Well, it was a good idea, but forcing myself to write a story everyday took on a feeling that too closely resembled force feeding when I simply wasn’t hungry. The stories created from my failed project are ones I’m surprisingly fond of and hope to expand and edit further. It wouldda couldda been an excellent exercise, but some days I just don’t feel that necessary spark to hit the pavement.
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
“I’ll have uhh…hana of that,” Kevin pointed at the menu filled with symbols of undecipherable text.
“I thought you were vegetarian,” Shin Ji Won asked, pronouncing veggie “bay-gee.”
“I am,” he responded, sensing through the implication of her question that he most likely just ordered the entire head of a pig, the feet of a chicken and/or the stomach lining of a cow stuffed with several other meats and referred to lovingly as a delicacy. She giggled at his mistake and told him not worry.
“I ordered kimchi jigae, so we trade.”
Though he had no idea what jee-gay was, he was well-acquainted with kimchi. It was impossible to set foot in Korea and not be made keenly aware of kimchi’s presence, its unmistakable scent being breathed into the air by citizens at all hours of the day and night, weaving its tangy smell permanently into every cloth fiber draped from the shoulders of businessmen in polished suits and age-defying supermodel women in short, figure hugging dresses that walk along every single sidewalk and live around every corner.
Kevin, like most men that discover utopia crossing the road at every intersection in Seoul, found it impossible not to be taken aback by the women that surrounded him. Shin Ji Won was, he thought, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen until he realized that he had been seeing her everywhere he went. There was a Shin Ji Won at the Family Mart and there she was waiting to catch the subway at Sadang station and then he saw her again in the park with an iced coffee or maybe it was a black tea in her hand. He saw another woman just like her, but with slightly longer legs and daring to done slightly taller heels, sharing with a friend food eaten with sticks at a cart operating out in the heat of the summer night. Women like Shin Ji Won were understandably rare to him in the middle America town he spent his whole life growing up in, but in Korea she was almost every woman and this understandably shocked him.
“Do you like? Not too spicy?” She eagerly asked in the middle of devouring the tuna fried rice he had apparently ordered for her.
“It’s really good. A little spicy, but not too much,” he replied much to her chagrin.
“Really!? Wow!” She appeared both impressed and surprised to have found a waygookin not overwhelmed by the standard flavor of Korean cuisine–hot.
“So, you like kimchi? That’s very good. Kimchi very good for health and important to Korean diet.”
Kevin noticed and found adorable the way she left out certain articles when talking. He knew this was a natural occurrence for some when speaking a foreign tongue, it certainly happened to him whenever he used the Spanish he learned in high school, but he had yet to understand that this was also a complicated and logical language mishap for Koreans learning English as their language lacked most of the articles he was so accustomed to.
“Mmmm, yes. Kimchi very good and very delicious.”
He also recognized his own English language skills deteriorating in conversations where he took on this broken English way of conversing with other Koreans, despite his employment being dependent upon a proficiency in such skills. It was also rather rude and nonsensical to raise the volume of his voice and speak in minimalistic, butchered phrases whenever forced to ask Koreans questions in English, but this was something that he always acknowledged only once everything had been said. “BAR SOAP, HAVE YOU?!” he had shouted at an older female employee at E-Mart before the woman pointed to the bottom shelf and told him “it’s right there sir,” successfully making him feel like an idiot and an asshole for the rest of that afternoon.
“You want more?” She was already shouting joe-gee-yo to grab the attention of the fierce women working the kitchen and it sounded as though she had ordered them an entire feast, again. This seemed to be the way they do it here, he thought.
In time he would understand some of what she had shouted to the women laboring over the delights of his stomach and would be able to read the menus to discern what fit into his difficult-to-maintain vegetarian diet. In time he would be able to order dinner for both of them and to appropriately show his appreciation for the women playing with spices and fire. For now though, he reveled in this moment in which he sat with the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen in a place where the nights grew bright with neon and where, instead of calling him Kevin, the people called him waygookin.
