The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: April, 2014

Last Words, or a Parable

A young man and his grandfather meet at the home of the young man’s father to speak of their lives. The grandfather shares his many experiences with the young man, who in turn shares his many ambitions with his grandfather. They speak alone in the library, and when they are finished, the grandfather takes an antique book from the shelf. He offers it to the young man as the book in which all secrets past, present, and future are kept. He opens it, tears out the last pages, folds them into his pocket, and gives the book to his grandson.

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Lazarus Come Forth

The droning flatline faded into what could have been angelic chorus as the world mercifully vanished. He lowered into death as if wading into a still pool, the welcoming warmth replacing the faceless darkness as he felt himself sink and float simultaneously on some viscous surface. The unraveling of each of life’s knotted bonds eased him away from life’s shore. He saw the light. All at once he felt the embrace of all he’d ever lost like linen bandages, not themselves so much as his fondest recollections of them. A sharp jolt opened his eyes. He was resurrected. He wept.

Before the Wedding

Shuffling steadily into the room, he hunted for her face in the crowd. Hers was the first face he’d ever fallen in love with, and the intensity behind her eyes invoked the passion that broadened his shoulders and the shyness that drew a sheepish grin across his face as he walked, hands folded meekly in front of him. Her feelings for him were complex but inconsequential, as he knew he’d never feel the same way about another woman in his life. Their eyes remained locked as he stepped around the table, the jangle of shackles broken by the gavel’s crack.

A Portrait of the Regulars

The essence of their relationship could be captured in their Saturday morning ritual from early April until early November of rising at dawn, donning fresh black running gear, jogging to Starbucks to sip scalding Earl Grey from paper cups while sitting in silence on metal frame rattan chairs on the patio, and running, in silence, for exactly one hour along a circuitous route beneath the elms and maples standing in neat rows along the crackless streets of their subdivision until reaching their front door, walking upstairs, stripping bare in front of one another, and showering in separate bathrooms before fucking.

From the Golden Gate to the Sea of Trees, or Between 35 and 37

Standing on the beach, he looked up to watch passersby on the bridge and fixed on a shadow paused at the railing. Widows and orphans weep on either side of the Pacific. The desperate march on pilgrimages instinctively to these hallowed gallows, like lemmings driven to migrate against their better angels, and offer themselves on Death’s altar. They take leaps of faithlessness into icy waters and plant themselves like saplings in a dark wood where whispers and prayers carry too short in the dense air and only the tearing of their flesh will give them voice. The ocean is cursed.

Samsa’s Dreams

The dream began on the cracked boardwalk outside a sideshow. The pinheads sang in chorus with their palms opened together holding invisible hymnals, riding the carousel spinning backwards and playing an upside-down melody with faceless children bucking on the plastic broncos and mares. Popcorn crawled across the dirt toward the gamblers like roaches. Ten men threw snake eyes. In her wagon, the fortune teller pulled ten arcana in a Celtic Cross, the Tower at Ten. Her amber didn’t help so she draped her babushka across a toothless frown. She pointed at the back door, which cracked slightly before he awoke.

Udaimonia, or Death by a Thousand Cuts

To her, moral decisions were akin to the perfunctory placement of weights of various sizes on a balance scale, sundry petite vices deliberately countered by casual albeit constructive virtues to keep the pans level. When finally a particularly horrendous and unforgivable sin irrevocably imbrued her conscience, she hurried toward more explicit and public benefactions less from a sense of atonement than the irking of an outstanding bill. What society had long accepted, however, and what she failed to recognize, is that the moral compass points forever away from the cliff over whose damned edge she had already slipped and fallen.

Matryoshka

The boy sat cross-legged in the sandbox and raised his filled hands over his lap, spreading his fingers slowly and raining grit on his pale thighs. From the nearby bench, his father looked up at the sun and followed the rays down to mark the angles of lilting maple shadows across the green. Between them, a gamin jogged down the path and glanced at her watch, catching the father’s wry smile following her every step. A priest paused from scripture and looked out his window, noticing the girl checking her pulse at the crosswalk as the bells struck the hour.

Distant Relations

He sat awkwardly in a folding chair and watched his kid play soccer. He couldn’t remember when he’d last felt authentically comfortable. His back was the prism through which he viewed the world. He hadn’t seen his parents in years, and his kids learned early not to ask about them. His wife made enough of her own family to excuse his pretending that he didn’t come from one. The whistle blew and the kids ran to the sidelines. For some guy out there, he thought as he stood up with the sun in his eyes, it’s good to be alive.

Evening’s End, or Friends Leaving

They embraced as old friends do in the thresholds of one another’s homes, a porch light burning to make the way to the driveway. The hour was earlier than like nights in earlier years, but children shorten evenings out and lengthen nights at home. The storm door bounced on its spring and latched behind him as he made his way through the brisk dark, smiling at their happiness and hope and hoped for their happiness to last. As the porch light turned off, he looked back, took a deep breath of brisk night, and sighed before closing his car door.