Slipstream Issue 24    Slipstream 24

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by Anna Aichinger & Jonathan Kane
Alone in Kyoto, by Anna Aichinger, copyright 2004
Alone in Kyoto, Anna Aichinger © 2004            
Maitre Nageur, by Jonathan Kane, copyright 20034
Maitre Nageur, Jonathan Kane © 2004

A Bellhop's Diary  by Travis Wayne Denton
The Ship Builder   by Nancy Scott
Rifles   by James Doyle
The Gumball Ballerina   by Jan Ball


A Bellhop's Diary
By Travis Wayne Denton

July 18
1:59 am

Room twelve’s our most popular,
Charlotte’s favorite.
Each night at ten she stumbles in,
usually followed by a gentleman in a blue or beige
or sometimes even a fuchsia Italian suit,
no tie, her glassy brown eyes
fixed on the key I leave
for her on the desk.
She doesn’t speak, just waves her girlish wave
then winks. He drops a little something
for me in my palm as they mount the stairs.

Moments later, after the shower spits
its last shot of redemption, I listen
through the door as the iron bed frame
begins to slap the gold lamé papered walls.
My hand becomes his in a twist
of drunken transfiguration, and I press
my chest to hers, run my hand down her arm,
thinking how later we’ll climb into her Buick
and wait as the engine coughs across the parking lot,
then growls its throaty song and we’ll drive
top down through the desert
smoking cigarettes
         and shooting sloe gin til dawn

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The Ship Builder
By Nancy Scott

Perhaps by a quirk of hormonal imbalance
or a reckless moment of indecision,
she’s neither a man nor a woman.

In our Victoria’s Secret world
she’s a nightmare—heavy brow,
ample breasts, and paw-like hands.

With these hands, she builds ship models
with Popsicle sticks, tying
intricate knots, fully-rigged sails.

She explains it takes months to finish
a ship, paint and lacquer it, making sure
all the riggings are exactly right.

Suddenly her fingers are nimble and lithe.
It isn’t a man or woman I see
but the mainsail taut in a steady wind.

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By James Doyle

An enthusiast, he mounted one
on the wall of every room.
They were always pointed
at the family portraits.

At night he’d mix a martini
and take target practice. He said
it relaxed him. He’d squint along
the walls and pull the triggers.

His favorite son had a hole
the size of an olive between
his eyes. His wife’s wedding dress
was spackled with polka dots.

He had widened Grandma’s grin
inch by inch until she looked
like a woodchuck in heat. “She just
keeps getting happier,” he said.

Some people jog at the end
of a day, others open a good
book. He was satisfied with his loved
ones in his sights at all times.

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The Gumball Ballerina
By Jan Ball

One summer you came home
and mowed the front lawn
in the shape of Australia.
You trimmed the shrubs hissing,
“Chop, chop, chop; chop, chop, chop,”
wearing that Chicago Bears hat
you used to pull over your ears.
I sat on the couch pretending to read and pondering,
“Where has the theoretical physics student gone,
where could the long-distance runner
be hiding,
crouched inside the emaciated body,
under the hat,
under the two-tone hair
that explodes from your head?”

Then on Christmas Eve
you came home again from your squat
in Vancouver,
“It has lights and running water;
I can read at night,” you told us proudly.
I wanted to stroke your scraggily beard
and put my little finger on your new eyebrow scar,
but mothers don’t possess
proprietary rights at your age.
We unwrapped the gifts
you’d put in our stockings,
continuing our family ritual.

What can I say?
The gumball ballerina
is always in my change purse.
In arabesque, it proudly stretches in the flat spaces
between the dimes and quarters.
It brushes my hand as I conduct transactions.
It waits in plastic silhouette.
And so do I.

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