Postcard Stories April 2016: Week Three

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April 15th 2016

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Helen Crawford

“A short story is a box that we climb into to be stimulated,” says George Saunders.

The woman sitting next to you imagines a kind of elevator, smooth-walled on all four sides with a mirror for a ceiling so she can see the place where the hair is beginning to thin above her forehead. She feels claustrophobic. She doesn’t much like George Saunders. She makes a sound like a wet fish with her tongue every time he swears or mentions another anthropomorphized food item. She would leave the lecture if there weren’t four largish people between her and the aisle’s end, if she didn’t have a horror of turning heads.

“A short story is a box that we climb into to be stimulated,” says George Saunders.

You cannot help but picture the enormous cardboard box which once contained your mother’s new fridge and the three days you spent inside it once in ’88 or ’87; the way you slept there on pillows, ate your meals off picnic plates and scrawled, with crayons, on the box’s sides, then rose on the third day like Christ himself, busting through the walls to get on with business.

 

April 16th 2016

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Orla McAdam

We are driving through downtown Grand Rapids in a friend’s car, borrowed for the evening. Beer is in us, and pulled pork sandwiches, our fingers still sweet and sticky with the juice. You are driving backwards and forwards over the various bridges looking for a freeway exit. You are distracting yourself with your own stories. I understand. I often do this myself.

“Once I met an elderly English couple on a flight from London,” you say. “let’s call them eighty. They were travelling to Florida. They’d spent their whole lives saving up for a trip to Disneyland. It was their life’s dream.”

We spend a silent moment idling at a stoplight. It is almost impossible not to consider our own life dreams and the way they have either slipped past us or caught like netted salmon.

“Do you think they were disappointed by Disneyland?” you ask and, and I say, “no,” because everyone’s life dream is peculiar to them like the taste inside their own mouth and will seem faintly ludicrous to the next person over.

“That’s good to hear,” you say, and I notice that we are back where we started on the other side of the same bridge.

 

April 17th 2016

Chicago

Hannah McPhillimy

Chicago is made of glass and mirrors so you come upon yourself suddenly in shards and brief segments at every street corner. Here are your legs in a shop window, and there, your feet. Then later, your face, frowning back at you in slices. You do not recognise yourself in this city. Sometimes you are upside down and on other occasions foiled and shining as if made of some molten robotic material such as aluminium or the inside of the Terminator, melted down.

In the evening, when the sun goes down it is a large golden egg yoking itself on the skyscraper’s crown. It spills its yellowness over walls and windows, parked cars and sidewalks. Then you are transfigured and, in this moment, holy as Christ himself. You and all the people walking the streets beside you.

 

April 18th 2016

Chicago

Fiona Berry

It was warm in America, warmer that the girl had ever felt before. The feel of it on her skin was like hairdryers or standing too close to the radiator every time she went outside. Where the girl came from warm was only a thing you could be inside, (or possibly outside if you wore a hot water bottle zippered into the lining of your anorak). It had been this way for so long that no one ever missed the idea of hear or sunny days anymore.

The girl, thinking she was doing a good thing, left all her clothes and toiletries and holiday gifts in the hotel bin, took her empty suitcase down to the park and filled it full of hot, hot sunshine. When she went to lift her suitcase the handle was so warm she had to wrap the end of her shirt round her hand like a kind of glove. She felt bad about the holiday gifts but was sure the people at home would appreciate the warm weather more than novelty key rings or baseball caps.

Somewhere over the Atlantic all the heat leaked out of her suitcase. When the girl got home and opened it there was nothing inside but cold emptiness. The girl was disappointed. Next time she brought the weather home with her she would be sure to use Tupperware, which would be tightly sealed against leaks.

 

April 19th 2016

Heathrow

Zoe McGrory

The Aer Lingus help desk is serviced by a man in a cobalt blue suit with glasses. His name is Alan. We can tell this from reading his name badge. He also has a mustache and brown shoes which do not go with his suit. This man is physically incapable of saying the word sorry. It is like a brick lodges in his throat every time he thinks about saying the word sorry. He has no problem saying other similar words such as “soapy” or “lorry.” This is strange. It is only “sorry” which makes him feel as if his tongue has fallen off. This man really wishes to say the word sorry. He is so embarrassed by his own inability to apologize that he walks up and down behind the Aer Lingus help desk speaking loudly into his mobile phone which is clearly out of battery. He hopes we will think he is busy and that we will instead approach the other Aer Lingus representative, whose name is Karen. She is fully capable of saying the word sorry though sometimes she doesn’t feel like it. In his head the man is saying, “sorry, sorry, sorry,” to everyone of us passengers but no words ever come out. We glare at him like he is a bad, bad person: Donald Trump for example, or Hitler. We do not know he cannot say sorry. We think he is just being rude.

 

April 20th 2016

Botanic Primary, Belfast

Emily DeDakis

“Does anyone have a memory of Botanic Gardens they’d like to share?” you ask and the little boy at the front desk – the same little boy who’s answered every question so far- raises his hand and waves it wildly beneath your nose.

“Yes,” you say, “speak up now so the girls at the back can hear.”

You needn’t have bothered encouraging him. Off he goes like crosstown traffic.

“I was in the gardens one day and a man threw his cigarette in the leaves and the leaves went on fire. Whoosh! And then the trees and the grass and then everything was on fire and the whole of Botanic Gardens burnt down!”

The entire class turns instinctually to look out the window. Across the playground the gardens are still there, green as God imagined them and just beginning to bloom.

“Thank you for sharing,” you say to the boy, and truly mean it. You were planning to teach the class about historical fiction but now you don’t have to bother.

 

April 21st 2016

Cork

Scott Jamison

There is a man in a butcher’s uniform pushing a whole side of raw beef down Cork High Street. The meat is carefully balanced on a large waiter’s trolley. It is not even covered. I am the only one staring at this man, wondering about hygiene and propriety and the tourists who might be turned by the sight of so much blood this early on a Thursday morning.

In the market, at the fishmonger’s, I come across a picture of the Queen examining a tray of halibut and cod. Next to her is a great white shark, sheer-toothed and grinning as if about to swallow her majesty whole. No one seems to find this distasteful either. Perhaps people are not so squeamish in Cork. Perhaps they are simply too hungry to care.

 

 

 

 

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