About ellensymons

Author. Saucy and sensitive queer kid. Building a world where love is love is love, one story at a time. S/he. Blm/btlm. Beekeeper, Equestrian, Oxford Comma Devotee, #5amWritersClub

It’s not

I’m thrilled that The Cabinet of Heed has published this stream-of-consciousness story, “It’s not,” in its most recent issue, along with 13 other wonderful pieces.

~ ~ ~

When I wake crying it’s not because of you.

It’s because of the sun. It’s because of the way the snow glistens in sharp light. It’s because the moon played across the field all night, chasing rabbit and red fox, coyote and mouse.

It’s because the cat is 12, when yesterday she was a kitten. And tomorrow she’ll be 20. It’s because of the grey in my hair and the wrinkles at my eyes, the cracking in my knee, the arthritic finger.

It’s because someday I won’t remember the years we had together, and all of this sorrow will have been wasted.

When I wake crying, it’s not because of you.

 

If it were because of you, I would have to call. I would have to rise from my bed, lift my head from your pillow, run into the world and appear at your door. I would have to hear you say, no, it’s not a good time. The dishes aren’t done. The bed isn’t made. After all this time, of me washing your dishes, of me making your bed, I would have to ask why. Why, I would have to say. Is she there with you. I would have to listen. While you lied. No. It’s not a good time.

 

If it were because of you, there would be no remedy. There would be no stitch in time, no glue for my heart, no waterproof miracle paste that would hold the torn flesh as blood slicks its edges, as it slips through my shivering fingers. If it were because of you, I would never mend.

 

It is not because of you. I will stay in this bed for the sun and the moon that tumble across it. For the downy loft of its covers. For the small purring warmth of the cat at my knees. Not for your scent. Not for the smell of you ground into the fibres. Lemon and sweat, the shampoo you use, the heat of your body. Not for the way my figure shapes around the space. The space you once held. Where I held you.

 

I will leave this bed when. When it’s a good time. When my knees are cold because the cat has long padded to the warmth of the window seat. When I have followed the sun and the moon to the ends of their tracks. When the mouse and the rabbit have squealed in the night. When my water-chapped hands have smashed each of your dishes. When I have lost the smell of you to the fust of my own lingering malaise. When I have dreamed every dream I can muster, and no dream can undo what I have mended. When I have forgotten your lies.

 

~ ~ ~

The menagerie

1218

(1,218 words)

She didn’t want the dog. Or the rabbit. But Josh had left them in the will.

“You can say no,” the lawyer told her. “You’re not obliged. It’s not enforceable, with animals.”

But what kind of friend would she be? What kind of person? She took them.

The gassy one-eyed Brindle pug, and the three-legged English lop. Lop, indeed. Lop, chop. Chopped lop. Susan sighed.

After all. There was the twenty-five thousand dollars. Susan’s freelance editing business was fine, it’s fine, but $25,000 would help her keep kibble on the table for all of them.

And living alone … well. Susan had thought she was getting into something with the across-the-hall neighbour. Someone to share a meal and a bed now and then. But no, that wasn’t happening. So. Animals. “I am a 35-year-old self-employed single woman with special-needs animals.” Put that on the dating sites. At least she didn’t live alone now. The sigh was bigger this time.

The worst part was walking them. Josh had a large, treed yard. Susan had a high-rise, and a park across Elgin Street. Down the elevator from the 17th  to the basement exit, she carried Brewster, the pug, under her left arm so he could see whoever was coming with his singular left eye. That meant squeezing Hamish under her right, holding his three paws against her body, a leash wrapped around each palm and gripped in her hands, pushing the call button with her elbow.

She’d only used her chin the once, when Steve from 17A—yes, that neighbour—came out in time to see her smearing her mouth against the brass plate on the wall. It wouldn’t have mattered so much if her brain’s cartoon of their one failed date didn’t jump across the screen of her mind every time she looked at him. She had spilled her wine. She had spilled his wine. She got tomato sauce on her chin. (“Here,” said Steve, dabbing it with his thumb.) And after insisting on paying, she discovered she’d left her credit card in her cargo shorts, crumpled on her bedroom floor.

“Flashy Teeth,” she took to calling him in her head, hoping to trick her brain into mockery rather than mortification mixed with panting desire. It still hadn’t worked, but she kept trying. Flashy Teeth.

“Hi, Susan. Need a hand?”

“No, I’m good, Flash. Um. Steve. Just …” She hefted the two animals, a kind of apology or a what-can-you-do. He wiped her goober from the brass plate with his sleeve and pushed the button. The elevator came, and he held his arm gallantly against the door while she stepped in. He followed. The door closed. The car started its descent.

Brewster farted. Steve’s eyebrows lifted. Susan cringed. Bad dog.

Today, like a person who could be let out in public, she used her elbow on the buttons. At the street light, the rabbit struggled. “Hamish! Stop! I’ll drop you! Stop!” The little girl beside them smiled at Hamish as Susan clutched him tighter against her waist. She clutched, the rabbit kicked, and she felt his claws through her new Reitman’s blouse. Welts were growing on her flesh right now, she knew it. She grimaced at the girl, who hid her head in her mother’s leg.

The light changed and Susan ran, the struggling rabbit leaping from her arms and pooping as they reached the park grass on the other side. The wrapped leash scored her palm, and she stumbled, dropping Brewster, who yelped. And farted.

She collected her leashes and they dashed, the three of them, clumsy sideways gaits, across the spread of lawn; lingered along the edges of the careful flower beds; and finally sat, worn out and panting lightly, under a spreading willow tree.

