Thursday, December 15, 2011

Connotations Press Publishes "Payback" and "We Sustain"

Many thanks to Meg Tuite at Connotations Press for publishing these two pieces. Well done to my friends, Gill Hoffs and Jack Swenson also published here!

by MaryAnne Kolton
            She’d tried hard not to scream when he’d put his cigar out on the exact spot on her upper left arm where her childhood smallpox vaccine scar had faded to a pale, carrot-slice shaped mark.  But when she heard somebody shrieking like the victim in a slasher film, she figured it must be her.  She knew not to fight him.
He’d said she was like a daughter to him.  She’d known better.  Where his money was concerned, she was just another flunky.  She’d skimmed miniscule amounts over the years, calling it her retirement fund, thinking he’d never notice.  Almost twenty years of delivering cash to be laundered.  Easier when she was still young, harrowing the last ten years.  All those flights back and forth.  Monaco, the Caymans, Bermuda and more recently Zug, population twenty-six thousand, in the Swiss Alps.  Zug, for Christ’s sake.
This afternoon he’d greeted her with a hug and a drink, then handed her a pink slip of paper with the exact amount she’d taken from him.  A “While you were out” note.  The number was correct to the penny.  No use pretending she didn’t know what it was.  She told him she’d have the money for him in two days.  He’d kissed her arm with the lit cigar to remind her he wasn’t expecting any less than the exact amount and it had better be on time.
The funniest part of the whole deal was she had most of it in a briefcase in the trunk of her car.  She’d already made up her mind she’d never give it to him.  And now, it was crystal clear he’d never let her live long enough to spend a dime of it.
She was so damn tired.  Getting too old for this shit.  She walked out the front door of his brownstone to her car, popped the trunk and pulled the .38 Special from under the spare tire cover.  She grabbed the briefcase and took a seat on his front steps.  

We Sustain
by MaryAnne Kolton
Tangled, dark hair, long linen skirt, white shirt and oversized sunglasses, she stood out in the crush of starving people.  Another international celebrity bringing an entourage of paparazzi,  into the blistering desert sun.  Hoping to get the rest of the world to pay attention, however scant, to the scenes of death in Somalia.
As she walked through the heat scorched village, touching a head here and a hand there, she thought of her own son.  Plump, healthy, with skin like ripe peaches safe at home in the care of his father and nanny.  So few with so much and so many with so little, she thought not for the first time.
Where is the God that sorts things out this way?  What was He doing?  She was here attempting to draw the eyes of the world to this catastrophic reality of decimation.  Hard to maintain one’s faith in this arid, dusty place where the sounds of happy, carefree little ones are replaced with moans, murmurs and the silence of starvation.  Even the mothers of these children cannot summon the energy necessary to wail and keen and mourn the passing of their boys and girls.  Many are barely alive themselves having walked for days in sweltering temperatures without food or water to get here.
The flies are everywhere.  Flitting across staring eyes, crawling into open mouths and up noses.  Buzzing, swarming, anticipating the feast to come.
She was being led to a tent clinic.  Inside, a few good people doing what they could to help.  Feeding resistant skeletal faces a life saving paste, hydrating, holding, rocking.  For many it’s too late.  She’d have to convince her husband and others to donate more money.  What else could she do? 
A tiny girl pulled again and again at her skirt and she sat to take the child on her lap.  The little one rested her head on the woman’s chest.  Without thinking, the famous woman opened her shirt and gave the baby her breast.  She had milk.  She would give them milk.

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