We were at a fair yesterday down by the lakeside and a vendor had in captivity one of the owls that have invaded the city ever since the lake first appeared a couple of years ago. She was explaining to some other mom's kid how, far up in the sky, the owl can hear a human heartbeat--and even at that very moment, I thought to myself, this owl could hear Kirk's little heart as I stood there holding him in my arms. Could it have heard his heart in my belly three years ago? Was this my first betrayal of my boy, his very birth, exposing him to the peril of owls that hear heartbeats? Every night I wait for the sun to set before writing this, and there it goes now, slipping down behind the San Vicente Bridge that crosses the lake to the northwest, I see it from my window . . . the sun goes down, the sky goes dark, the lake goes black, and owls swoop across the rising moon like leaves blown loose from a phantasmagoric tree twisting up out of the ground--and my voice rises from the crypt of my consciousness shaking words off like topsoil. Kirk and I are bonded by a cord of blood that runs from his heart to my thighs. Menstrual waves crash against the inner beach of my belly.
Steve Erickson is the author of the unpublished "Swan Lake." A longer version of this excerpt appears in Conjunctions: 34, American Fiction. His last novel, "The Sea Came In at Midnight," has just been published in paperback by HarperPerennial. His previous works include "Days Between Stations" and "American Nomad."
STEPHEN J. CANNELL
Chooch arrived this afternoon as planned, (actually, I picked him up). This is already shaping up as one of my biggest boners. I pulled up at the fancy private school Sandy's got him enrolled in and I had to go to the principal's office to sign the pickup permission slip. The principal, John St. John, is a wheezing, hollow-chested geek who seems to honestly hate Chooch. The way he put it was, "That child is from the ninth circle." I had to ask too. It's from Dante's Inferno. Apparently the ninth circle is the circle closest to Hell. Now that I've met Chooch, not an entirely inappropriate analogy. Then, this pale erection with ears hands me a packet of Teacher Evaluation slips. For a fifteen year old, his rap sheet is impressive . . . pulled fire alarms and fights in the school cafeteria (food as well as fists). Mr. St. John informs me that they have notified Sandy that Chooch is not to return to Harvard Westlake School next semester and that I need to get him enrolled elsewhere, (like this is all of a sudden supposed to be my problem). It's not as if this boy doesn't have a good reason to be angry. I think I wrote you, he's a love child with one of Sandy's old clients. Making it worse, Sandy doesn't want him to know how she makes her living, so she's been shipping him off to boarding schools since third grade.
Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting into here. Maybe I can last the month until Sandy takes him back or sends him to the next sucker on her list. One way or another I'll work it out.
Stephen J. Cannell is the author of an unpublished, untitled novel. His previous works include "The Devil's Workshop," "Final Victim" and "King Con."
A Rorschach of teardrops had stained the lap of my dress. Weary of my sob story, I distracted myself by peering out of the window of the bruised station wagon in which I was riding. If there had been a town, I'd missed it. A dusty, sun-seared landscape appeared before me wherein grimy beer cans, French fry wrappers, paper cups and straws had been impaled on the spines of innumerable saguaro cacti. From the fleeting vehicle, it seemed to me, I was looking at a petrified forest of shish kebabs.
My parents, Charmian and Maurice Leigh, who considered cactus so hideous they wanted the entire phylum banned from Beverly Hills, were responsible for slapping me down in this alien collage. "We're giving you a surprise party," Charmian had informed me on the way to the airport. "I'm speaking metaphorically, tu comprends, about the boarding school to which you're bound." *
Diane Leslie is the author of the unpublished novel "Fleur de Leigh's Surprise Party." Her first novel was "Fleur De Leigh's Life of Crime."
High, high in the Bel-Air Hills, above the smog line, up a dangerously steep pencil-thin road from Sunset Boulevard, the former movie star once known as "Asia" sprawled in her cave-like living room, now converted into a private screening theater, and pressed Rewind. She leaned forward intently to study, on her immense TV screen, for the fifth night running, Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2--Judgment Day."
What was it about the girl? The camera didn't love her, she was no raving beauty--look at that oily skin!--yet Hamilton dominated it. I could do that, Asia thought. I can make them fall in love with me all over again.