Sunday 23 October 2016

Get ready to be enchanted: Today in Writing in a Woman's Voice: Three flash pieces from Susan Tepper's mesmerizing

From the Umberplatzen: A Novella in linked-flash by Susan Tepper

Kitty Kat we should get married. I can’t. Why not he said. Well for one thing I’m still married. Oh that. M had shrugged. But not in Germany. We were strolling through the springtime Umberplatzen. M suggested we marry right there. Right in this spot he said. Tapping the ground with his foot. You could wear a filmy dress. See-through I said. Not quite said M. And we could both wear wreaths of Umberplatzen. Imagine how nice. I could tell he was serious. It caused my neck to constrict. I said I don’t want Umberplatzen in my hair. It could have gnats. Besides it all sounds Grecian movie style. What’s wrong with Grecian movie style.  Nothing. But. But. But what Kitty Kat. I began feeling exasperated. Saying let’s go shopping. For a filmy dress said M. No. For toilet paper and dish soap and other things we need. Well did you make a list. And it was like the wedding subject floated away. And all at once I wanted it back. I wanted to see a filmy dress. Touch it. Try it on. Pirouette at the mirror. Ok I said. Ok what. I’ll get the dress. Really. No. You have no stars left he said. When we met you were all stars. They have fizzled and fallen to earth I said. Pity. Then let’s get drunk said M. So we did. We drank outside on the boathouse café veranda. When it got cooler we drank inside the café. We had schnitzel when it got dark. Salad with cucumber. See said M. This could be our wedding food. And what color for the dress I said. Your skin tone. Pale pinky beige. Today he sends a pale filmy scarf. Observe it’s the color of your skin says the post-it note. Wear it when you take me to bed he has also written.

Our first New Year’s Eve we didn’t go out. Our plan had been to meet some friends but M cancelled last minute. He didn’t want to leave the parakeet alone. The other one had died a few weeks before. I said you are kidding me right. He’d named the green one Cher. M said I can’t leave Cher without Sonny. Not on New Year’s Eve. But I got all dressed up I said. I had. Black velvet dress with skinny straps. High heels. Fake diamond earrings. We’ll have it here with Cher he said. Look I bought champagne and red caviar. Then I knew it wasn’t last minute. But I really wanted to go out I said. I wanted it festive. Our first and all that. M had stood beside the birdcage looking hurt. It’s always festive with us Kitty Kat. I know I know. But I wanted ultra-festive. I had kicked off my heels and slumped on his couch. Something sticking in my back. I pulled a kite handle from between the cushions. This is what I mean I said. Holding the handle out to him. I wanted it different. Don’t you understand. I wanted to be kissed under confetti at midnight. M clapped his hands. I have an idea he said. At midnight we’ll kiss under the Umberplatzen. It’s too cold I said. We’ll kiss here. It will be fine. Better than fine said M. Today I get a box of confetti in the mail. It’s every color and looks so lonely.

One day I was hanging on the couch while M attempted to clean up his flat. You have to sell some of these kites I said. I’d rather sell my first born said M. You don’t have one to sell. Well this is true he said wrestling with an armload of silk bolts. Held that way with all the colors I wanted to take his photo. No he said. Acting moody. That’s twice you’ve said no to me. He continued moving bolts from one spot to another. That’s not how to clean up I said. Cleaning up is about removal. You have to get some of this stuff out of here. M dropped the bolts and sat beside me. It isn’t easy he said. Well of course not. Cleaning up is never easy. Not that he said. It’s giving up anything. I can’t do it. It feels like amputation. Oh for godsakes. I sat there laughing. That is so drama queen. But he didn’t laugh back. He put his head against the couch and shut his eyes. Let’s get out of here I said. Let’s take a walk in the Umberplatzen. The daffodils are in full bloom. I don’t feel well he said. It must be your amputation. And I laughed again. M had remained very still on the couch. He didn’t speak. I tickled him but he turned his body away. Then he opened his eyes. Told me I needed to become more responsible. I will I said. I got up and went back to my own flat. I turned off the phone ringer. Late that night he pounded on my door. I refused to open it. Shouts from other tenants in the building. At last he went home. M sends a lock of hair in a number 9 envelope. It’s not his hair which is quite dark. This is coarse beige hair like straw. The post-it says from the carousel horse in the Umberplatzen. I hold it up to the sun and feel the movement.

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From the Umberplatzen, a novella in linked-flash fiction, was published in 2012 by Wilderness House Press.

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