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Carol Novack Contact Sheet


Carol Novack


3 Silly Love Stories


Book Review

A woman sat down in the middle of the book review section next to a bald gray-suited man without features. There were no wrinkles in his clothes. You must be that Japanese man without a face, she remarked, employing a neutral voice. The man appeared to be reading a book without a title. He tilted his head toward the woman, reached for her right hand and placed its palm on his heart. His heart felt like a mountain with fire at its core. He then seemed to inhale each finger of the woman's perfumed hand. Barely audible sighs escaped from the walls. Okay, she said, I understand. She began her review.


Low Wages

Under a money tree, a man stood reciting passages from a play about the captains of two oil tankers that collide in the Persian Gulf, a play called "Tanker." The man was auditioning for the part of Captain Black, hired by Exron to sink a French tanker manned by Captain Blanc. There were no women in the play except a mother and two wives by allusion. Most of Captain Black's lines were monologues spoken via cell phone, such as, "Right, Sir, I have him in my kaleidoscope, moving SESW, 89 nots per hour." After he'd recited each batch of lines to his satisfaction, the man would help himself to a dollar bill from one of the tree's low branches, and eat it with so much commotion the pigeons trembled. Trouble happened when the single bills were gone. Bills of progressively greater denominations dangled from higher branches beyond his reach, as he was short for a man.

A woman watched the man. She was tall for a woman and wore a white dress full of daffodils. She was also wearing her violet contact lenses and push up bra. She smelled like gladiolas, like the man's mother. The woman thought, well this man's very passionate with his lines and I love the line of his cheekbones. He's nervous and needs nourishment. Lucky thing I'm a mother and physicist with breasts like tangelos. I love this man's plump lips, just like daddy's, may he rest.

When she saw that the man was unable to reach the higher branches, the woman approached as if with nonchalance. Please continue, do, she entreated, plucking a five dollar bill from a branch the man couldn't reach. After the man had recited three lines about Captain Black's potential for remorse, she gracefully slid her tongue over the face of Abraham Lincoln and gradually inserted the bill into the man's mouth. She gazed at him during the feeding and lowered her purple eyelids when it was over. The man swallowed the bill and offered the woman a ring with a violent gem that sparkled like a leaping trout before sundown on a late summer's night. The woman accepted the ring. She made a bed of pine nettles and slept beside the money tree. She dreamed of a man reciting lines from a play. His plump mouth became the mouth of a big fish that swallowed her. And they lived happily after.


Sour bread

At Kazbegi gorges near an impoverished village, a woman of uncertain age sits eating a rind of old cheese and sour bread. She sits on a rock beneath a temperamental sky offering bilious clouds turning sanguine, clouds like white doves turning into blackbirds. It is rumored that the woman has been there since the end of summer, forced out of her mother's kitchen by the unrelenting ire of her tyrannical sire. It is whispered loudly that after he'd discovered she was full from the seeds of a slow goatherd, her father shook the egg out of her. When the egg cracked and a kid's head rolled onto the floor, he flew into a whirl of a rage and cracked his wife's head open with a bottle of cheap vodka.

At Kazbegi gorges the woman of uncertain age sits now with a blackbird on her shoulder. As long as the bird remains, her father will not approach. He bellows in the belly of the gorges, seeking the breathing fruit of his old wife's egg, but his threats are hollow. His echoes return to him, without hands. The villagers fear the blackbird. The father fears everything.

At Kazbegi gorges a man of uncertain age and labile gait approaches the rock where the woman sits with her cheese and bread. Sqwakoshsky, my Shaynamadala! screeches the blackbird. The woman turns as the clouds turn nasty. It is only a man, my dove, says the woman to the bird, patting its head. The clouds turn tasty and the stranger is timidly ravenous. Seeing his unspoken need, the woman beckons him to share her nourishment. Her mouth is a velvet poppy, his hands exotic gardeners.

The father with his anger is nowhere. The woman with her mother is sitting atop a rock at Kazbegi gorges. The man with the unspoken needs reclines with his head in her lap for awhile. Then he sits up, erect on the rock and talks about Sartre; the man has a purpose. The woman and man speak of going to the big city. But that is many years in the future. Yesterday the bird we grew to love closed the eyes of the father we grew to loathe. Now there are no echoes. The woman and her gardener will go where they must. That is all.


—first appeared in Le Petite Zine

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