THE2NDHAND's broadsheet installment #14 features new fiction by Susannah Felts, a new feature culled from THE2NDHAND's best-of anthology ALL HANDS ON: A THE2NDHAND Reader (click here for info on ordering) entitled "Errol, Inland." You know what we like. Read on for Gretchen Kalwinski's untitled "Elements", also in #14, or to order, send $1 to:
Or buy now using any major credit card via PayPal (allow a few weeks for delivery):
by Gretchen Kalwinski
The 62-year-old schoolteacher always wore a shapeless dress in a drab green or gray color, clip-on earrings, and had very big (dyed black) old-lady hair, waved at the beauty salon every week.
The second-graders shook their heads in unison. A lot of front teeth were missing or too big for the rest of their faces.
"Oh, I bet you have. You just didn't know it. I'll tell you something that happened to me when I was your age. My family, you know, we were poor and didn't own a car, but I had choir practice that went until nine o'clock every night, and had to walk all the way back home. Usually, my older brother met me outside the church doors and walked with me, but one day he wasn't there. I waited and waited, and finally, when it was beginning to be dark outside, I started walking home by myself. My family lived almost a mile away, and I was afraid, but suddenly, a big white dog appeared and started walking with me, staying close by. We walked, and I sang some of my choir songs to the dog, and talked to it, and it just stayed by my side on the sidewalk. We passed two men when we were close to my parents' house, and the men started whispering, turned around, and started to follow me. I was very frightened, because they were getting closer and closer, and I walked faster and faster, hoping to make it to my parents' house before anything bad happened, but then the white dog turned around and began barking and snarling at the two men, jumping up on them, and they ran away. We were only a block away from my parents' front porch, and the white dog sat there, licking my leg while I unlocked the front door. I turned the key, and called for my mother to come meet the dog that had saved me, but suddenly, the licking stopped, and the dog had vanished."
Utterly selfish, it knows its goal,
Invasive and extreme,
They will linger until 5:20PM and then walk to their nearby church to attend 5:30 mass. The church will smell of myrrh and Estee, then, and the women will sing hymns, echoing the wailing choir overhead.
They know this town, and love it without bounds for the fact that it is the only one they've ever known. The exit ramp to this highway is the beginning and the end of their world. The Roller Dome and bowling alley are around the corner, as is the strip of more "restaurants" and no-name bars, nowadays, a convenient location for truckers and transients. The place is an island.
The woman made her last appearance in the church on an August day. There was no breeze that day, and the air smelled of Estee on a granddaughter's neck, almond cookies, dusty books, and that thinly sliced roast beef.
The woman believed in salvation, a man on a cross, that the good would be rewarded, and that the meek would inherit the earth. Long ago, she read the one book of the Old Testament dealing entirely with erotic love. In Song of Songs, 2:4, "your breasts are two fawns / grazing in a field of lilies." And 2:2, "Let me lie among vine blossoms / in a bed of apricots / I am in the fever of love." Long ago, she read Robert Browning's love poems and starred in pencil the ones about passion and loss.
Gretchen Kalwinski lives and writes in Chicago.