When I called my girlfriend, lover, she said, “What do you mean by that?” I sat on our new peach colored sofa, thinking about her peachy cheeks, the peach-colored cushions and pillows and her fluffy peach slippers.. She slammed down her dog-eared copy of James and the Giant Peach and glared. “Have I now been demoted?” she asked. “On the contrary, Lover,” I said, feeling the sun on my brow and sweating like a cold peach taken out of the Fridge, the orange fuzz on my cheeks frizzing.. “A lover is a lover and who doesn’t want to be a lover? “Me,” she said. Slick with peach-colored lipstick, her lower lip quivered, and there was a little peach stain on her large front teeth. As the sun began to set, her peachiness was turning dark. Suddenly, I remembered eating a strawberry with my former lover, the juice dripping down her chin, her strawberry blond hair warming my cheek.
Steve the Spider Plant
She named her sick plant after her ex-husband. She tried to talk to it every day, but like her husband, the plant was silent. She would take it outside so that both of them could bask on the sunny deck. She googled plant foods with curative powers and found out about a company that promised instant health with a few drops for a few weeks. She enjoyed sitting outside with her plant much more than with her ex-husband, who took up all the air around them with his deep, heavy sighs. She thought about the things they did and didn’t do when they were a young couple. How they talked about standing under the spray of Niagra Falls, reading Neruda to each other, but never did. How they almost adopted a ten month old boy, but at the last second, dropped out. After that, their rootedness to each other began to shrivel. She remembered the way his spindly arms draped over her shoulders on the living room sofa. and the faded brown spots on the back of his hands and on his white forearms. She sprinkled the plant with the magical drops and asked it to remember its dreams. The plant wilted a little more.
While working at the nail salon, I was always thinking about the sounds of people’s nails on different surfaces. The longest nails tapped the lightest, but still created a sound something like a tap dancers shoes clicking over sawdust. Some customers set their nails down in front of me as though they were diamonds in the rough. Other customers slashed the air with their dull yellow talons and ordered me to make them glow like fool’s gold. And others barely had nails, their shy curled fingers red at the cuticles, their fingertips beating against the counter. As I looked in the mirror, I could see my mother’s face rising behind me, her neat red nails combing through my hair—dry sparks leaping into air.
Jeff Friedman has published 10 collections of poetry and prose and has collaborated on two books of translations. His most recent collection, Ashes in Paradise, has just been published by Madhat Press. He has received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship and numerous other awards. Meg Pokrass has published seven collections including flash fiction and two flash novellas. Her recent collection The First Law of Holes: New and Selected Stories, will be published by Dzanc Books in 2024. Meg is the Founding Editor of Best Microfiction.