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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-three MEMORIES UNACCEPTED

by
CHRIS GLANZER
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he sees the world upside down through a lens of rain, blood and glass shards. Choking, struggling for breath, and her hands are pinned and the streetlights yellow swarms spinning and dancing in rhythm. Reds. Blues. Numbness and the midnight dark.



Bands of color spied the horizon. She stood with hands on hips examining a closet filled with summer dresses, each housed in plastic and suspended from white hangers—halter print dresses and rust colored red slip-ons; however, her daughter’s favorite color was blue, and Beatrice smiled wide as she removed a baby blue summer wrap and slipped it around her thinned frame.



Hair and make-up were next, followed by heals and bright red lipstick popping against porcelain skin—the beginnings of a daily process born through the predictable, shrouding her fears in comforting routine and pushing her through the darkness, beyond the misshapen and lumbering monsters existing between the blur, giving her some semblance of renewed purpose.



She stepped away from her vanity, carefully smoothed the front of her dress and walked to the kitchen. Glass of Sweet Red. Rainbow finger-painting hanging from the refrigerator. Beatrice traced the name, signed on the bottom of the painting by the index finger of a child without worry, each letter a dry smear of color.



LILY



Today was her daughter’s fifth birthday, and Beatrice insisted it be the most special of days.



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The basement door swung open, and Caroline gave the rusty chain a measured pull, throwing pale into the void—across the staircase and further down, a small patch of stained concrete and darkness beyond, foot of the stairs and her hand through the dark. Main breaker.



A dull glow swelled through the long, narrow space. Shadows scattered and reformed in new hiding spaces. Caroline removed her leather work gloves. Her movements were deliberate. Purposeful. She walked past rows of wooden shelves, cut from plywood and bracketed to brick walls. Metal bins. Mason jars filled with nuts and bolts. Damp liquor boxes. Bundled newspapers wrapped tight in brown twine and piled beneath a pair of workbenches—a second switch and two fluorescent bulbs sputtered to life.



Pegboard: clock and watch oils, measuring tapes, knives of specific shapes and lengths, clay shaping tools and wire brushes.



Workbench one: needles and threads, hide paste, silver canisters labeled SALT and PICKLING CHRYSTALS.



Workbench two: lip and eye tucking tools, mounting stand, airbrush with paints, grooming brushes, electric drying fan, spirits of turpentine and linseed oil.



Caroline thrust her hands into the oversized pockets of her green overalls and grinned. She looked around the basement, admiring her handiwork. They were destined for other homes, of course; she simply provided a service, but her love was in every stitch, fold, and gear. She knew her father was looking down on her creations, happy she had chosen to continue the family business. Yes, Caroline thought, her father would be quite proud.



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The table was arranged for a party of six—family china and crystal, forks to the left, spoons and knives on the right, each piece one inch from the edge of the table. Beatrice measured and made the necessary adjustments, satisfied with her precision. She clasped her white-gloved hands and began seating guests.



Mr. O’Hare was present, dapper in his red suit with black trim; gold buttons were sewn into the waistcoat. Mr. O’Hare had long, gray and pink ears (a portion of his tail had been lost in an unfortunate grilling accident), and he always sat at attention, eager to offer his thoughts on the news of the day. Ms. Elliot Sue sat across from Mr. O’Hare. Her face, once round and playful, had become lumpy and juice-stained with small, bald patches where blonde locks once rested: the unavoidable happenings of tea parties and sandboxes. Her missing left eye sprouted strands of colored thread.



A stuffed polar bear, named after Beatrice’s older brother and passed on to Lily, sat slumped over in a red plastic chair, his chin resting on the table. Chris Bear’s plastic blue eyes looked skyward. His mouth was a line of black stitching. (After twenty-six years, he’d become quite the rough rider—having participated in endless adventures—and was more brown than polar, but Lilly would undoubtedly want him to be a part of her special day.)



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The trunk was heavier than expected. Caroline adjusted to the weight as she carried the trunk from the basement. The front screen door was propped open with a cinderblock. Caroline moved sideways through the door, trudged across the yard (careful to avoid the loose dirt and rocks) and placed the trunk in her truck bed. She carefully wrapped the trunk in a gray tarp, strapping the load tight to prevent unnecessary movement.



Caroline squeezed into the truck’s cab and lit a hand rolled cigarette. The engine turned over, and Caroline drove the truck towards the highway, her forty-seven acres and farmhouse disappearing in the rear-view mirror.



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The blue pick-up, chewed through with rust, pulled into the driveway, its tires crunching against gravel. Beatrice hurried through the family room and stood in the foyer. Her hands shook, twisting against one another in nervous anticipation.



The film played in her mind against the backdrop of horrors unforeseen, and the silver screen held images repetitive and permanent—carved into her soul, and the monsters roamed the mountainous landscape shadowing the far side of her consciousness. Night sweats. Sleeping pills. Prayer. And when the monsters reached out, slashing at her flesh, where was her God. Where was her savior. Answers searched. But the terrors remained, dark and dripping and without sight.



Beatrice opened the door and welcomed her guest. The two women entered the kitchen. Smells of Italy scented the air. Caroline set the trunk on the granite counter-top and opened her arms wide. Beatrice gave the woman a long hug.



“Wine?”



“Tall glass of sweet tea would hit the spot.”



“Of course, sweetie.”



Beatrice poured Caroline a sweet tea and herself another glass of wine. Caroline’s body groaned as she took a seat.



