…and how they got that way.
Each day from February 8-12, 2010, Underwater New York and Significant Objects cross-published flash fiction inventing stories around five objects we pulled from Dead Horse Bay. These objects and stories (curled into bottles from Dead Horse Bay) were then auctioned off on Ebay to benefit the nonprofit 826 National. The stories were eventually included in the book Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things (Fantagraphics), edited by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn.
KANGAMOUSE by CHRIS ADRIAN
My brother and I could not agree on how to worship the mouse. It was typical of us back then that we could agree that it should be worshipped—that was obvious from the day it arrived in the mail, a gift from our father, who had been in Vietnam for three years, which was one-third of George’s life and one-half of mine, on business more important than his wife and his sons. The last gift had been a green and yellow straw mat, and we agreed that it was, in fact, a prayer-mat, the use of which only became clear with the advent of the mouse. The evening it arrived we knelt in our room in our pajamas in the dark. George had his flashlight out and he shined it on the mouse’s face.
“Great Faaa,” he said. “Mighty Faaa, hear our prayers.” He said the name in a sing-song, high-pitched voice. We had just seen “Day of the Dolphin” the week before. I put my hand on the flashlight and pushed it down, so the little monkey in the mouse’s heart was more plainly illuminated.
“Mr. Peepers,” I said. “Source of the All, forgive our sins! Don’t punish us!”
YELLOW BEAR by KATHRYN DAVIS
The sorcerer drove too fast. He always did but only because his mind was somewhere else, not because he was in love with speed. He was slow, really—sorcery is not a speedy business. What’s speedy are the events that make sorcery necessary. His mind was on his wife, Mary, who sat day after day at her sewing machine turning out small pink dresses, some trimmed in white eyelet, some in lace. Today he was more distracted than usual, this being the same block he’d been driving down the night he first saw her, a skinny girl wearing glasses, balanced on one leg like a stork. The sycamore trees were taller now, full of nests. A shadow leapt from between two parked cars. It was twilight and the papers on the back seat came flying in a white fan around him.
Mary wanted a child more than anything and he’d conjured one up, only to run it over—that was his first thought. Then he saw that what he’d hit was no human child but a yellow bear…
TOY AIRPLANE by ROBERT LOPEZ
A man on a park bench then another man next to him.
The first man there for no good reason.
The other man the kind of man who sits next to strange men on park benches.
This other man has with him a toy airplane.
He holds the toy airplane in his right hand, which is battered, bloodied.
It looks as though the other man had been in a street-fight and was declared the winner. The toy airplane his trophy.
The other man holds the toy airplane like a trophy.
The day has in it the sky and sun…
MERMAID FIGURINE by TOM McCARTHY
1. Pollution of coastal waters can have / the black sun of melancholy / signature of all things I am here to / test for indicator organisms such as / Love or Phoebus, Lusignan or Biron / based on weekly or fortnightly water sampling
2. The beach zone is modeled as / the grotto where the siren / (see Fig. 1) / wind-generated surface advection and / have lingered in / with parameter estimation / limit of the diaphane / with uniform pollution concentration…
3. Wild sea money / dc and dt: decay and mixing / language tide and wind have silted / to a build-up of pollutants during / the night of the tombs, you who consoled me / (see Fig. 2)
THE DIPLOMAT by DEB OLIN UNFERTH
I was an ambassador once—of a small African nation. All of us diplomats, that is our dream: to be an ambassador. At least once, at least for a little while. Many of us get a little Eastern or African nation for a year or two. We are eager when it happens because our life’s goal is complete. But it isn’t so special after all. Soon it’s over and we continue on. We are diplomats again, and our time of glory is reduced to a sentence we can say in passing at a party, “Oh, I was ambassador there once, for eighteen months.” Or at a meeting, “Well, when I was ambassador, as I recall, witchcraft was still a powerful force in the north. I knew a man who believed his daughter had turned into a tree.”