3 Stories
by Girija Tropp

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Undeserved Gift

What you get from those strangers on a bus when they shake your hand -- clap to the forehead -- and you remember clipped wings -- a blue jersey, a fallen favorite -- and you don't romp at all believing this is reserved for the unthinking -- and who are they, these children disturbing the way people ought to behave? With the sound of the river blocked from view, the hum of electricity, at one point, the ululation so similar that one from the other is unclear. The bus heads for the light until it has to fuel-stop at a market where the sun is wearing ceramic beads over a steel archway. A gunman rips away the timetable and says, "All over." At seventeen, this sort used to be a lover, handlebar arms and egg-white eyes. You think of tanning lotion. Hovering over your body, you are delighted not to have to take any trouble for a breath.


I twisted my head up to see the hound. We were on the top floor and the wind was strong; tree branches blowing askew. The hound seemed uncaring about being away from the ground. While I was looking, it fell and landed with a BOOM on a gargantuan branch, lay on its back, dead. The shock went through my body, BOOM.

The cold front moved in rapidly. The weather bureau predicted, hail. Everyone tried to convince the patsy, a skinny man on a pritikin diet, to go to market, saying that last week's washout was history. We needed cilantro.

Two groups of friends who had gathered in the top floor appartments, celebrating. Boom, I said, and held my breath.

My sinus had gone. I used to sit in bed unable to breathe, unable to understand people who slept without breathing. This guy I knew, a radio announcer, would eat hash cookies and we fucked all night. And then he got sinus.

Everyone was into themselves. I was not sure about the decision to fly, or if I began flying without making a grand plan. My mother told me to finish my studies by 21 because then I could do whatever with the rest of my life, even party. But when she said party, she wasn't referring to fucking.

A friend, a great man, told us to do a trust exercise, motioned to come up the front. He was going to fall backwards and I was going to catch him. I couldn't but he would not take no for an answer. He was most upset when he hit the ground.

What I realized about the flying episode was that it was about focus. But flying was unnatural to bipeds so if I wanted to plan anything, I might have to try for something else, like World Peace, within reason.

Experience showed how the human body handled routine. I stood at the window with my hot chocolate and looked at the dead hound. A parakeet was sidling along the branch, pretending nothing amiss.

The radio announcer sent me an invitation to his wedding. He was marrying a poet. I imagined him fucking a poet. One of my friends said, How come she can be magic but not hang onto her DJ?

Flying past a bedroom where he fucked the poet, I found there was nothing lyrical about jealousy. Yet, it made sense that he would go where he was wanted. I could keep the house, the dead hound, the parakeet. I put the bird in a cage and brought it in from the rain.

Everyone rose to their feet and clapped as I flew past, hugging the windows; I saw that the building was becoming a tree; only our floor remained intact. It would only be a matter of time before we turned into oxygen.

Glandular Fever

When the monster comes to visit, he is dressed the same way as us, casual, but he speaks like an actor. "I had me a dream," he says, "of being free." Mother runs her tongue over dry lips. "We could talk territory," she says. He ignores her and looks at me. "There is no need to pretend, I can see you clearly." Baby sister waves a chicken drumstick in the air. The monster takes the bone from her and strips it of any remaining meat which he feeds back to her. Then he crunches up the bone in his very-human-looking mouth. I am the one who invoked the monster.

Not so long ago, a stick figure of myself began to appear in the forest. By forest, I mean a dark space. The stick figure was being terrorized by a demon--it rode stick figure like a jockey, and the demon was being hunted by the monster who in turn was burdened by a cage wrapped around his foot in a way no metal worker could hope to break.

The stick figure bothered me. I felt responsible. I felt I ought to do something. But I didn't like dark spaces.

I went on vacation for the first time to a place where there was a lot of light. Initially, I was excited and then I was uncomfortable since I was sure there was a dark space somewhere around and the fact that I couldn't see it was ominous.

When I got back, I rushed to the forest but the stick girl was not there. Neither was there a demon or a monster. The forest stuck to my skin and fell into my mouth.

In the morning, the dark space was inside all the people I knew. I could feel the stick girl moving under my skin. The monster rang. On the other end of the line, I could hear a soft drumming. "I am coming to dinner," he said.