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Around Dinner Time

Runner-up of the F NewsMagazine fiction contest.

By F+


Illustration by Alex Kostiw

Around Dinner Time

Not every day I feel lonely walking home from the train. There are tall rod fences sifting the sun into rectangles. I step on the shapes like a dancer or my mother. I smile at dog owners and sometimes I’ll ask them, “Do you notice the square yellow light coming from the window over there?” and they’ll say, “Wow, she’s not normally jumping on strangers knees and licking their gloved fingers.” I’ll take off my gloves and say, “Look my nails are blue.” At this point we’ll each remember an old friend or something stolen.

Comfortable Things

When we meet it’s at a quiet bar and everyone can hear when you say “I like all kinds of pudding.” There’s an old couple at the bar, the kind that can’t sit up straight and I can’t imagine them doing anything except linking arms, hoping the other takes the fall, assuming a fall takes place, which it could, because outside the quiet bar it’s snowing. When I whisper my concerns you say if anyone should drink a Manhattan, it should be the old couple. It’s probably good for their joints.

The next morning we’re eating toast and I’m aware of the ease I talk to you about butter.

Macaroni and Cheese

I’m led to the kitchen. The lights are usually always on in the apartment, but now we’re eating homemade mac’n’cheese so I turn off the song because the wooden doorway may collapse if we don’t eat our dinner with a sense of hurry. I ask if there’s any paper. I end up writing the story on an old receipt “Throw it in with the boiling butter.” It’s winter so we’re allowed to bloat and wear slippers around the apartment and I would rather be told to peel off my blue fingernails because they’re the color of the seventh grade, but I take off all my socks one after another after another and it is quiet when the water is running, isn’t it?


They Were in Love with the Same Man

The bus was too full because it was too cold to walk. Out the window, she saw a man she didn’t recognize, he was facing away, a fur collar in profile against old Chicago sun. He was smoking a long cigarette and had a book in the front pocket of his jacket. The bus began to move and she moved closer to a day. This is when she recognized him; he was the man who was in love with the same man she was in love with. The noise of a bus is the sound of something broken. She and him do the same things for fun. She couldn’t see him anymore, like the space between objects in a painting or dark and light.


The tall boy says all worthwhile art is self aware, but all good party guests aren’t. Good party guests smoke cigarettes in the living room and tamper with the tempo on the record player. In the kitchen, a girl is dancing with each of the boys, including the boy I sleep with and the tall boy I want to sleep with. The next morning the boy I sleep with sits next to me at the bar facing the window, and I tell him the tops of buildings are making straight lines through the first sunny day. We regret the spicy drinks. I tell him there are people walking with yellow hats and white bags, that they are all smokers or cold.

Good Morning

Over pale omelets and lukewarm green tea I pass him a page of poetry. He moves his lips, like a man reading on the subway, finishes, and says, “hmm, weird,” before stealing a bite of potato from my plate. Through the dirty café window, even red bricks look dull. I ask him if he would rather be inside my head or inside my body, and while still chewing, says my body, because I’m confusing even for a girl. All the cars driving through old Chicago sound broken. He pays for breakfast with his salary job, and because he is not the first boy to find my poetry habit cute, I don’t stop him talking about last night’s good sex. I agree our sex was good, like the dollar Jell-O shots from across the street.



Sundays I spill beer on the floral tablecloth, and he shares his take out Thai. I chew cashews like my jaw has the power to quake an Earth, little bites with the two front teeth. There are rules I need to remember, like how to make less noise. He pinches piano strings and I sing like a stringy haired chorus girl, a thin voice reaching at Jesus Christ. It might be snowing enough to make the windows shake. Stern as stain glass, he tells me to drink a breath and sing. Like a mime I pretend to build a box.


Here it is, one and then another and another, the bars in a straight line, if you squint see how it shines. The girls are dressed in that which reflects light, but sometimes they dress better than me, darker jeans, darker tops, darker mascara. My peach lips are reflecting in a glass of red beer, I pucker as if to signal I like beards of all colors or please buy me a drink. Like learning to snap, the fire of fingers, here he comes, asking if I’ve ever tried a gin and tonic. Yes or no, I see him the next evening, with its unreasonably purple sky, faded into the color of forgetting about laundry. The next morning over omelets he asks the name of my favorite boyfriend, and I say his name. Because he lives in another state or because he likes to share, he scoops the rest of his American fried potatoes onto my plate.

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