“Freak”
by Nicole Miller

This person I was feeding myself to – in order to pay out everything I had, told me to try to lie sort of still. Try not to let it all work loose at once, he said.

He didn’t approve of the way things had got themselves bowled into corners and exposed to the air, which is unseemly, which can hasten the appearance of rust and otherwise make things go stale.

I wanted to know what he did with it all. An accurate accounting, in precise terms, was all I wanted. How otherwise to perform the requisite acts of loving and hating – how better to mete out my mind?

This person resisted the strict rule of measure in favor of just-as-much-as-you-can-stand. What he did with it all, he couldn’t say. How it worked itself, worm-wise, into the gold fillings of his teeth and portions of his spine; the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems; the whole armature and equipment of the blood as well as his nostrils and his moral sense, remained a live question. He was unwilling to offer an account of what I sold at a loss, preferring, he said, to call it a gift.

His main complaint was the voluntary flight of objects toward places they have no business loving. I’d say he’s right. It’s like this: if you have three things, the full volume of your stock, you can generally trust them to find a way to part themselves from you along the narrowest possible margin of profit. Or if they aren’t insured (so much isn’t, these days).

What will it take, I hear him asking, to get you to straddle my needs just a little more tightly? How can I put this, he says. I’m going to need you to come down lower.

No mention of what I otherwise bring to the table: what textures and colors and olfactory pleasures.

Lower, he says, and more in one spot.

Don’t wish for things you don’t want, I tell him. I know you think this is some dumb tautology, I say, but it’s not.

One day, we went to a company picnic. Like everyone else, we brought something to put on the grill and also something to keep on ice. We played volleyball with a net staked to the ground beside the creek. It’s not as fun when no one’s willing to keep score. I kept score, but softly, to myself.

I don’t know why they thought to put the net there. Anyone could see what would happen, with the net where it was and us who we were – with that kind of aim and besides, all that beer.

Do I have to tell you, then, how or why the ball went where it did? Do I need to get down quite that small?

Still:  I wouldn’t call it our fault.

That’s just not how I want the world to work. I have such little faith in else.

Someone went to retrieve the ball from where it had pinned itself between a branch and one of those moss-slick stones, sort of nodding there in the current. Sort of suffering, there, for ballast.

Someone thought to tether himself to the bank, not because he couldn’t trust the brook; he didn’t want to trust himself.

Don’t you see how a thing will feed itself to whatever it finds for loft and momentum?

That clatter in the alley is the going through of the trash by something trying to make itself a meal.

 

 

Nicole Miller’s fiction has appeared in the journals Underwater New YorkImageAlaska Quarterly Review, and NANO Fiction. She lives and writes in Brooklyn.