Everything Will Be Fine
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
As a young girl, Allie roamed the overgrown garden of her home’s backyard jungle with a fervor, weaving her way through mysterious green, growing things and setting her bare-feet footprints in every available square inch in hopes that the soil would harden like clay, leaving her presence permanently there.
One afternoon, with the sun burning red her fair tinted shoulders, Allie spotted a bright, shining glare coming from the sun’s reflection on something sticking out of the ground and it was then that she knew she had led herself to treasure. Crouching down and clawing her long slender fingers at the hot dirt, Allie found a heart of faded gold, covered in earth’s gunk.
The heart was tiny, fitting nicely between her thumb and forefinger, and was lacking both an owner and a chain. Polishing the dirt off with the tips of her fingers and lengths of her nails, she noticed that this locket heart could open and though it was much more stubborn than she had anticipated, Allie succeeded in prying open the heart to bear witness to its contents. Inside she discovered a message, written in red ink and inscribed on a tiny piece of paper wedged where most placed a picture was the brief declaration “everything will be fine.” Much like a fortune cookie, this piece of otherworldly wisdom was so clear and concise, but more than anything else it was, like the statements of all prior fortune cookies she’d cracked open and consumed, believable.
Nearly twenty years later, Allie has never shared with anyone else the contents of the heart hanging from her neck, nor does she intend to. This heart belonged solely to her as did its calming message that had thus far gotten her through failed college papers, car accidents, deaths in the family, job loss and even heartbreak. And it had done so in such a soft, subtle way that outshone every insistence of dear friends, family members and lovers. Everything will be fine; this is what she knew, what she was certain of and what her heart told her every single day.
Killing Franz Kafka
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
Every morning I awake and the sound is there. It’s maddening to feel the buzz of a fly near your ear as you’re just beginning the day and this tortuous winged demon has been haunting every one of my waking and dreaming hours for nearly a week now. Today is day seven and despite all prior engagements and responsibilities, this Thursday will be dedicated solely to the capture and gut smearing of this filthy bug.
I couldn’t tell you where it came from or how long it’s been making home in my abode; perhaps it’s been resting in my cupboard all winter long and only chose to become a ceaseless annoyance once the warmth of spring arrived. Regardless of how precisely this thing came to be here, the fly has since refused to leave or go into hiding or simply learn the skills of silence. Instead, the fly takes sick pleasure in taunting me by landing on my knee, forcing me to hit myself and always the tiny winged beast narrowly escapes the smack. The fly has walked all over my evening meals, often landing when I momentarily leave the couch to use the restroom, and was once so adamant about tainting my dinner and would not heed to my arm shooing warning that the fly caused an irremovable stain to appear on my wall, one that came from me launching my burrito plate across the room to the nearby wall. Fortunately, it was just a paper plate packed of Mexican food being flung through the air rather than anything breakable, so the mess that followed remained a still edible disastrous display. Obviously I ate it up, every bite of that meal that touched the wall and the floor–I wouldn’t allow this pest the satisfaction of watching me suffer a night in hunger.
Initially I sought to handle this situation peacefully, though I suppose there really isn’t any “peaceful” way to go about killing anything, not even a fly. The cup of vinegar sat for days free of any black mass and the same goes for those unsightly, sticky, hanging contraptions, supposedly reeking of pheromones irresistible to the senses of a fly, that I placed in six different locations in my one-room apartment. These methods had failed for six days now, but today I was prepared to take any measure necessary–or at least any measure that involved one of or a combination of the following: fly swatter, bug spray, gas mask, hand-held bug zapper, baseball bat (for when I really lost my mind over this) and/or the stray cat that always sat outside my window. Wielding these tools, this fly would soon be suffering and because this thing was my enemy and because this whole scenario could be made more significant and somehow even more valid than it ever really was, I gave my arch-nemesis a name.
Today I would kill Franz Kafka!
