Big Fiction No. 7, Winter/Spring 2015
From "I’ll Be Your Fever"
by Panio Gianopoulos
The moment he was outside, he heard Stella scramble around the L-shaped body of the couch. He ran to the car, searching his pocket for the keys and unlocking it in mid-stride. He had not wanted to leave his camera, lenses, and gear overnight in a vehicle parked on the street, they were too valuable, but now he regretted his caution. He couldn’t photograph the wedding without his equipment, but if he ventured into the house to retrieve his bags, discreetly stashed in the coat closet just outside the living room, he would run into Stella.
He sat in the front seat, unsure of what to do. Maybe he could call a neighbor and ask him to pick up his bags and bring them out to his car. It was a simple enough request—
And then he saw her. She was skulking along the edge of the concrete pathway in bare feet and pajamas, her shoulders low, her head craned forward. From this angle, she looked tiny and slight, almost kittenish, nothing like the formidable adversary that shared his home.
Fighting back his guilt, he switched on the ignition, pressed his foot to the accelerator, and sped away. In the rear view mirror, he saw Stella’s head pop up. She held a hand to her eyes and squinted across the lawn of the apartment complex and out toward the road, searching for him, her darling, her beloved, her captive, her father.
Panio Gianopoulos is the author of the novella, A Familiar Beast, and the upcoming story collection, How to Get Into Our House and Where We Keep The Money (Fall 2015). His fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Tin House, Northwest Review, Salon, Nerve, The Hartford Courant, The Brooklyn Rail, FiveChapters, The Rattling Wall, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, he has been included in the anthologies The Encyclopedia of Exes, The Bastard on the Couch, and Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House Nonfiction Reader.
From "Happy Birthday to Me"
by Neina Gordon
Tonight was scene study and it was Darla and Lewis’s turn to take the stage. Mrs. Avery had assigned Darla to play Laura, and Lewis to play her brother, Tom, from The Glass Menagerie. Darla paced back and forth between the tape marks where the furniture was supposed to be, where she had to imagine it, while Mrs. Avery stood off stage and directed her. “You’ve got to get the first moment.” Her voice was the rich and coarse voice of an old movie star—a Katherine Hepburn voice. Darla listened to it and ignored the shaking in her hands. “Now remember,” Mrs. Avery continued, “Tom’s coming home from a late night and you’re relieved because you sense it’s only a matter of time before he takes off for good. Look at the room. Where’s the Victrola?” Darla pointed downstage right. “Where’s the picture of her father?” She pointed down center. “And Amanda, her mother, remember she’s asleep so you must be quiet. Stay with your senses.”
All Darla noticed was that the room smelled like an old cupboard, the students sitting in the audience didn’t make a sound, and the dust beneath the stage lights drizzled
around her. Mrs. Avery wouldn’t stop talking. “And where’s the glass menagerie? Is she playing with it before she hears Tom fumbling at the door? Go find the glass, let it catch your eye.” Darla walked to that part of the stage where she imagined the shelf with the tiny sparkling animals. She could hear Lewis at the door trying to get in, so she walked across the stage and opened it. “Look at him, Darla,” Mrs. Avery said. “Really look at him and let him affect you. He’s the only connection Laura has to the outside world, the only real thing.” Lewis smiled at her, sad and resigned; he stumbled towards her, his round eyes searched for something from her. He was supposed to be drunk and he looked it, but she couldn’t respond. Her insides turned to concrete. His wanting and sincerity, the genuine desire to engage up there in front of the small audience of their class, and the lack of fear in him, made her all the more fearful. The air left her body and she couldn’t get it back.
Neina Gordon is a graduate of the MFA Program at UNC Greensboro where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow and fiction editor for The Greensboro Review. She teaches creative writing at Salem College. A native of California, she now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and daughter. This is her first story publication.
From "A Theory of Transformations"
by Earle McCartney
1. The Manson Disturbance
I spent much of breakfast staring out the window, trying to distract myself from the coming day’s work, from the hours I’d spend struggling with our transformation. The view was of our street, its identical townhouses marching uphill to the neighborhood park, a grassy rise dominated by a single, ancient, enormous tree. The tree calmed me. Looming from its hilltop, it seemed as cut off from my worries as a galaxy viewed through a telescope. I didn’t know what kind of tree it was. I asked Marshall.
“I don’t know trees,” he said, not looking up from his book. I studied his face—the square jaw, the downturned mouth, the eyebrows that always meant business. He seemed to be hard at work solving a thorny problem. The ponytail only heightened the effect. It made him look like a humorless young academic. I caught him running his finger along the lines as he read and had to look away. He stopped to take a sip from his coffee and caught me staring out the window. “I wouldn’t have thought I could be jealous of a tree,” he said. “Yet here we are.”
“I’m serious. I thought you would know. Why did I think you would know?”
Marshall shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a mystery.”
“What are you reading, anyway.”
“Geology,” he said. He closed the book around his finger and held it up for me to see. An introductory college text, from the look of the glossy cover. Maybe high school.
“I have to go to work,” I said.
“Don’t forget your calculator.”
Did he realize he’d made the same joke the day before? Maybe because I hadn’t laughed, he’d thought I hadn’t heard. Fair enough. I wasn’t always good at listening.
That night Marshall brought home another library book, the Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Trees. “It’s an elm,” he said. “Be happy.”
Earle McCartney was awarded the San Francisco Foundation’s Joseph Henry Jackson Award in 2013. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in ZYZZYVA, The Common, Meridian, The Greensboro Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and daughters in San Francisco.