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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Throughout the early years of our acquaintance, the late Bruce Brown and I would send each other work to critique. He was such a caring and meticulous writer that all I could usually offer him was a desire to see more. He emailed this story to me a while back. When I was preparing Issue #6, I asked if I could include it. He gave permission, but suggested that I look at a more recent tale, the blistering “Silver Winter,” which I ended up using as the lead story. I am honored to present “Unrequited Love,” editing only as I believe he would have wanted, because it continues to haunt me and deserves to be read.

Walter Conley
Oct. 28, 2010
Louisa, VA

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“Unrequited Love”
by Bruce Brown

The only light beside the rising half-moon was a bare sixty watt bulb dangling on a socket cord from the camper’s canopy. She could see the gray outline of trees, but the quarry below had become an engulfing black pit. Poe lit a match, cupping orange flame to his cigarette. He narrowed his eyes, taking a long drag and blowing smoke through his teeth. He snuffed the match with two fingers.

“Is there a crane out there?” She motioned with a wave.

He watched her.

She watched the thin orange line burning along the cigarette. She shifted her weight in his lap, the lawn chair creaking with the motion. She realized he was touching her left leg, a long curious caress with his fingertips.

“What’s this one made of?” He spoke slowly and thumped her leg.

“What?” She blinked. “Well, it’s plastic.”

“Not like the other? Not like wood?”

He reached for his boot and pulled the knife. He laid the knife against her left thigh. He looked directly into her eyes and then angled the blade, slipping the razor between the hose and her leg, making a vertical slit.

She straightened up. “You didn’t have to do that. I would’ve…”

Poe pressed his fingers to her lips. He made a silent sawing diagonal cut that he curved past her knee. He took both edges of the slit hose and ripped them apart, the sound like tugging a rusty zipper. The exposed leg fascinated him. It was a vague flesh color, the hinge joint a darker brown. She tried to take the torn flaps of the pantyhose to cover her leg. Her breaths came in rhythmic hitches and she made a clumsy attempt to wrest from his lap. He shushed her and drew the blade against the knee, a thin cut. A transparent corkscrew shaving wormed free. He stopped mid-thigh and brushed the excess. She touched his hand.

“Don’t. This one’s expensive,” she said.

He looked her in the eyes and made another cut.

“Don’t.”

Poe gripped her hard by the face to kiss her. She scrambled free, tumbling near the quarry’s edge. She crawled for the lightbulb and the camper. He stood up from the chair; his face disappeared into the shadows. Her pantyhose had torn further, snagging at the socket. Her hair hung in her face, matting to her cheeks. With sweat and tears her face had become an exaggeration of eyelash and smeared lipstick.

She tried to pull the dress past her knees and hugged her face into her shoulder. When Poe extended a hand, she slapped at it. She inched back, fingers grasping for traction in the giving sand. The leg dragged with her. She reached the aluminum steps of the camper and clasped to the bottom rail. He followed her, slow, kicking sand over the furrow the leg made.

He spoke to her in a soothing tone and curled an arm under her waist and around her right leg. She released her grip and he lifted her. She pressed her face to him. She refused to let him touch the leg, so he unfastened it and dropped it to the sand. He eyed the leg as he carried her into the camper.

At dawn, Poe climbed from the camper. He draped the leg over his shoulder and walked to the lawn chair. The sun had begun to creep over the lip of the fields past the quarry. Reds and yellows bleached into the morning light. A bird skimmed the length of the quarry and settled on the crane. Poe sat and leaned forward. He began to sculpt the leg. He heard her call his name once, then twice, then nothing. The leavings fluttered in a pile at his feet.

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All rights to “Unrequited Love” retained by Bruce Brown’s executor.

“Introduction” copyright©2010WalterConley

KATASHI KATSU INTERVIEW

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Editor’s Note: Last weekend, an acquaintance of mine by the name of Rizzy Rodham—who writes what she wants and does it all too infrequently for my tastes—sent me an email. The email had no subject. Contained within it was an interview by Rizzy of the elusive and mystifying Katashi Katsu. Although I bear no ill will toward the man, I hesitate to number Katsu among my friends; if you knew him you would understand. He is a mutual something of ours, Rizzy’s and mine. That will have to suffice. Katsu trusted her with the following information. She trusted me. I know entrust it to you, the readers of disenthralled, to make of it what you will.

Walter Conley
Louisa, VA
October 18, 2010

* * *

STALL: An interview with Katashi Katsu, conducted independently by Rizzy Rodham.

Walter,

Katashi Katsu recently agreed to sit with me for an interview concerning the alleged abduction of his parents by extraterrestrials in the spring of 1968. I knew little of the encounter beforehand. Tash had mentioned it in passing back in 2001, while we were both employed by the U.S.D.A. National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus and Dates at UC Riverside. He shared certain details of the event, unprompted and for reasons known only to him, during our weekly trip to the department’s experimental Date Palm grove in the isolated desert community of Blythe. I will never forget that morning—as I will also never forget the afternoon of the following interview.

It came about easily; almost too easily, I later thought. Katsu owed me a favor. Perhaps he had set me up by obliging himself to me? At any rate, I requested an interview on the subject. I had been sleepwalking and regaining consciousness in the oddest of situations, with even odder traces of lingering dreams/memories that I don’t care to expound upon. I hoped that the experience of his parents might shed light upon my own predicament. Katsu, to my astonishment, agreed. (But should we ever NOT be surprised by Katashi Katsu?)

“Meet me this afternoon,” he said.

I scrambled for a pen, poised to write on the inside of my forearm. “Where?” I asked.

He named a small family-owned restaurant off the UCR campus—one we had frequented in 2001—then said, “Three O’clock. There and right there. Only there. I, Katashi Katsu, will be there.”