I hated this fly, Franz Kafka, almost as much as I despised the writings of the already dead Czech writer. It helped too that the name seemed wildly appropriate and appealed to my younger self that had never more seriously considered suicide than the semester in college that I signed up for a course analyzing the literature and dreadfully beloved literary style of Kafka. Briefly I considered naming the fly Max Brod as when it all came down to it the whole thing with Kafka being famous and praised and all too well-respected and regarded was entirely his fault. I settled on Kafka because the revenge seemed as though it would be much sweeter whenever it came.
My first method of attack involved the stray cat that I believed was named after a misspelled flower, as the coin dangling from its collar read Petuneia. Opening my front door inevitably brought Petuneia to my “WELCOME” mat as he/she seemed desperate everyday for me to call him/her my own. I figured Petuneia would immediately run inside given the go-ahead, but he/she actually required some convincing to break his/her hesitancy and so I brought out an open can of tuna fish and lured her in (Petuneia, I decided, is definitely a girl cat name). She devoured the entire can at an alarming rate and once she sufficiently licked her lips and cleaned around her mouth with her spit-wet paw, she began meowing at a volume and pitch I was not aware cats were capable of making. I tried shooshing her, and even put my pointer-finger to my lips and made the universal sign for “quiet, goddamnit,” but Petuneia would not be silenced or halt following me. I decided phase one of this plan wasn’t going to cut-it and came across the new problem of ridding myself of a stray cat that I just fed. Petuneia hissed and screeched, and tore apart the skin of my right hand as I picked her up and hustled to my front door to toss her out. In the process, her entire fur coat had puffed up in anger and she made certain to take this frustration out on me, which she rather succeeded at by mangling and bloodying my writing hand.
For a moment I worried about rabies and infection, but then I heard the buzz in my left ear and spotted Franz Kafka on my shoulder and my focus was regained. With my wounded hand, I reached for the bug spray and began spraying all of the air around me with its toxins. I didn’t even think to grab the gas-mask I made sure to purchase; all I cared about was defeating this vile Kafka. With my arm outstretched and waving harmful chemicals into the air, I chased Franz Kafka around my room spraying without taking anytime to consider the pollutants filling my lungs and the slime that would layer my book piles and papers ruthlessly spread about my room. Not even a minute after launching my air-raid, I began coughing and hacking, and generally feeling overwhelmed by the seeming lack of oxygen in the room. I found the gas-mask and shoved my face into it. I never realized how hot and uncomfortable gas masks can be.
Franz Kafka appeared to have been weakened by my bug spray hazing and sensing my missions impending accomplishment, I took the fly swatter into my hand and frantically swatted the air and in my passion I even knocked over the glass of now undrinkable, toxin soaked water that was resting on my coffee table when I bumped into with my shin in my disorienting hand waving dance. Made frustrated by how dizzy I was rapidly becoming, I hunched over, resting my hands on my knees, and allowed myself a moment to catch my breath, hoping that in this time Franz Kafka would settle on the wall and with reflexes slowed from the debilitating air, I would swat him to his death. Breathing heavily and creating a fog in the lenses of my gas-mask, I suddenly stood erect at the sound of a knocking at the door and in walked Lilia.
“What’s going on in here?” She asked, covering her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her bright red cardigan.
“Today I am murdering Franz Kafka!” I announced triumphantly before adding, “The fly! It’s been pestering me for days and you should probably just go. Things could get ugly in here.” I was clearly taking this much more seriously than any rational, normally operating and functioning human-being would ever take the killing of a fly.
“I rather think I’ll stay and watch this fiasco unfold. This is too hilarious,” Lilia laughed as she spoke this and despite the time still being well-before noon, she uncorked the bottle on my counter and poured herself a glass of red wine, preparing to truly make the most of the spectacle I was certainly putting on.
Fanning her hand near her face to fight off the fumes of the bug-spray, Lilia moved to sit near the window which she opened in hopes of breathing air. Sitting on the window ledge with her glass in hand, she breathed in deeply and it was then that I noticed Franz Kafka smoothly gliding towards her. He landed on her bare knee and was as always buzzing loudly when Lilia felt him touching her and that’s when, in one quick motion, she smacked him dead with the palm of her hand.
