Monday, April 2, 2012

Fiction: "Stars." Cannibalism of fiction, rooftops in N.Y.C., book groups

Woolworth Building
One of my first New York friends, David, used to water plants of his friend who traveled lots and lived way downtown, near City Hall.  The friend's apartment had rooftop access, with views over the East River to Brooklyn and the red Watchtower sign; west across to the Woolworth Building, an architectural stunner. "Stars" takes place largely on that rooftop. I lifted the first draft from a novel I wrote that will never see the light of day. It works, I like to think. Cannibalism works.

Thanks to VerbSap's editor, so kind, intelligent and enthusiastic, and such a good writer herself. She published "Stars" in 2005. Here are the first paragraphs, followed by a link to the rest of the story. (I keep trying to keep my stories and poems in rotation.)


“O stars swirling swirling...”

“And swirling?” I suggest.

Because she snapped at our last book group Michelle is nervous and trying to divert us with this windmill-arm thing, as if memory worked like that. Let’s see, in June Michelle screamed she was dying of loneliness, but today she’s up here on the roof exhorting the firmament so no one remembers her outburst. Everyone does remember but we just factor it in.

Michelle is a bit stocky with biker calves and thighs and has that kind of short, straight hair that is never anything but straight and never held with a bow or clip. It is also never shimmery, but because it is nothing else—not red, not brown, not black—it’s blond. Her left eye is bigger than her right eye and sometimes looks frozen.

She chose this month’s reading, “The Burrow.” Kafka as a mole. And she’s hostessing, which she does periodically in this apartment with roof access and views. It’s not far from Wall Street. The tenant, her boss’s son, flies to Prague six times a year. We didn’t meet here for that whole awful year after, but we’re back.

“You know, I’m thinking we’ve read this tale of a mole...” Here’s Aaron, black curly hair, medium height, and prematurely stooped; a LAN guy at an advertising agency on 23rd. “Which means, if you will...”

Apparently we will.

“…we went underground with him for thirty or so pages, with his detailed account of false entrances and storerooms and tunnels. This is one paranoid and obsessive—”

“—He’s being a mole, Aaron,” I break in, “he’s not obsessive.” I am tall for a woman, 5’ 11”, and always wear boots with heels as if I didn’t care. You can bet I care in summer when my calves sweat beneath the suede. My hair is black, but with richer hues than Aaron’s; these days it’s short and Marceled. I have a pert face.

“So you’re telling me it’s in the nature of a mole to spend that much time touring Castle Keep as he calls it. Did he have a name anyway?” Aaron gives me a look and mouths a word.

Lester ? The minute Michelle looks his way, he desists.

She plants herself between LAN boy and me. “I don’t believe you completed your thought, Aaron.”

“You’re right...if I may continue.” He looks at me, without acknowledging Michelle’s support.

“Go on.” I glance away.

“Oh do.” Michelle’s voice is resonant, as if bouncing in a hollowed-out container.

I lift my hand; she slaps it. Hi, five.

“So us being on the roof is some kind of redemptive state.”

I nod, but can’t decide if Aaron’s self-important or just not sure of himself.

“We’re out of the muck, out of the subway, off the sidewalk, above the dirt. We see light.”


by Sarah Sarai. Published in, 2006. Read the rest on VerbSap, here.

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