Monday, October 25, 2010

"The Bargain: A Fairy Tale"

Published in Dinosaur Bees, Issue #1

THERE WAS ONCE a poet who stole stories. “I’m going to steal that story,” she always warned right before the theft occurred. The original owner of the story laughed. The poet laughed, I’m serious, she said, and they continued to laugh while ribbons of imagery and narrative wriggled free of its owner and wrapped around the imagination of the poet, transferred permanently to her, where she would eventually twist and torment it until it was not even recognizable.

By the time the mistake became obvious it was too late…the story had already changed hands. And yet most owners gave their stories willingly, wanted to feel that their story was worth taking.

Now, as often happens in fairy tales, there was an angel who was in love with this poet. He said to her: I’ve been watching you. I can show you the kind of story most poets would kill themselves for. But you can never write about it.

The poet, in love with this idea of herself as a poet, agreed.

The poet and the angel came together like two beams of light. They rolled through sand, water, jungles, deserts, summer, spring, fall, winter, orange sunsets, perfect pink sunrises, the angel flooded the poet until she leaked couplets.

When the angel kissed the poet goodbye, he reminded her of the bargain.

Her breasts grew, the skin stretching into pink rubbery spiderwebs. Then her stomach. Oil glossed her hair, left a marmalade sheen across her cheeks. Lying in bed watching the weak sun slant through heavy blinds, the poet felt the quickening and heard the angel’s voice:

“It is my story inside of you. But you can never write about it. You made a bargain.”

The story she could not write grew stronger because she could not write it. It was swelling, transforming, shining behind her eyes the way secrets do. She ate cottage cheese, spinach, eggs. She ate raw liver with bare fingers.

Soon the poet couldn’t write anything because every story was touched by the unborn story. Now she didn’t care what happened to the angel, the bargain seemed cruel, unnecessary. Once a story has been conceived it can’t be aborted. She had to write it.

It was on that day that the pains started. Her water exploded in a gush of warmth. The muse urged her to push, feeling for the head of the story. She fed the poet grapes and yogurt and cheese and tea and sang to her through each wave, screamed with her as the pain crested and then subsided. The poet writhed and expelled the story she was not allowed to write—the church in Armenia and the genocide and the orphanage and the opera and Sagrada Familia and the misty form of a monster disguised as an angel and the house in Mexico City and the baby grand piano with no varnish—all these images emerged from her piece by piece and attempted to arrange themselves on the page.

But the poet had waited too long. She had allowed the story to over gestate… It was now rotted, bloated with decay. Large chunks dropped from her, overripe chunks that left a strong odor. The poet birthed the stillborn mess and cut the umbilical cord.

The story was gone. Amidst the blood and tissue, she saw perfectly formed sentences, little conjunctions, baby down verbs, a sunrise pooling there, on the floor.

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