“How did you do that?!” I asked in a mixture of shock and panic.
“What do you mean? It landed on my knee and I hit it dead!” was her so matter-of-fact reply.
“That’s, that’s unbelievable. Do you realize I’ve been trying to kill that thing for a week now? It’s been torturing me constantly!”
“This is disgusting. This thing is huge!” Lilia scraped Franz Kafka’s body and innards into her hand and threw what she could out the window and then walked to the kitchen to find something to clean herself off with. I was still stunned and processing the whole unfolding of events when I finally removed the gas-mask form my face.
“I mean, thank you for killing it, but you kind of stole my victory.”
“Oh Graham please! Don’t turn this into something. You had a fly in your apartment and now you don’t.”
I wouldn’t call what I felt in that moment anger, because more than anything I felt relief, but some very large part of me could not believe that it wasn’t me that brought about Franz Kafka’s end, but rather it was Lilia who had only been around his incessant noise for a mere few minutes. She didn’t understand what it meant to be teased and tortured by him and yet she was the one that figured out so naturally and truly without any forethought how to take him out. It amazed me and was so irrationally infuriating. Still dizzy from a lack of oxygen and over-exposure to unpronounceable chemicals, I spilled what remained of the bottle of wine into an empty coffee cup and considered chugging the whole glass and creating a dramatic scene with red-wine spilling down the creases of my mouth and onto my chest, but instead I took a few careful sips and sat next to the window, starring at my knee wondering how much I had weakened Franz Kafka with my methods making it so easy for Lilia to hit him with the smack.
Orange Juice Stains
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
With the scent and spray of citrus filling the air, Jacob sliced an orange into six, all unequal parts, originally intending to make it eight but his knife wielding skills and ability to plan for fractions were embarrassingly absent, especially during the breakfast hours before coffee was consumed. Sydney was the queen of the kitchen and not for any reason involving her gender, but rather for reasons revolving around her superior taste-buds and a keen understanding of how to make miracles from basic ingredients. Jacob always knew, in the front of his mind, that should he somehow lose her, his body would subsist off nothing but cornflakes and skim milk–whole sometimes, on days he was especially in need of sustenance. Eating would become a disaster and then too would waking up grow exceptionally difficult, working would soon follow this trend and maybe, most likely, breathing would become a task too impossible. Living without her would be too hard, he thought.
“Do you ever think about how you’re going to die?” Jacob asked as Sydney chewed on a bite of fresh Belgium waffle covered in whipped-cream with bright red chunks of strawberries. There was a smudge of whipped-cream on the side of her lip that she dabbed away with her napkin before speaking.
“Yeah, I think about it all the time,” she laughed before asking him why he asked. He thought about telling her that he would probably kill himself if they ever broke up, but decided to save that sort of threat for someday in the future that he hoped would never come.
“I guess I think about how I’d like to die and then I feel really fucked up for spending a portion of my day wondering about something like that. Do you know how you’d like to die? I mean, ’cause I don’t. And sometimes I think I should, you know?”
“Well, when I was a little girl I loved The Little Mermaid and always thought that drowning would be a beautiful way to die. Seeing all of those creatures and being surrounded by all of the blueness. I don’t know about that now though, I think it’d probably be…be suffocating,” she said this and continued to open the newspaper as though her statement somehow brought a close to this conversation topic and they could now move on to discussing the funniest headlines, something they did every morning over breakfast.
“So wait, do you still want to drown?”
“Well then, what do you want?” Jacob asked, in a voice too forceful for the tint that the sun brought in before the afternoon arrived.
“I…I don’t know. I guess at some point I just started to assume that I would die alone.”
Again, she said this in a manner that was so plain and felt punctuated in a way that suggested that none of this was worth addressing further.
“Alone? You think you’re going to die alone? What about all of your brothers and sisters?”
