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INTRODUCTION

Between regular issues of disenthralled, I will be presenting a variety of artwork and written material in special editions. SPECIAL #1 features the story “Arkansas,” by Kristen Michelle Håvet. Kristen is an American-Canadian living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is the founder and contributing editor of the online literary journal Glossolalia, specializing in flash fiction (and some non-fiction, under 500 words). Links to her journal and personal blog follow the story.

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ARKANSAS

Every night the dream starts with me pushing my body against a door that stretches up into darkness. I hear voices and they’re crying for me to save them, but all I can do is push so hard the door and my skin become one. I wonder for a moment if I am causing the fire; in dreams these things happen. My jaw will come unhinged, one side and then the other. By my own force my face will break.

The heat is real. An Arkansas summer’s morning is gliding in all raunchy like a cat in heat, and I am tired before I’m awake. I touch my face to make sure; it could never stretch that far. Right?

My jaw is killing me. Why do I need to push so hard? Why doesn’t the door just open? I close my eyes and lay back down. An overwhelming desire to bash my head against the wall rises like the violent Arkansas sun – quick, glaring, and distasteful. I don’t want to have these dreams anymore and I don’t want the fire or the fucking heat. But I have to leave soon.

I want to live in a land that has one unchanging winter. You’d have to shield yourself from blizzards so wild and icicles so huge they might decapitate you. It would be that brutal. In Arkansas you have the grand gestures of black willows and honey locust trees, but in the summer they drip and in the winter they break. Their shadows are shifty and uncertain, no matter what time of year.

It just happens to be summer again, and I’m looking for my own place. I have to get away from him. I manage to leave the house on time and drive along Prince Street from Conway, past blocks of ugly, matching houses. I wonder how people can tell which is theirs and then I remember they have Satellite. They are all marked and beamed by the same solitary one. Around and around the planet and there you are.

The colours of the houses and vehicles vary slightly, but not enough for anyone to see the whole spectrum. Then a stretch of land spreads out beyond to trick you into feeling you’ve reached Eden, and just before the river a fistful of houses rises where the green becomes more full. The house I’m moving towards stands solitary with a clear view of the Arkansas River. This river’s a tributary, flowing into something much greater and hungrier than itself.

When I look out at the river and to the south I can see mist coming off the Toad Suck Lock and Dam. I shake my head at the ridiculous name – the bastardized French for such a beautiful location, from back when traders had to wait long nights and longer days for steamboats to take them upriver. They had their way many times, and with language, too. Their flaws still garble our speech and even when we whisper.

“You must be Danika?”

I turn around to see her. This is the woman who lives on the main floor and I can’t quite tell her age. She rents out her upstairs and keeps the rest to herself, the advertisement reads. I notice her hair is dark violet in the sunlight and only at certain angles. She’s got sun-catcher hair, bright green eyes, and looks nothing like other Conway women. She looks nothing like most people.

“Yes, hi,” I say, my voice automatically smaller in these situations. I sound like a child.

She could be Oprah, if Oprah were white. My mind flashes back to five years old and I’m waking up to Oprah belly-laughing on television. Eating Cheerios in front of Oprah, enthralled with the crying women and suffering even then. Cheating husbands, back-stabbing twins – miscommunicated, excommunicated, years gone by, wasted, wasted….And milk dripping down to gather in my bellybutton.

“I’m Lily, hi,” she says in a voice deep like Cate Blanchett’s in that Bob Dylan movie. The contrast of our voices is killing me and for some reason this makes me blush.

“Nice to meet you,” we overlap exactly, and for a moment there’s a gargling hum like Tuvan throat-singing.

I follow Lily up the slope that leads to her house. It’s muddled white and has cracks along the edges to show years our eyes can’t see. This house has stretch marks and birthing scars. There are blood red irises lining the front of questionable lineage. I normally wouldn’t think such a thing but I wonder if they smell like their colour.

My jaw breaks into another one of its god-awful flares and I squint, but I hope it looks like I’m squinting from the sun. It isn’t you, Lily, or your house. Walking without falling is now all I know. Just don’t fall….just stand up.…keep your eyes focused….My thoughts jump and spark like a thousand palpitating hearts. But as the door opens into the front room, my firecracking jaw subsides.

“I hope you don’t mind the stairs. They’re pretty steep and I’ve fallen on them a time or two, but I don’t think you’ll have much trouble,” she eyes my entire body in one go, tilts her hand and motions up, “there’s no door at the top, but there’s the curtain.”

“No it’s fine, I’m fine with it.” I am.

Her green eyes gleam instead of sparkle and her hair is not so violet in here. If I never see the colour again it’s etched in my mind – the colour of swamp violets rising in lack of sun.

“I hope you like the River. The window juts out a foot or two so you have a view like no other,” her arm now out and wing-like.

The view is spectacular as she opens the curtain to show me. I’ve decided yes, of course. The mist rising off the dam is an omen. It’s a little like snow – like a small cluster of snow falling just on that spot and then melting, and falling, and now melting again. A little snow-globe over the waters that I can turn and turn, let fall and sink into itself without end, and even break if I feel like it.

“Yes. It’s perfect.”

Lily’s smile has never ceased and it doesn’t change, just stays steady. Not a huge smile, just a solemn grin-like pose her mouth makes. I decide that if there’s one person I’d die for, it’s Lily. The five year old with milk in her button rises like mist over the dam.

And then recedes.

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Kristen Michelle Håvet online:

 

 

GLOSSOLALIA FLASH FICTION

VESPER IN LIMBO

 

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Introduction by Walter Conley. Special Issue #1 photo by Paul Dutra; author’s photo supplied by Kristen Michelle Håvet. All material ©2009 by respective creators.

Read ISSUE #1 Here.

Read ISSUE #2 Here.

Submit for winter 2009/2010 editions and specials November 15 – November 22. Check afterword of ISSUE #2 for more details.

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5 Comments

  1. from the photo to the truly amazing story that follows, this ‘special’ issue is, indeed, special.

    i can’t find enough good things to say about this piece of fiction… the phrases, the characters, the trail we follow in going where the author wants us to go…

    oh! i want to write like this when i grow up!

  2. quin — Oh my goodness. I truly appreciate your comment. Thank you. -Kristen

  3. This one’s a dreamy think. For the dreamer, it’s a semi-conscious-fest of feeling details and feasting on luscious word combinations—grand gestures of black willows, in the summer they drip and in the winter they break, a fistful of houses rises, she’s got sun-catcher hair. For the mind wanting to find and order things, there are so many dot-connecting possibilities—the dream, the fire, the jaw, the him, the Lily-Oprah, the milk, the rising and receding—but they elude me, and anyway, the snow-globe over the waters has me falling and melting.

  4. This is a wonderful piece that will stand up to a lot of reading. Strong images in the story working well with great photo.

  5. I found myself IN this story…I felt every moment…it’s picture perfect… as is Paul’s photograpy, as always…


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By SPECIAL #2: POETRY « disenthralled on 30 Nov 2009 at 11:11 am

    […] disenthralled A Literary Journal AboutSubmissionsContactAbout MeSplit-PressonalityImagesIssues « SPECIAL #1: Kristen Michelle Håvet […]

  2. By WHAT’S UP « disenthralled on 19 Dec 2009 at 5:08 am

    […] SPECIAL #1 (Fiction by Kristen Michelle Håvet/Photography by Paul Dutra/Produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra) […]

  3. By Hey…. « disenthralled on 12 Jan 2010 at 10:30 am

    […] SPECIAL #1 (Fiction by Kristen Michelle Håvet/Photography by Paul Dutra/Produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra) […]

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