“With twenty-five thousand dollars, I think we can invest in a couple of cloth carriers,” she said to them. Hamish bounced and his long ears flopped. Brewster lay his head on his paw and looked at her with his eye. They took the long way home, past the Pet Valu, where the staff cuddled the animals while Susan paid and cut the tags off the two cloth-sided, hard-bottomed bags. “Hard-bottomed Steve,” she thought. Why did everything come back to Steve.

For the next month, Susan failed to avoid Steve. His door across the hall snuck open as she came and went. Or, she’d be just about to make a clean getaway into the elevator when he would dart from his unit and step on beside her.

“Hi, Susan.” He would twist his lips, wipe the button, and push LL for her, the carriers bumping her legs as she stepped back to give him room.

“Hi, Flash.”

It was after the episode with the upstairs neighbours that she made avoiding him an uncompromising mission.

Five people in short-shorts and high heels lounged across the inside of the carriage, as the door opened on its way down from the floors above. “Of course,” thought Susan, in her mended Reitman’s blouse, the unwashed cargo shorts dragging off her hips. “Jealous, much?” she asked herself.

“Hi,” she muttered to the legs-forever standing around her.

Then Steve walked on.

The seven of them plus the two animals in their carriers squeezed together in a little dance of space-finding. The five sets of eyes above the long legs eyed Susan, eyed Steve. Steve won. Susan found herself elegantly shifted to the back corner of the carriage, the golden handrail pushing into her butt cheeks, as the group reconfigured, Steve at the centre.

As the door closed, Brewster, from the depths of his ventilated carrier, farted. All the eyes looked at Susan.

“Bad dog,” she whispered. Bad dog. She closed her eyes at Steve’s pursing lips.

The third knock on the door was insistent. Susan lifted her stiff, sore neck and pushed the plastered hair from her wet forehead. “Hamish, can you get that? Brewster?” She flopped back to the sofa, sweaty and shivering.

When the fourth long rapping came, she dragged off the quilt and stumbled in her stained oversized football jersey and bare feet to the peephole.

Hard Bottom! Oh no. “What, Steve?” she croaked through the door.

“Susan, are you sick?”

“Yes.”

“Can you open the door? I haven’t seen you for three days. I made chicken broth.” He hefted a Rubbermaid bowl toward the peephole.

Susan leaned her forehead on the cool door. The failed-date cartoon and Brewster’s elevator farts jumped, full-colour, in her mind. But. She lifted her head, swiped the round sweat spot from the door with the edge of her palm, and turned the lock.

Steve wrinkled his nose as he stepped in. “Who’s worse, you or the animals?” He smiled gently at her. “You need to shower while I walk them.”

“No, Steve, no, really, please go.”

“Susan. I know you don’t … I know our date didn’t impress you. I’m sorry. I really like you. But at least let me be your friend. Seriously.”

She stared, none of the words from his mouth making any sense.

“Seriously. At least let me be your friend.” He waved the Rubbermaid container at her.

Brewster farted. Steve smirked. Hamish huffed.

Susan looked at her menagerie.

She smiled. “I guess I could stomach some homemade broth.” She pointed herself toward the shower.

~ ~ ~

I will bring down the stars

I.

I would ask you to bring down the stars,
lay them here in my hands
so I may craft for them a love song:
carbon to carbon
from a time before memory,
a time before form.

II.

But I could never hold their sharp eternity,

my palms tiny as the toe of an ant;

they would never hear,

over their own echoing boom,

the thin scratch of my voice:

a note in their fiery storms.

III.

I’ll tell you: I will bring down the stars,
set them here at your feet

so they may sing you a love song,
carbon to carbon,

all that my heart has to say.
I tell you I will bring you the stars.

Will you wait,
while I climb?

(Ants don’t have true toes, but they do have adhesive pads that can function in a similar-to-toe-like fashion. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0141269)

(This poem doesn’t work exactly as I’d like but I like it exactly as it is, and fixing it would ruin it. I am leaving it broken and imperfect, as it came while I was walking through snow-deep woods and fields under the big sky.)

~~~

Falling through my fingers

Moments fall through my fingers, grains blown in the wind of turning planets. This is all I have, this square of grass, this pinprick of time. A heartbeat. A flashing thought. And so I dry my eyes, and start again.

~~~

The world, on the page

The world in the hours before dawn is rich with story. In the dark, eyes closed, cat purring in my lap, my mind fills with words I must write, jewels tumbling from the place where imagination is born: overflowing my palms, spilling from my fingers to the page.

~~~

Poems from novels-in-progress

It should not surprise me that each of my novels has a poem at its core.

And “each of my novels” means the one I am writing now, and the three that are waiting in my journal for their turn.

One of those still in the journal has the working title Sky+Moon—which, yes, is bad but will lead to something better—and these two work-in-progress poems. (Which, yes, are also straight from the roughest of rough notes, but ya gotta dance with who brung ya.)

I
When I see you
your fine chin and your
broad shoulder, the curved line
of your waist and the sway
of your hip, your long arms and strong
legs—with their hands and their
feet dancing through air as you
walk
toward me,

my heart

leaps the space between
us, before my body and
my head have known
what they must do

II
Lie beside me on the shaded grass
your head on my shoulder
the sun on our feet,
lie here and I will tell you
the story of our lives, when you
are my beloved and I hold you finely
as the sky does the moon.

~ ~ ~