The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: August, 2012

Riverchild

They sipped bourbon from dirty glasses and quit their arguments and watched the sunset over the wide, muddy river as the blues twanged and thumped over the water from the opposite shore, between the teeming, droning legions of mosquitoes that drew bass to the blackening surface. The boy learned to sleep through the noise. He roused the boy at dawn and took him fishing in the skiff, and she leered at him from the kitchen sink as he and the boy stepped through the broken screen door with a paper bag and no fish. The boy knew of their troubles.

A Fitting Conclusion

He stared at the blank page, the uneven shades of white staring back at him quizzically, almost mockingly. He was at the end, and now he had writer’s block. Go figure. He knew expectations would be unreasonably high. They always are when it comes to endings. Readers want closure and meaning and answers that all wrap up neatly at the end, and now he had writer’s block. He looked out the window to the empty street below. His reflection in the window stared back at him quizzically, almost mockingly. There it is. He smiled and put pen to paper. “Goodbye.”

Anti-gravity

As a child, he would lay on his back with his neck on the doorsill to the second-floor apartment balcony, staring up at a clear sky and imagining himself atop an infinite universe, suspended from a carpeted and wooden ceiling as the shag left vermiculate impressions on his bare back and arms. His eyes would squint to find the deepest crevice of blue and suppose that this was where gravity would take him, should he fall. Or, if dark clouds hovered beneath him, he saw himself running across them like mattresses lined up on a showroom floor with no horizon.

Two Lives

The cab pulled over. He stepped out and ran around hurriedly to the curbside door and opened it. She stepped out and thanked him for another wonderful evening, standing close so the frills of her scarf touched him. He stared into her eyes and said he thought that he was falling in love with her. She smiled and kissed him, closing her eyes like it was her wedding day. He stepped back into the cab and she watched it drive away. She walked around the corner and opened the front door to the house where her husband and children waited.

For Frances, Who Died Too Young

The last time he saw her alive, she was stumbling away from him in a drugged stupor across a dark parking lot. He turned away sadly and remembered the bright-eyed, beautiful, round-faced girl whose thick auburn locks tickled and caressed his face when they hugged tightly with the warmth and affection of two children that could accept each other for who they truly were. That last night, she’d huddled close to him with a chill, a careless ember from her cigarette burning a small hole into his jacket, now the only memento he had of their lost but cherished friendship.

Advent

He sat in the worn leather armchair by the fireplace, dying embers glowing with waning angst behind chainmail curtains. The grandfather clock near the front door chimed midnight. He rose and walked to the window nearest the white-lit Christmas tree and tried to look through his haloed reflection in the frosted glass, snow drifting across the lawn and into the dark street. He bit his bottom lip and looked at her graduation picture in the gold frame on the mantle. The doorbell rang. He opened the door, casting the glimmer of the hearth and Christmas lights on the polished badge.

He Carried His Faith And Also His Doom, or The Survivor

After the massacre, he ran deep into the woods following the overgrown path along the river, clutching his sister, wrapped in bloody swaddling cloth, to his bony chest as the thickets whipped his raw skin. She lay silent and still in his shivering arms as he collapsed against the mossy back of a boulder wedged against the rotting shell of a once mighty oak. An unnatural chill rushed through the still air as the sound of snapping limbs approached from deep in the shadows of the evergreens. As the terror overtook and consumed him, the boy whispered an indiscernible prayer.

The Dancing Lovers

Sitting alone at the large, round table adorned with white silk linens and a bouquet of roses at the centerpiece, he watched her dance with another man from across the crowded room, spinning slowly in hypnotic time to the pulse of the brass and woodwind ensemble on the raised stage at the side, her eyes meeting with his in a fleeting moment of longing and nostalgia for an uncollectable and unforgettable life now lost to them both, of moments in time when they also danced and knew the pure and novel sensation of love that looked neither forward nor behind.

A Son’s Inheritance

Growing up, he’d been told an old story. A father and son went hunting for deer in the woods one autumn afternoon. The son found fresh tracks and, hungry for blood, ran ahead, leaving his father behind. As the sun set, the son found the deer eviscerated at the mouth of a deep cave from which emerged a monstrous bear in wanton bloodlust. The bear charged. The son ran in terror. Night fell. As the bear cornered the son, the father appeared with a great torch and drove away the bear, saving his son. But it was only a story.

The Hermitage

He lived his life in the remote depths of that forgotten, lonesome valley, buried between cruel and jagged peaks that bifurcated the living world from its own history, an infant conjoined to a stillbirth at the chest. The sun that passed in haughty arcs over his toils rose and set likewise over bygone men, the truth whispered between the trees and down the insurmountable mountainsides. He made of himself an attentive bridegroom to isolation. She birthed his children amongst the stillness of the ramshackle rooms of his house, the fleeting shadows of men chased at the corners of his eyes.