gasping full arched bodyless mindless somewhere else entirely. He rides the Christmas of me with his bishop. I am his prisoner; he has been here before. He has always been here and will always be here, keeping me on this exquisite edge; when I finally give it up, it is with a sob of relief, prayer and sorrow.

We lie in a tangle of non-alcoholic punch and limbs. His eyes are closed and he is far away in some other memory. We create a circle of energy. His skin tastes like rummage sales and Christmas bake-offs...

*

In the middle of the night, we wake to the sound of a fog horn or a text tone. Before I can stop myself, I am on top; he is under me and I am holding him close; Mr. Knish is instantly happier in my velvet donation box, which elevates my belief tenfold. When I sing Hallelujah he says to bring it down a bit, there are dogs in the neighboring houseboats.

I am ready again...or ready still...

We breathe together in some half dream of divorced pleasure. I am in his arms...it is late...

Giant killer! I know he will break my heart. The ending is already written into the beginning. Nobody can make us married again in the next half hour.

*

I drive home before dawn, catch the end of "The Trouble With Angels" on AMC. Before falling asleep, I give the cats a few treats. They have never seemed more ravenous.