Lucy Corin

THREE OF A HUNDRED APOCALYPSES


Sesame
Two lovers stood at the door to Aladdin’s cave.  They’d been at it forever.  They each believed they were still in love, if only they could think of the right thing to say.  They remembered magic words from childhood.  But this was an apocalypse, so no such luck.  They stood in their bodies at the door to the cave, admiring the workmanship behind a door that fit a cave.  One of them thought about man and nature.  Then one of them took her clothes off and struck a pose, shivering.  An old lady came hobbling along in a cloak with a basket and offered them a million dollars from it if they’d do it right there in front of her.  They did it and she gave them the million dollars, and they pushed it through the mail slot but the door still didn’t open.  I mean what were they going to do with the gold and jewels if they got in there anyway if not fence it?  They were going to run it through their fingers and put golden vessels over their heads like helmets to crack each other up.  They weren’t even going to come out of the cave, and they weren’t going to let anyone else in, either, no matter what they said, no matter what they shoved through the slot.  Then another old lady came along in a cloak with a basket and they said, “what’s in your basket?”  The old woman said, “bread,” and suddenly the lovers were so hungry they offered to do it right there in front of her if she’d give them the bread, but the woman just rolled her eyes and hobbled off muttering about the arrogance of young people.

Taken
My father got really into UFOs.  He’d talk about it at dinner, about how he wanted to be taken.  I’d be freaked out that Martians were going to take my dad and he’d sit there with the chicken and pout because they weren’t going to take him.  He’d had a vasectomy and they have to do those experiments.  There was always a sense that something was going to happen in the house.  There was real fear of poverty.  Always bomb shelter mode, the stocking of the shelves with cans of food, because my father had grown up super poor, so he’d be really afraid if there wasn’t cans of peas on the shelf in the garage.  Like we had two refrigerators and he had to see a certain level of food.  I have a lot more fear as I get older about everything.  My parents were both half-assed about different religions so that trickled down to about a quarter, but it did its job.  I was freaked out about the scapula and the Lord’s prayer.  The string for around your neck is piece of shit pleather and one night it broke and I remember just lying in bed putting the string on top of me.  Evidence I was trying.  A ticket stub.  Airplanes when they crash, they just go down and down.  Like because you bought that ticket.  It’s the way they keep going down that gets me.  Maybe they made that phone call to their loved one. 
     I never want the apocalypse to happen. 
     Polar bears clinging to ice, all that shit, my worst nightmare.  Being separated.  I am so afraid of not being together.

Hangings
Already this year he had inherited the clothes of two famous dead people.  At least one had killed himself, and he knew both tertiarily.  This current one, a third, was his wife’s mentor, and he and his wife had gone to visit the widow where she’d holed up in a house by the sea.  In evening seashore light, the dead mentor’s wife looked at his wife across the broad planks of the table, in a room filled with rugs and masks from around the world.  He was walking around looking at the masks while women were talking quietly, when he heard the woman say something to his wife about his “frame.”  He thought about picture frames, was his body a frame, or was his body in a frame (skin as frame?); was his skeleton his frame, and what’s that all about, inner beauty, what you hang it on?  There was framed art in other rooms of the house, but in this room it was just the masks.  He thought about his face: his brain behind his face thinking about his face.  He was not good with people the way his wife was, but he was just as smart.  There were a lot of good places to hang yourself in this house, though he knew it had happened at the place in the city. 
     “At least have him try the suits,” the woman, the wife of his wife’s mentor, was saying.  “They’re here, in the closet upstairs.”  Hanging, everyone thought.  “I have someone for the sweaters,” she said, using the words as a decoy.  He thought of himself in the dead man’s sweaters, perhaps six of them one over another, gray and brown, bulging, soundproofing his chest.  He had the sweaters of another famous man already, buried in a closet in the hall at home. 
      The man who’d been promised the sweaters had been there for brunch.  Now he stood in the hedges watching the women talk and the man poke his finger into the eye of a mask and touch the wall behind it.  The man had been in the same cohort as the wife.  They’d been rivals for the mentor’s attention and occasional lovers, and the dead mentor had used them to challenge each other.  The dead mentor had often been unfaithful to his wife.  The mentor’s wife had been unfaithful to him only once, years before her husband even started his conduct, and this had been with the man in the hedges.  At lunch, the man in the hedges had said, “All I want are his sweaters.  I loved him too, you know.  Not like you, but he was a very important figure in my life.”  Then word ‘figure’ hung in the room, under the broad rough roof beams.  A breeze came up the dunes, through the hedges and the window, and sketched squiggly lines around their heads.  She thought about the word figure, about her body, what it could possibly mean to reason with it, with the body, once and for all.  Only after he’d hung himself did so many people he’d fucked come out of the woodwork.  Men, women, old people, young people.  Loved, too, she suspected, some of them.  Her husband had had a lot of meaning, she kept being reminded.  She’d told the man in the hedges, as she put marmalade onto a muffin she was not going to eat, that she’d think about the sweaters or if there might be a better choice for him.  “A special book?” she suggested.  “A piece of art?  Something small?”  The man said that back in the day you could smoke, and the mentor had worn his sweaters and smoked all through class, letting butts pile up on the floor by his chair in the seminar room, so involved with what his students were thinking that it never crossed his mind to use the ashtray that sat on the table next to the case for his glasses.  “That’s what it’s all about, in the end,” he’d said to the wife.  “What we’ve done to each other up here.”  He tapped the side of his head, tap, tap, as if it were fruit.  The wife couldn’t help it:  “Figures,” she said.  She’d be glad for him to take the sweaters.
      The women faced each other across the broad plank table.  The man watched them through the window, comparing the women’s bodies to each other, and his own body to the body of the other man, who took a mask off the wall and put it over his face, and scanned the room through its eyes.  The women looked deeper and deeper into each other’s eyes.  They both started to well up with emotion.  They reached their hands across the table to each other.  One of them sniffed, to shake the feeling.  The other one said, “Where were we?”  Then the man in the mask saw the man in the window and yelped.  He dropped the mask and it bounced once and then wobbled like a coin, but when he shot his eyes back to the window, he didn’t see anything except the hedge, and the moon above, and the dunes beyond it.  He’d almost forgotten they were at the sea.  He looked down at the mask and thought it must have made him see something that hadn’t really been there.  Hang it all, he thought.  He’d never met the dead man, but he felt a longing for him, and when he looked at those women so deep in each other’s eyes, so filled with longing, he wanted very much to have the suits or anything else the dead man had left to offer.  He looked forward to wearing them as any other clothes are worn, into the future, time doing its quiet business along the seams.

 

 

 

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Lucy Corin is the author of the story collection The Entire Predicament and the novel Everyday Psychokillers:  A History for Girls.  New fiction appears in American Short Fiction.  She's recording the process of writing her new novel on her website www.lucycorin.com where you can also find links to other apocalypses.

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