Three Short Shorts

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By Claudia Cadavid

Blood Orange Sidewalks and Cafes

Moonshadows trace the cresting ebbs of Lake Michigan. Waters not meant to be searched, are illuminated. Twilight finds the deepest level where the light can reach. The clock tower atop an old manufacturing warehouse ticks forward. Stars are invisible to the eye.

X texts me that he is here, downstairs in the lobby. I come down to meet him. X hugs me hello. We walk outside, toward the cafe, to get the Sunrise Special.

Pregnant hints of light sit under the horizon line, due east. Bare winter branches, bent upward like tuning forks, measure the morning wind.

X’s breath comes in quick, smoky bursts, beneath the ringed fur of his parka collar. X’s mittened fingers wrap around a cinnamon latte, his fingertips exposed. We walk down a diagonal street, January winds chafing our faces.

Clouds swath in cottony waves through hazy blues and grays. The sun, with molten pink-red heat, striations of yellows and oranges, hides behind the dawn line.

X tells me about his holidays, that his mother didn’t hug his boyfriend goodbye. Trains roar by on elevated tracks from the century before last, drowning out his voice. I hear him under the flattening noise. We reach a six-way intersection that confuses people from elsewhere. We cross it.

Dawn breaks with a surging birth of piercing pinks and reds. The golden sphere bursts into view, a blazing amber lava of light. The glow that lights the world can burn retinas and blind us. We shield our eyes, but sunspots appear, dotting the view.

X and I arrive at the cafe. X opens the door. He stops abruptly, in the doorway. I bump into his tallness. He locates you, announcing with a turned head and whisper that you are here. I step forward and see you. You are not supposed to be here, like this. You are sitting on a stool, with your arm around another woman. I have trouble placing you. Your familiar face is unfamiliar, a face I cannot recognize.

The sun always rises. The light rises through leafless trees, over a city skyline, framed by steel forced into linear geometry, above the roiling undertow of the Great Lakes. It softens as it rises, resting behind shifting clouds, fading into its daytime palette, illuminating sidewalks and cafes.

X says we should go. You and the other woman are served blood orange mimosas. We walk out, onto the sidewalk. X hands me his scarf, cashmere and warm from his neck. In the clock span of under a second, I untether from you.

Clock hands tick forward, one second at a time. Twilight finds the deepest level where the light can reach.

Rolling Into the Deep

Mommy was unhappy before, and unhappy now. Daddy was unhappy before, and unhappy now. And if it didn’t make a difference, Jeffrey figured, then why couldn’t they all just live under one roof, like they used to.

Jeffrey’s bedroom window was open, the crickets coming in like car alarms through the ripped screen. He could see the ripples of the neighbors’ swimming pool through the window frame, the fallen maple leaves drifting on the surface of the water. He knew before even looking at the plaid plastic cube clock the next two hours were pleading time. Last summer Jeffrey practiced telling time to impress Daddy, but now he wished he could go back to not knowing how. He started with Our Fathers, but they only made the voices get louder, get right next to his ear.  “That’s exactly why Daddy left.”

For as long as Jeffrey could remember, Daddy had played with him and Samantha in the evenings, getting on his hands and knees like an elephant and riding them around on his back, swinging his arm forward like a trunk. They loped around the living room like that, the glow of the television warming them like a fireplace.

Jeffrey used to be carefree. But now, no matter how hard he tried to enjoy climbing the stairs two by two, he was owned by his senses, like a porcupine, the tip of every one of his spines electric. He listened for foreign sounds, taking note of the locks on the front door and back door, clicking, checking.

At bedtime, Jeffrey’s mother came in through the doorway with his Scooby doll to tuck them both in.  “Good night Roo Roo,” she said, kissing him and the stuffed dog on the forehead and turning out the lamp. And that’s all it took for him to fade away to a placid sleep.

But when the thick of the night arrived at the foot of his bed, it always jarred him awake. And after the succession of prayers, which never worked, he resorted to rolling off his bed into the deep. Every night, like an acrobat, Jeffrey tumbled in a slow controlled spiral down the side of his mattress, onto the ground, landing onto the carpet, dragging his sheet and pillow with him. He jimmied his head and torso underneath the cold coiled springs, his head only fitting sideways, eyes staring straight ahead into the mirror of the closet door, gazing through the shadows, at the starkness of his own slightness. Then he reached to pull the blanket down, jutting the hand clutching Daddy’s army knife onto a pillow, leaving just enough of a gap to let oxygen in.

And there, once nestled, he could begin to understand the gravity of roofs above. Theirs, with its shimmery coarse shingles, layered and patched, sloping downward from a perfect peak, in the shape of a house. Of his Daddy’s, newly vaulted, with unfamiliar neighbors, two miles away. And of his own, a curled iron ceiling in a makeshift burrow, ten inches off the ground.

Beware of Semicolons and Billowy Clouds of Nimbostratospheric Certainty

Clouds of the genus altostratus form when a large convectively stable airmass is lifted to condensation in the mid-altitude level of the troposphere, usually along a frontal system. Altostratus can bring light rain or snow. If the precipitation becomes continuous, it may thicken into nimbostratus which can bring precipitation of moderate to heavy intensity.
-Wikipedia, June 22, 2013

These are the things he most certainly said. Impact of his breath precipitation, and keystroke radiation, remains entirely uncertain.

1. I can see your point; however, I certainly didn’t intend that to be the case, at all.

2. It is not a good thing to be in limbo; and certainly, I am entirely to blame for that.

3. As for getting together, let’s try for soon; certainly, the timing isn’t right, for now.

4. I can’t possibly provide an answer to whether what we have will endure; but I certainly can’t imagine you being absent from my life.

5. Let’s be crystal clear on what I’m saying; I’m certainly not saying yes, but I’m never saying no.


Claudia Cadavid is a writer living in Chicago. Her work has appeared in New World Writing (Frederick Barthelme’s literary journal), Hobart (Web), decomP, and Monkeybicycle.

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