“Ah, now that’s just what the doctor ordered.”



“Long days and longer nights?”



“Deadlines,” Caroline said. “Days keep running into each other, and I’m ‘bout out of that midnight oil.”



More wine and tea.



“I imagine that old rotary of yours rings off the hook,” Beatrice said, touching Caroline on the hand, “but the work you do, it’s so important. Your creations are the most incredible thing I’ve ever laid eyes on and probably ever will, and the lives you save. The families…”



“Thank you,” Caroline laughed, reaching around and massaging her lower back. “Beautiful, beautiful words.” She pulled a rag from the front pocket of her stained overalls and wiped a sheen of perspiration from her forehead. “Did I ever tell you my father was a clockmaker?”



“I don’t believe so,” Beatrice answered, wine twirling in her glass.



“Most people don’t know it, but clock making, that true artistry, the designing, and execution, lives in the imagination. Can’t quite say where it comes from, but it’s there, always cookin’ something from deep down. Caroline gave her tea a squeeze of lemon. “Started with my grandfather. Father repaired watches to pay the bills and keep food on the table, but clocks were always his passion. The house is still full of ‘em. All kinds, really. Birds and Grandfathers. Alarms of all shapes and sizes, and all analog, of course. Father never did find his way into the digital age. Figure he hadn’t much interest in it.”



Another sip of tea.



“But the one thing that kept his motor running, right up ‘till his eighty-ninth year, was his attention to detail. I tell you Beatrice, young ruffians today could learn a lesson from his life’s work. Attention to detail. Measure ten times and cut once.”



Beatrice tapped her fingernail against the wine glass.



Caroline asked, “So, how’s Marcus doin’?”



“Oh, he’s great, just great. Like new, really. I’d go so far as to say he’s perfect.”



‘And you’re using the leather soap and preserve I recommended?”



“Just as you instructed. Without fail.”



Caroline put away her remaining tea in one quick gulp. “Excellent. The last thing you want happening is the skin startin’ to crack. That’ll limit movement, and then it’s all downhill from that point on. Inside qualities don’t matter much if the parts can’t move.”



There was a long pause between the two women.



“Well, I imagine you’re ready to get your family back together.”



“Can we move to the dining room? Dinner is almost ready.”



‘Of course we can, absolutely.”



Caroline wrapped her hands around a pair of leather handles and carried the trunk to the dining room. Beatrice followed, biting her lower lip. She had received Marcus three months previous, but Caroline had been quite clear that the little ones take a bit longer to complete. Delicate was the word she used.



The trunk. Candles. Caroline stepped aside. Beatrice unlatched the twin brass clasps that held the trunk closed. She opened the top a few inches. Hesitated. Turned to Caroline, who nodded with approval.



“Take all the time you need.”



Beatrice opened the trunk, its leather exterior complemented by an interior of blue velvet. Beatrice leaned forward, reached into the trunk and gently removed the child. She cradled her Lily, careful not to crush her daughter’s blue and white ruffled dress.



“Oh Caroline, she’s perfect.”



“And the color?”



“Her color is incredible.” Beatrice spoke, but her eyes remained fixed on her daughter.



“It’s called Modern White.”



“How? It’s exactly how she was, and the detail…so perfect.”



Caroline stared at the tops of her work boots. “You know, most people aren’t much interested in how I do what I do, just that it fills the holes in their lives.”



“Oh, I know.” Beatrice gave a long exhale. “And her eyes?”



“Hand-blown glass.”



Beatrice placed Lily in the chair next to Mr. O’Hara. Caroline assisted Beatrice in unbuttoning the back of Lily’s dress. Caroline gently slipped her fingers beneath a thin flap of Lily’s skin, opened the back and worked her hand into the cavity. Beatrice paced.



“Like Marcus?”



“Very similar. Inside and up to the base of the skull. Two turns to the left.”



Caroline took another few seconds, sealed the back closed and stepped away.



Silence.



Click. Spin. The gearbox rotated, brass teeth interlocking, and a low hum emanated from Lily’s chest. The child real and animated, and Beatrice sat down opposite her daughter. She stared into eyes of blue glass and wept.



Lily’s arms raised and lowered—hands rotating, fingers opening and closing. Tiny fists. Her head turned from left to right and back again in slow, awkward movement. Beatrice walked to the head of the table and reached beneath the back of her husband’s shirt. Two turns to the left. Marcus sprung to life in his three-piece, pinned striped suit. His green eyes scanned the room, and his hands bumped against the table. Smile wide. Face forever shaded with a day’s growth of beard.



Beatrice stepped back and admired her family (how they were before the hand of God ripped her soul apart).



Caroline gave Beatrice’s shoulder a squeeze and showed herself out.



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Beatrice closed the trunk and took her seat at the table with Mr. O’Hare, Ms. Elliot Sue, Chris Bear, daughter Lily and husband, Marcus. A look of satisfaction spread across her face. Beatrice took a sip from a tall glass of ice water. Lily and Marcus continued their movements, their insides spinning in motorized heartbeats.



Today was her daughter’s fifth birthday, and it was the most special of days.



   
   

 

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Chris Glanzer lives in Alaska, the Last Frontier State, with his wife of ten years and their two Chihuahuas. When he is not putting pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard, Chris spends his days salmon fishing and his nights playing blues guitar. Hie previous works have been published in The Fable Online and Dark Fire Fiction.



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