Wine and Fire

still the best

The wooden blades of the fan chopped at the clunky summer air. Nealy and Alli sat in a booth. Alli could see the night outside the window: grocery flyers caught the breeze and got stuck on trash cans. She sat under the warm lamplight, in Nate’s Papaya Dogs.

They ate soft, flaky pancakes, dipped in syrup, the late-night breakfast special. “I love this place,” Nealy said, putting another bite in her mouth. She was wearing a fuchsia button-down shirt, with the collar open. A twine necklace, with a shark’s tooth on it, dangled from her neck. She wore a delicate, twisting silver ring on her right, index finger.

Nealy sipped her coffee, black. The rolls and waves of her orange hair lay on her forehead, damp with sweat. She took an Altoids tin out of the pocket of her chinos and rolled a cigarette with a sprinkle of tobacco. Alli watched her tap the first embers in the cerulean ashtray on the table.

“So, you didn’t go to Peary,” Alli asked and didn’t ask. It came out like a statement.

“No, I went surfing in California instead,” Nealy said. She took a drag on her cigarette, and puffed the smoke ceiling-ward, where the wisps were cut up by the fan. The waiter brought another plate of sausages and whisked Nealy’s half-eaten plate away.

“Why?” Alli wondered, “I thought you wanted to go.”

“I did,” Some ash fell from the butt of the cigarette, crumbling on the table, “But I realized that I wanted to stay with you more.”

Alli looked up from the checkered pattern, covered by some acrylic plastic, to protect against stains and spills.

“I realized I wanted to be with you,” Nealy folded her hand over Alli’s on the table. Her hand was fleshy and solid, wider than Alli’s, “We’re going to go to college together.”

Alli let the warmth of Nealy’s hand sink into hers, let it flow down, into her heart. The feeling buoyed her up. Her head felt like a helium balloon.

“I didn’t know you cared,” Alli whispered.

Nealy exhaled through her nose, the smoke billowing upward. “I always cared,” she exhorted, holding Alli’s hand.

They stared into one another’s eyes. Cars rolled down the street, speeding toward Downtown, past the two figures sitting in the café window.

the physical is secondary to the mental


Pat Benatar – “Love is a Battlefield”

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Sacred_Grove_InnerThe clouds above were roiling and gray. The wind tore through the trees, ripping off small branches. An untethered, rotted tennis court net flapped in the wind. Alli walked across the leave-strewn hardcourt.

A house loomed, lopsided and in disrepair. Alli entered through the familiar red door, swinging off its hinges, hanging by a screw.

She strode down the long corridor. The hall was lined with crumbling Corinthian pillars, some with whole chunks smashed out of them. The rest of the room opened out on both sides of her – broken windows letting in the cold, shattered mirrors, reflecting nothing.

Water from the afternoon rain poured down from holes in the ceiling. The cataracts framed the room, like the off-white pillars, stained with mildew. Streams sluiced through the ruined floor, irrigated by cracks in the tiles.

Nealy stood at the far end of the room, in her beige suit, smoking a cigar. She inhaled the exhaled smoke back into her nostrils. Her eyes glinted in the darkness at the far end of the room, away from the daylight streaming through the many gashes in the house – a sudden shift of light in the background, like the quick flare of flaming ash. Whorls of smoke twisted away into the blackness.

“Did you bring it?” she asked, spitting out a piece of tobacco.

“Yes,” Alli said, hefting the ax from behind her.

Nealy stood out of the way. Behind her, in the inkiest depths, in a shallow pool of water, was a blue and black beast, a cockatrice at least the length of a Winnebago. Its leathery wings unfolded at regular intervals, but it was wounded, conserving its movements.

“Get rid of it,” Nealy said. She turned away, toward the distant remnants of a torn-out window pane, taking a deep drag on her cigar.

The wyvern’s neck heaved in a useless bucking motion. Its teeth clacked as it opened and closed its jaw impotently. It couldn’t shapeshift anymore – it didn’t have enough energy. It was a dark avatar, frozen in that form.

The constant patter of water flowing down from the roof was all Alli heard. The whole house exuded the essence of soaked, dead wood, forgotten splinters. Alli smelled, at the edge of her consciousness, a bright, green whiff of Honduras. She raised the ax.Poe_Artwork_(Ocarina_of_Time)


Beyoncé – “Crazy in Love (Remix)”