Friday, June 27, 2014

Abby and the Astronaut

I’m delighted to report that I have a short story in District Lines, a new anthology of stories, essays, and poems about Washington D.C. produced by the famous Politics & Prose bookstore frequented by Presidents. You can order it here. In the meantime, here’s my story:

Abby and the Astronaut

Abby was in the Air and Space Museum. She was looking at a photograph of three young men in bulky space suits grouped around an enormous Presidential seal. Only one of them could really be called handsome, with a sculpted jaw and eyes as blue as oceans seen from space. Suddenly aware of someone at her shoulder, Abby turned and found herself looking into that very face. The hair had receded to almost nothing, but there was no mistaking those eyes.
He held out his hand. She shook it.
“Aren’t you...?”
“I’m Chuck B. Anderson. I went up in Zephyr III. And who are you?”
Chuck wore a turtleneck and a tweed jacket, and his waist was flat above the belt of his Chinos. He took Abby to lunch in the glass atrium of the Museum=s restaurant. Beyond the roar of voices in that echoing space, the Capitol dome levitated in the heat haze. Over their empty salad plates, the Astronaut reached for Abby=s hand and pulled gently at the webs of skin between her splayed fingers.

Everywhere in the city there were statues of celebrated men. Abby had taken them all in – Lincoln magisterial on his massive chair, Jefferson in his giant gazebo, handsomer than in life, the long-legged Andrew Jackson on a prancing horse in Lafayette Square, waving his cocked hat at the White House. They even walked the streets in flesh and blood. Pausing with his aides at a crosswalk on the Senate side, Ted Kennedy turned to watch Abby’s legs as she walked past, while she tried not to stare at that unmistakable florid face. 
There were no famous people where Abby hailed from. Whatever happened happened somewhere else. At night Main Street was deserted. All the streetlamps had to shine on was the row of empty pick-ups outside Erikkson’s bar and the metallic walls of Lundgren’s creamery, which loomed over the town like an ocean liner in dry dock.

Chuck’s apartment was the closest, down near the marina in South West. He drove her there in his silver Miata. A fountain ejaculated in the lobby of his building. The elevator was lined with mirrors, and when Abby looked up, she had a bird’s-eye view of the crown of his head. It looked rosy but hard, like a nut.
In his apartment, every flat surface held an enormous crystal. Abby picked one up and ran her fingers over its facets. 
“What are they supposed to do?” she asked, passing the rock of rose quartz from hand to hand. Chuck took it away from her and put it back on its shelf.
“You can damage their auras if you hold them too long.”
In the bedroom, Chuck closed the drapes and lit the candles ranged across his dresser as Abby perched on the edge of the bed, swinging her heels. Shaking out the match, Chuck shrugged off his jacket and came towards her.
As a girl, Abby had dreamed of being ravished by a centaur. She’d raise her legs under the covers and run her hands down the human chest and onto the coarse warmth of the creature’s hide. What she’d wanted was to have something mythical between her thighs. Nothing less would do. 
So when Chuck B. Anderson gently tipped her onto her back, she closed her eyes and let herself be entered by a legend.

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