He refrained from including “what about me?”, but they were both thinking that this was logically the other question not being asked.
“They’ll die before me. I don’t know if I really want to, but I can tell that I’m going to grow very old. Older than you for sure.”
“How can you say that? Why?” He asked her in a voice strained and stressed, his fingers squeezing the wedge of orange in his hand too tightly so that its juice began running down his wrist and was soaked up by his shirtsleeve.
“Well for one, you’re stressed all of the time and that’s not good for the body. Dear, you’re making a mess of your shirt,” she laughed again as she said this and stood up to find a wet rag to clean his sleeve. Without her here, Jacob would have simply let the sweet juice dry and continue wearing his shirt, though the thought of being chased by bees or other insects lusting after the stain on his sleeve would have made him endlessly nervous.
“There,” she remarked as the stain magically moved from his sleeve to the rag, “now please stop worrying about such morbid things, especially this early in the day!”
Sydney began reading headlines that were funny because they told the whole story or contained bad puns or weren’t actually funny at all, but Jacob would laugh anyway because he loved her and that’s what you’re supposed to do when you love someone. Or at least one of the things.
Jacob couldn’t sleep that night as he imagined car crashes where he was the passenger and then the driver, overdosing both accidentally and intentionally, being attacked by wild animals or vicious people or by a child mishandling a weapon they couldn’t even accurately name the model of. He thought about these kinds of incidences and realized that most likely he would die of some disease he never knew existed. Cancer of the feet or frozen lung disease or sleepy brain syndrome perhaps. He wondered if the disease that would take him was already showing signs of itself, like maybe the fact that he couldn’t properly cut an orange was a sign that something was very wrong with his nerves, or whatever the communication pathway is called between your eyes and hands. As he started to sweat in concern for a death that could come tomorrow or forty years from now, his heart began racing and his breathing came close to panic, but then when he breathed in deeply he could feel Sydney’s pulse beating softly and steadily against his bare back, and the light patter soothed him like no medication or advice or answer ever could.
Death would come for them both someday, this was accepted and understood, but there were only so many mornings where the headlines of the newspaper would actually be funny and where breakfast would taste even better than yesterday’s. This, and her heartbeat is what got Jacob to sleep at night.
Conversations With Cumulonimbus
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
Kneeling in waiting for what sunshine never brings, the skin of her knees ache from indentations made by tiny fractures of what was once boulders, though more likely than not the pieces leaving marks that she brushes away merely belonged to rocks not so infinite or destructive in size.
Greeting heels to the dry, sheltered ground, there comes a strike sharp like an axe splitting a portion of tree trunk, and even she is surprised by the ringing in her ears that are her footsteps.
Daddy never told her to pray to god, so she didn’t, but sometimes she conversed with the clouds hoping that maybe today they would ease up on the rain. She’s held talks with cumulonimbus for weeks now, yet the sky refuses to understand the discomfort that comes from shoes and socks sopping muddy, a feeling like grape jelly filling in the spaces between wheat bread pores but leaving a mess on cracked linoleum floors much worse and smelling less like sugar and more like earth.
Mommy never mentioned that when they came, the rains wouldn’t stop. Perhaps that’s why she can only be found sinking in the sea, constantly confusing the actions of floating and falling, swimming and sinking. It wasn’t always like this, she remembers.
Though these are lies we often tell ourselves while trying to sleep at night.
With thick, muddy water filling in her shoes, making them deceptively heavy, the sky grows darker until it shatters and the glass drops fall to the sea and soil, cold and slightly brittle, and it is then that she wonders what would happen if she just stayed here. Even if the water reached her knees and then her chest and then neck and up over her head; even if her body sank into the mud until her pelvis felt the dark, oily slime; even if it all somehow hardened and water separated from soil and her limbs stiffened and then her whole body became the kind of art that decorates fountains. She wondered all of these things for so long that she stayed.
The sun never came and the earth never hardened and the girl never sank, but her skin always stayed damp and her feet never learned how not to be muddy.