G. I. Jane (1997)
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself, says Al Pacino.
He’s a distorted shadow in my apartment building, a grey ghost behind frosted glass.
The doorway shrinks and expands as I stagger into the entrance hall, nauseous and dizzy from another cycle of treatment. To steady my churning stomach, I focus on the pile of letters stuffed into my mail slot and pull them out one by one.
My feet are heavy like blocks of cement as I drag myself up the staircase. Fumbling the key into the lock, I drop to my knees and leopard-crawl over the threshold like G. I. Jane in a raincoat. Al Pacino closes the door behind me.
A bird will fall frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself, he says.
I collapse face down on the linoleum and count the scars until I fall asleep.
Danny Collins (2015)
When I wake, amber light filters through the open window from a dim street lamp. I roll onto my back and watch the gauze curtains shape-shift into Al Pacino’s head. This time he’s Danny Collins, haggard, gaunt and world-weary.
What? You thought you’d just show up out of the blue, out of nowhere, and fix my little girl? he says.
The doctor asked me to keep a record of my hallucinations then wrote up another prescription. As soon as I left his office I ripped it up and tossed it in the trash. I need a cure, but not for this.
Besides, thirty-eight pills a day is my limit.
Sipping juice straight from the carton, I scan through the usual junk mail. Have I thought about life insurance? Ha. Pre-approved for a credit card? Yeah, right.
Beneath a flyer for the local take-out is a square package wrapped in brown paper. When I tug the string, the paper falls open like a lotus flower, revealing a small black box at its centre. The lid snaps open, scattering small white beads over the worktop and onto the kitchen tiles.
I hold one up to the light. Pointed and dark at its hollow root, tapering up to a flat, white-edged tip, so thin it’s almost transparent.
After I retrieve the last bead, I line them up in pairs on the coffee table. Twenty. All twenty of my baby teeth. I know they’re mine because of the photograph folded up inside the box. Six-year-old me, grinning at the camera, holding up a half-eaten apple with a lower central incisor wedged into the pale green flesh.
A sudden gust swells through the window behind me, spreading the curtains like wings across my shoulders.
Don’t you fucking touch me, I say.
China Doll (2015)
The doctor told me to start walking every day. He said regular exercise will help with the fatigue.
There’s an antique store a couple of blocks away that never changes its display. Every day the same old doll, slumped and sallow, watches me puke into the drain outside the window.
She’s even uglier than I am: chipped skin, dislocated arms, head flopped to one side. Broken, inside and out.
Now she sits on my sofa, waiting for the mailman to come so I can piece her back together. Last week, she got my tonsils. This week, a lock of baby blonde hair tied with pink ribbon.
Soon, she’ll be whole again.
The daughter he never had.
Stepping out of the shower, I dry my hair with a towel. Long dark strands float like feathers to the floor. Rubbing my palm over the steamed mirror, I take a closer look at my thinning scalp. Cold cap my ass.
The cupboard door hangs from its hinge as I rummage through the deodorant bottles and sanitary towels. My hair is damp and brittle, easy to saw through even with these blunt scissors.
As I smooth shaving foam over my crown, Al Pacino appears in the fogged glass. Today he’s Michael Corleone, stone-faced, expressionless.
At first, I figure it’s just another hallucination. I can’t remember the last time somebody came to the door who wasn’t delivering pizza.
I lurch over and peer through the fisheye lens. For a second I think it’s Al Pacino in full Tony Montana mode: white tuxedo, open red shirt, gold chain and sunglasses. Then I realise: shit, a personal delivery. I slide the chain and turn the latch, ready to unload twenty years of a daughter’s repressed rage.
What the— I say, silenced by the jar in his outstretched hands.
Say hello to my little friend, he says.
Suspended in fluid, blood-red and purple-veined like a thick cut of veal, is a placenta. A yellow cord curls from its heart and floats to the surface of the jar.
You’ve got to be kidding me, I say, and vomit over his polished brown shoes.
I grab the doll, teeth wedged askew into her mouth, appendix sewn into her stomach, nail clippings glued to her hands and feet, and thrust it over the threshold.
This is yours, I say.
But it’s too late, he’s already gone.
Cradling the doll, I kneel and pick up the pickled placenta. As I slam the door with my heel, the window drops like a death rattle. The curtains billow out and I hear the echo of something. Two words. Or maybe three.
Ditto, I say.
Christopher M Drew is a flash fiction writer from the UK. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, Third Point Press, Spelk, (b)OINK, Flash Frontier, Ellipsis Zine, formercactus, Bath Flash Fiction, and others. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com
Image: Mario Azzi