Christian Bell:
Selections from Thinly Sliced Raw Fish

18: Three Christians

At a jazz bar sipping cider, he overhears the guy behind him say his name is Christian, just like his. He turns around, says, that’s funny, that’s my name. The other Christian points to the guy next to him, says, he’s not Christian but his best friend was. The guy pulls up the sleeve of his shirt, reveals a heart-shaped tattoo bearing the name, his friend now dead. There’s a moment, three connected strangers, perhaps it’s spiritual, then the crowd returns, a swell of voice. The player on stage strums the bass, keeping time, holding the tune.

21: Something Borrowed

Here’s a book to borrow. I know that for you “borrow” is actually keep, since you won’t return it. This isn’t part of your chemistry. Please be kind to it. The pages are thin like a telephone book and the cover is glossy and black, displaying oily fingerprints. The plot is convoluted but the characters are like neighbors who would lend you spices, help change your oil. Please do not write in it. The margins are for your fingers to draw rectangles, your mind to have clear space.

30: The Writer There

The writer there. You mean the one inspecting tidbits of dust, trying to find paintings in the sky? Yes, that’s the one, go.

31: Grabbing the Moon

You tried grabbing the moon when I was holding you, arm outstretched, small hand clutching for night sky. I laughed, said, you can do it, and there it was in your palm, opaque ball humming like an electric heart.

34: Near the Pond Fishing

Years before we stood near the pond fishing, day fading into night. In one moment the air brushed the water surface. No voices, no sounds, except crickets, frogs, leaves. The splashing of water, the whirring of pulled line. Hey, I caught one, you said. I turned and you were gone.

40: The Dilemma of the Modern Writer,
Perhaps Solved

Where the others failed is length. He taps away, tap tap tap. The distractions of other people, the accumulation of baggage—there’s just not time so no. Here’s a brilliant observation. Look at the churning and spitting of the modern age, minute news cycles. Here’s pretense, artistic license. He gives a character, a situation, a complication. Don’t look and presto. Here’s a trite ending.

41: The Chinese Restaurant

The maitre d’ shouts, “Seinfeld, Four!” No one comes, so I approach, say, I’m Seinfeld. Sea bass special tonight—very fresh, he says. We follow him to a table, sit, ponder the menu. At drinks, a woman walks in, shouting for Seinfeld. Right this way, the maitre d’ says. I can hear her fuming—feet stomping, plastic and metal pieces clanging in her jacket, purse. Crab rangoon, sea urchin and spinach over noodles. She’s coming full force, steam pouring from angry head. We’ll be skipping on the bill so, as her wrecking ball purse goes airborne, what’s it matter. 

44: A Bad Day

You said, today was a day that didn’t smile. Asleep the sky shatters, cries confetti. A sunny day without sun. How? Ghosts wander dust-coated streets searching for lost souls, the way home from madness. You bury your face in my arm, cry. Why? Asleep then awake. Now you’re someone else.

47: Come As You Were

A shotgun is a shotgun, a rule never broken. There’s a person running across a field to tell the story to two more. It spreads. The moment dies in lit candles, mourning, those songs played on stereos. Everyone grows up. In your mind you can always revisit. In your mind there’s the moment, scratchy voices, beautiful boy gone away. 

49: Transcriber

She wrote by hand their book of revolution. A man emerges from the sea. The colonel sees her in the chair, sitting erect, staring straight ahead. Smooth skin the color of wet sand. Young, she could be his daughter. He imagined her hands of concrete bone moving across pages, leaving ink trails. The man from the sea. He is the end. Her piano player’s fingers—they’d have to be bent, broken, rendered unusable. He laughs. Through the open window a jeep backfiring, scents of sea water, pork roasting in a pit.

57: Fit of Frustration

We come to the show armed liked Mossad.  Start a mosh pit.  Your hidden bottles clank.  We know the band.  At first, they point and wave, but then they ignore us.  We get rowdy and stumble.  We get tossed.  You wander off, loose in the city.  I find you slumped over in a dark moldy doorway.  I pick you up, arm over my shoulder and a combat injury walk to the car, flop you into the backseat.  Drive home in dream.  We have no pictures.  We can’t prove we were there.  

31, 34, 41, 44  first appeared at Escape into Life.

Christian Bell lives near Baltimore, Maryland. His fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Pindeldyboz, Skive Magazine, flashquake, Rumble Magazine, JMWW Quarterly, and Camroc Press Review, among other places. He has a blog at imnotemilioestevez.blogspot.com, and his Thinly Sliced Raw Fish works have appeared at his companion blog, thinlyslicedrawfish.blogspot.com

1 comment:

  1. Your finest. That you keep this up is amazing and so entertaining.