(For this first one, I stopped at Jonathan’s “We did not kiss” and wrote it out, including his (ironically).

She Said I Looked Like Jesus

She said I looked like Jesus and therefore would no longer kiss me. I’d grown a beard. Let my hair run a little. We’d been married years. Ironically, her name was Mary. Ironically, she’d had a virgin birth, which I learned after months of Mary not kissing me. Her child’s name was Alex, her lover’s name, Pete.

Daddy’s Girl

My dead sister shows up unannounced, looking worn and haggard, like an old whiskbroom, like she’s a hundred years older than when she died at age nine. It’s only two years after that, and I’m eleven, which would make my sister the same age since we are twins and always will be, now that she’s still dead but standing in front of me.
“What’re you doing smoking that cigarette?” I ask, as she takes a long, definitive drag.
“These things’ll kill me, right?” she says, blowing a trio of halo rings up into the universe.
“It’s our birthday,” I say.
“You think I’d forget?”
“I haven’t seen you since—”
“I got you something, but it’ll have to wait.”
“Am I the only one who can see you,” I ask, “or can Mom?”
“Mom’s been sucking down vodka in her bedroom since dawn. The bottle’s half past empty.”
“How do you know that?”
“Come on, Sport, the dead know things. We’ve got time on our hands.”
As my sister sways ever so slightly, her torso turns diaphanous, nothing but a patch of scratchy sunshine.
“I’m sorry about what happened,” I say.
Two more smoke halos wobble their way to the roof. “Sorry is a slick word, but I know you mean it.”
“They said you were the one with the ice pick, but I didn’t believe it.”
She blows a jagged halo this time, like bound razor wire. “Maybe you should have believed, just this once.”
“But why would you kill Dad?”
This time she holds the smoke in her ghost-box lungs and says, “There are some things. Well, some things I should have told you that I didn’t.”
“But you killed yourself, I know that. I was the one—”
“—who found me. Yeah, sorry about that. I know it’s really fucked things up for you. It was supposed to be Mom. I wanted her to know what was what for once.”
“What was what? What’s that mean?”
“Think about it, Sport. What’d he always call me?”
It’s too smoky and there’s too much electricity zapping my cells to think, so I say the only true thing I can think of. I say, “I really miss you, Sis.”
She grins for the first time in years, wide as an island. “Silly Goose,” she says, “I’m right here. I’m always right here.”
“Really?”
“Pinkie Swear.”
“Then can you come to our party?”
Sis crushes the spent butt under her shoe, smiles and says, “Only if you let me blow out the candles.”

12 Comments

  1. Jonathan Cardew

    Ah shit, Len, why did you go and hit me with the funny-sad! These are terrific, both of them, and I’m still struck by the last line of Daddy’s Girl:

    “Only if you let me blow out the candles.”

    That lands hard and true! Jesus.

    She Said I Looked Like Jesus:

    This one is just toooooo funny, and talk about a first-line that hits you in the gut, “She said I looked like Jesus and therefore would no longer kiss me.” This conceit is so brilliant–made even more brilliant by the line “Ironically, her name was Mary.” What a setup!

    You could even flesh this out a little, but, saying that, I can see this one in Blink-Ink!

    Daddy’s Girl:

    Again, that last line is brilliance. Breath and smoke and ghostliness and diaphonousness thread through this piece so perfectly. I love the dialogue and the lack of tags–twins, aren’t they, interchangeable? So great.

    And then there’s the language choices, the whiskbroom, the halo, the ghost-box. You corral this piece so well.

    Please send this one out to a competition! It’s an absolute belter!

    Thanks for sharing your work again, Len!

    –Jonathan

  2. Francine Witte

    Len I really love these both. I love the quick wit of the first one. How you play with the virgin birth idea. It’s a great punch.

    And the second one is so great with so many great images and the whole idea of the sister showing up and how she meant for the mother to find her. Really great!

  3. Al Kratz

    Excellent as a micro, but damn, that opening line seems like the strong voice of a character ready for the macro too. Saunders always talks about how many of his pieces just start for him with a character saying something that bold and specific in character.

    And Daddy’s Girl is the kind of flash for the anthologies. Great stuff.

  4. David O'Connor

    Len, you write so well, that off-the-cuff tone with heart-thumbing gut punches always combine to entertain and touch. That last line reminds me of Glass Menagerie’s last line, which, either intended or not, hits a home run in my stadium. Never stop!

  5. Jennifer Todhunter

    i love the pacing of the first, how there’s nothing extra, how you’ve managed to strip everything away until it’s only what matters that’s left. great work.

    the second is very much my jam, and i think you’ve hit the funny-sad nail on the head just right. i appreciated how the dialogue moved in unexpected directions – the first five or six lines of it didn’t have the purpose and movement of the rest of the dialogue for me, if i’m to be hyper-critical – but i loved the relationship you illustrate between the twins and the bits of backstory you seemlessly insert in. looking forward to seeing where you take this one.

  6. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “Ironically, her name was Mary. Ironically, she’d had a virgin birth”

    This little compact piece is a treat! Funny and to-the-point. The follow-up nicely blends true crime with a ghost story and feels like a strange dream. I love “wide as an island” and “ghost-box lungs”

  7. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Len, both of these are so freaking great. The brevity of the Origins theme fleshed out in Jesus and Mary Chain story is remarkably fresh and ironically, I don’t have anything to suggest except send it out.

    And your second piece makes me recall how long we’ve been brothers, because it contains all of my favorite ingredients of your work: twins, a dead sister, the suggested abuse, the fresh, quirky tenderness and pitch perfect end. Like Jen, I am excited to read this in a top notch journal.

  8. Wilson Koewing

    Len,

    More very cool work here! “She Said” is kind of a perfect little gem.

    “Daddy’s Girl” is full of great lines. I especially enjoyed ghost box lungs.

    Great work

    Wilson

  9. Todd Clay Stuart

    Len, these both took hold of me and didn’t let go until the end. Great pacing here! I hope to see these out in the world soon!

  10. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Damn, Len. Again. Like the irony in She Said I Looked Like Jesus– the juxtaposition of the virgin/ not virgin births. But I have to say my favorite here is Daddy’s Girl. Well done. That ghost, that sister, the cigarettes, the alcohol, and that ice pick! And that final request to blow out the candles– very fine. The work moves, feels true.

    Very good, as always, to read your work again.

  11. John Steines

    Hi Len. I love how the first one sails by – as noted. A life meriting so few lines lines.
    Daddy’s Girl: I didn’t like the title going into it. A foreshadowing, and then it ended there.
    I love that Sis & Bro are friends, in the end.
    Think of the magic of a ghost blowing out your candles after she blew Daddy away
    Mercy.

  12. Georgiana Nelsen

    Len,
    They’ve said it all! I love this line from Daddy’s girl!

    “Come on, Sport, the dead know things. We’ve got time on our hands.”

    Hope to read it in the out there!
    G

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