BrickStoneTileConcrete || JW Burns

Successive proposals, one arched eyebrow, two arched eyebrows, slight catch on one side of his upper lip. Then it was gone. The brick remained, a brick wall, bits of hair embroidered over the top.

That man at the next table, hand clenching a glass, sweat rolling down his index knuckle.

“Freckles.” He’d said it without thinking but was immediately glad to have said something.


“Those freckles.”

“My freckles?” Her fork rushed to judgment, stabbing a piece of chicken shaped somewhat like a jagged South America.

“Yeah.” He waited until the meat disappeared into the wet cavern swarm-ing with teeth. “They’re tremendous.” His grin just this side of fidgety which he assumed was far better than a gulp.

Besides the man at the next table was a voluminous swallower, washing everything down with twin bolts of amber liquid.



“Should I mail you?”

“Please do.”

Squinting with pleasure, she was nonetheless careful not to over prepare the orchestra in her torso, baton poised, the air spellbound.

From the next table, short multiple belches.

Hers more a small gasp which he ignored, humming along with the invisible violin as if he were reclining in a small, sturdy boat on a pond in the late afternoon. Zest renewed, she rewards effort galore with a nibble of romaine tipped by an olive ringlet. They split the one fiery dessert on the menu, a mor-tar for what they seemed to be building between them.

His father had remained in the 1940’s well into the 1970’s when he died. His last moments were a mishmash of musical numbers from that decade cou-pled with earnest endorsements for soap powder and fast-acting laxatives. He found his father’s death irksome from making funeral arrangements to dressing for the graveside service, finally settling for a black suit, open collar Hilo Hattie shirt and lime green sneakers to accent the stitched-together quality of his memories of the old man.

Standing there on a hill in a tiny breeze near a fence, he studied the willows and an algae-coated lake on the other side of the fence for a long time. When he returned to that spot a few months later, the willows were bare and the lake glistened. On this visit he concentrated on the headstone. It was easy to pulverize the letters into a kind of gray pudding which he could stomach in small bites. Finally his eyes closed and his head drooped.

When he opened his eyes he was in a meeting. Looking at the people seat-ed around the oval table he quickly decided one could wallpaper the intrigue rampant in this high-rise room.

“What we are dealing with…” The post-guttural explanation spanning the oropharynx and reaching round a mound of puffy epiglottis before teetering under frail palatal arches and regaining a robust chrome-soaked character in the oral cavity. “…will not be held captive…” Another creature who, speaking, takes on a life wholly his own: Godzilla of muscular tongue torque revving to mash cars, buses, buildings, screeching humanity en masse. “…no earthly reason…” Bracing to ram through a blockade of molars and incisors, this blastospheric liability expands to a compelling force against the gingivae before bursting through the teeth and whirling off lips swelling to explode, splintering everyone with piercing shards.

He finds the restroom intact, resists the urge to lie on the floor and roll his loose round shoulders on the elegant tile.

If an airship bobs above Serengeti vistas at midday or lurks behind the Eiffel Tower just at sunset, it’s a safe bet he won’t be aboard. More a pavement man he almost always walks to his lunch between noon and one p.m. There’s a freedom to the movement, more because he’s outside, the air unraveling, thoughts of the morning fleeing his brain like angels scattering from the corpse of a pathologically radiant Christ. As the sun sets he strolls through the urban ravines as these change from light to dark, his shoes weathering the magnetic sidewalk.

This was originally published in Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.


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