At precisely 3:00pm, I entered the restaurant to find Katsu waiting at a booth along the window. He was facing the door, as always. I sat across from him. Tash had a mug of coffee in his hands, black and piping hot. Another had been ordered for me. I thanked him and sipped; cream and two sugars, the way I had preferred their house blend, all those years ago.

“Please set your instruments on the table,” he said.

I place my microcassette recorder down between us, a notebook and pencil beside it. “How have you been, Tash?”

“This is my story,” he said.

I punched the Record button.

Interview Proper begins. The interviewer shall be noted henceforth as RR, with personal observations supplied in brackets.

KATSU: My mother was babysitting for her sister in March of 1968. Her sister Connie. We will refer to her as my mother’s sister. She was young, then. Nineteen. Maybe twenty. No, nineteen. Her sister’s family owned a house in Brookfield, Connecticut, deep in the woods near Lantern Hill. Are you familiar with the area?

RR: No.

KATSU: It is woody.

RR: Okay.

KATSU: My mother was watching her three nieces, while her sister and her sister’s husband visited friends nearby to play cards. They ate a dinner of elbow macaroni. Are you familiar with elbow macaroni?

RR: I’ve seen pictures.

KATSU: Be serious with me.

RR: Yes, I’ve had elbow macaroni before.

KATSU: That is all we have to be familiar with for this story.

[The door opened behind me. I heard a group of children laughing. Katsu eyed them warily over my shoulder.]

KATSU (con’t): My mother and father were dating when this happened. Engaged to be wed. It was around the time he implanted her with me, Katashi Katsu.

RR: You were born the following year, correct?

KATSU: That is correct, Rizzy Rodham. I spent the full term inside her and escaped in January of 1969.

RR: On what day? The date, I mean.

KATSU: My mother was alone that night with the children. The three little girls. She had put them to bed and was looking at the moon through the trees, out the big picture window in the living room. She didn’t just look at it, though. She was watching it. That is how she said it to me. Because it seemed to be moving very slowly through the trees. So slowly, that she couldn’t be sure it was moving at all. But she felt that it was…And she realized, as she was standing there, that the moon was, in fact, on the other side of the house. She had seen it through the window of the youngest girl’s bedroom as she was tucking her into bed.

RR: This light, Katashi…It looked like the moon?

KATSU: Like, she said, but not exactly. This was not the moon. It was too large. Too close for the moon to be. And the bluer spots seemed to be in the wrong places.

RR: The face?

KATSU: If you will.

[At this point, a waitress returned with a fresh pot of coffee to refill our mugs. Katashi informed her that it would be the last time they would be “adding coffee to the coffee” that day.]

RR: The face was wrong?

KATSU: Yes. It was a face, but not human.

RR: What is that supposed to mean, exactly?

KATSU: ‘Not human’ is all she said.

RR: Go on.

KATSU: I am going on. There’s no need to tell me to go on. I am already telling you the story.

RR: Okay.

KATSU: She went back to the youngest girl’s bedroom to make sure she’d seen the moon from that corner of the house. It was still there and it definitely was the real moon….In a panic, she broke one of her sister’s rules for babysitting and called the man who would be my father. He came over right away. That light was still in the trees and upset him even more than it upset her, for some reason.

RR: Had either of them experienced anything like that in the past?

KATSU: No….Or if they had, they didn’t tell me….He stayed with her until her sister got home and the two of them left right away. They didn’t say a word about what had happened to her sister, only that she wasn’t feeling well. The light was gone when they stepped outside….They were on their way home, then, when my father noticed that the light had reappeared and was now following them. It didn’t just appear to be following them, like the real moon seems to do, it was following them. It followed them all the way back to Wellesport, where my mother was living with her family. My father tried to outrun it, but could not, even though he wasn’t married yet and had a very fast car at the time. They turned into her driveway….She had a long, gravel driveway that went back into the trees. You couldn’t see the house from the road….And as they were turning, the car shut off.

RR: Completely?

KATU: Completely….Then the lights and radio came back on. He re-started the car and drove her to the house. Her mother, the woman who would be my grandmother, was waiting. She asked what they were doing out until 2:30 in the morning? They had left her sister’s house at a quarter to twelve and come straight home and they stared at each other, unable to make sense of it, until her mother pulled her inside and slammed the door. It should have been a fifteen minute drive….That is the story.

RR: That’s it?

KATSU: That is all. My mother told me about it once and only once. Aside from that, neither of them would ever speak about it again. They made it clear that they did not care to discuss it further. I asked, from time to time, but they would not even reply.

Interview Proper ends.

Katashi Katsu waved his hand to indicate that he was done.

I signed off and stopped recording. The interview proper was done, but felt incomplete; and also, strangely, like it would be completed.

“Excuse me,” Katsu said.

He went down the hall to the bathroom.

I finished my coffee and asked for the check. Approximately five minutes later, I replaced the recorder, pad and pencil in my bag. I watched the hallway. I waited. After five more minutes had elapsed, I hoisted the bag onto my shoulder and went to the bathroom door. There was no sound from inside. I knocked and called his name, aware that disturbing Katashi Katsu was almost always a mistake, whatever the circumstances, but disquieted by his failure to return. When I received no reply, I tried the doorknob. It turned freely.

“Tash?” I said loudly. “I’m opening the door.”

I pushed the door open until it hit the stop against the wall. The light was on. This was a small, single bathroom. There was a toilet, sink, garbage can, paper towel dispenser and vent.

There was no window.

Nor was there any sign of Katashi Katsu.

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Interview by Juliette “Rizzy” Rodham, published here for the first time, unabridged and with her consent.

“That is not the Shadow of a House,” painted by Walter Conley.

All material copyright©2010 by respective creators.