He was shipping off to Palma with the most beautiful sergeant, so grandma rang her daddy and the war was called right off. They’d been wanting an out anyway. For his conflict resolution prowess, grandpa was given the island. He renamed everything after the most beautiful sergeant: Marco Square. Marco Harbor. National Marco Library.

The Marco subway line ran all the way to Marco Shopping Plaza, but grandma sent her daughters on foot, carrying one single bag turned inside out so she didn’t have to look at the branding. If you filled it up enough you could still make it out, AZALP OCRAM, but grandma always sent for one onion at a time because that’s how we stay rich people. Restraint. Control. Reusable packaging.

I sat on mom’s lap while grandma policed the silver. She had all the spoons in a row like the guards she inspected at the yearly Marco Jubilee. She rested every piece briefly on the back of her hand. She said a woman is only as refined as the half moons are deep on her fingernails, and sure as hell hers rose in bold peaks like stiff egg whites. She held up my fat paw, sticky with jam or maybe chorizo. Moons flat like a tire. Mom’s were painted, as always, a deep dark plum.

Nobody opens that third door because behind it skulks dead grandma. I push it anyway. She’s waiting in a forest of mahogany closets, wrapping her long pearl necklace around a plastic bangle. You’ve put on weight again, she says, resting her chin on her slight hand, her hand on nothing. Her nails are a perfect full moon. On the back of my hand I’m balancing a single onion. I set it down and walk back out to the light of Marco Island.

5 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    What a whirlwind! “Her nails are a perfect full moon. On the back of my hand I’m balancing a single onion.” I feel like every paragraph is its own breath, has its own set of rules. Fingernail moons, a forest of mahogany closets. I feel like the final two paragraphs really shine here, and the first one seems a bit rushed/abrupt with the war’s end and the beautiful sergeant. I want to know more. What war? The dad ended it? Was he a general? And I want a whole story on this beautiful sergeant haha I feel like there’s much more to unpack. Nicely done.

  2. Bud Smith

    Oh my god! “He was shipping off to Palma with the most beautiful sergeant, so grandma rang her daddy and the war was called right off. “

    • Bud Smith

      This is a really wild story, unpredictable and had my full attention. The dense poetic language and knife sharp descriptors sold me on it all and I would have followed this anywhere. Have you ever read Leonora Carrington? You might like her collection of short stories a lot. She’s a fav of mine.

      This part of your story was great: Nobody opens that third door because behind it skulks dead grandma. I push it anyway. She’s waiting in a forest of mahogany closets, wrapping her long pearl necklace around a plastic bangle. You’ve put on weight again, she says, resting her chin on her slight hand, her hand on nothing. Her nails are a perfect full moon. On the back of my hand I’m balancing a single onion. I set it down and walk back out to the light of Marco Island.

      • Bud Smith

        I did have one suggestion for the story though, I thought the title could be Marco and the story could be about grandpa and his ‘private’ love but also it could be about the rise and fall of the island of Marco, which I am thinking by the end of the story would be eradicated and lost to the rising tides? Just as we see the birth and creation of something it is great to show it’s demise, it’s natural that we want that. Does grandma herself destroy Marco and then in some way the island of Marco too in a spectral wrathful whirlwind of desolation — I’d say yes she does. I’m thinking of something like The Tempest … big and bold and scary as shit

  3. Bill Merklee

    This was enchanting, and sets a stage for so much more. I hope you explore not just this family, but the island and its history. I would love to read that.

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