Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

"Postcards from Kittle", short fiction by Rick Henry.


Victoria, Edwina and George, crooked over a cauldron-like forge, boil
boil toil and stuff, do you think we've stirred enough? They stir like
mad, these three sisters, mothers, aunts, ladling the liquid, bits of
bituminous and benzene, roiling over the heat. They pause to breathe,
straightening under their corsets. Wisps of hair escape their coils
and knots, caught by whispers of moisture on their brows. Speck, the
renegade familiar, sits in a frump, pouts and pulls a face. The babies
laugh. They cry. They wail. Speck studies their whimpers and gasps and
poshes and sighs. A prodding here. A poking there. George, Victoria
and Edwina, turn their babies pea green, stop your whine suck it up,
time to drink from a real cup. They stir like mad, adding aniline and
anthracene in dollops and blobs. They pause to breath and admire the
sparkle of their rings against the fire. Speck cuddles a baby. Coddles
another. Breast feedings all around. The babies suck and suck. Speck
studies their burbles. Their slurps and burps. Ruddy children, all,
with their pap-smeared lips. Edwina, George and Victoria, dine at the
Waldof Astoria, no children, adults only, no they're never never
They stir like mad, adding naphthalene and phenol. They pause and lick
their lips: tonight, roasted ruddy ducks, rabbit picata, foie gras,
scalloped potatoes in asparagus and saffron sauce, a bit of ginger
mousse, and ice cream. Burgundy and secanol. Speck cuddles and
coddles, makes them healthy and wise. He whispers and coos. They laugh
and cry and wail and slurp and fill their diapers.
He studies their wobbles and toddles and mews. Three sisters stir the
stuff and scoop it into finger bowls with their tarry ladles. Little
Jack and all you cherubims, shut up shut up and stick your thumbs in,
open your mouths and stop your screamings, suck on that you little



Giggles and guffaws and swimmingly syncopated jazz. They jigger the
air. The bathtub's been stoppered and filled with giggles and guffaws
and a swimmingly sycophantic couple. She is soaked. He is
soaked. Their clothes are soaked. Their laughter drips with unbridled
glee. They are celebrating the moment, for what else is worth
celebrating, they say as they toast each other, toast the tub, toast
the giggles, guffaws, and the swimmingly syncopated jazz, toast the
pounding on the door, the ridiculous "stop stop stop" from their
neighbor. Maybe he'd like a wet blanket? She draws a card. Puts one
down on a tray. He sloshes water in her direction. "Synapse," he
says, laughing into his glass. "Absolutely," she says. Her cheeks
flush. "Synergy." He laughs, picks up a card, puts one
down. "Synonym." "Stop stop stop it this moment." She says "cease
cease cease" without a moment's thought. His Adam's apple bounces up
and down with a swallow, bounces up and down with choked-up chortle,
bounces up as he coughs a "halt" bounces down "halt" bounces up
"halt," and sprays his drink all over the cards. Snorts and more
snorts and giggles and guffaws. She picks up a card, a queen wet and
drunk from her dunking. Her necklace shimmers. She shimmies in the
water sending him a wave. He sloshes back, open-mouthed, teeth
shining. She puts down a card. "Stop stop stop, you must stop it this
instant." He leans over the side to turn up the radio, leans until the
water rises, runs over edge, over the floor. She flaps her arms,
flapping flapping flapping, and scoops the bottle from the
floor. "Mustn't get it wet," dribbling her words over the side of the
tub. His apple hovers, stilled by an absence of thought. "Aha!" she
sputters. "Drink!" He dunks his head into the tub. Surfaces. She
giggles. He guffaws. She is soaked. He takes a card. Discards.
"Datcard!" she squeals. Snaps it up. "Drink drink drink" as she slaps
down her cards. "Gin!"



A young, teen-aged girl is practicing. It is a dance, of sorts, that
she plays, and she has styled her hair just so, and cultivated a dress
just so. She has candles burning, the better to set the scene with
their flames and smoke. There is not enough smoke, but she consoles
herself that she is only practicing. Consoling herself is part of the
dance. Part of her 'motivation,' and she practices using it, practices
expressing self-consolation, self-pity twisted into a righteous
concern for family and tradition. This, too, is part of her
'motivation.' Midst the candles is a photograph of her future family,
a gentleman who has broken his promise to her. This, too, is part of
her 'motivation.' Part of her self-pity and how she twists it into
righteous indignation at the breach of honor and tradition, and of
keeping one's word. Everything is burning. She has been abandoned.
Everything she knows is falling apart. She drapes herself over her
divan, one arm flung over her head, the other clutching her dress at
her breasts, her dance begun. Her body tenses as she steels her
She does not rise, she is drawn up by something outside her,
something masquerading as her resolve.
She has practiced this a thousand times. It pulls her upright, drawing
her up as though there was a string tied to her pelvis. It is a
brilliant move. She knows this, for it allows her to arch her back and
her neck and to let her hair cascade behind her. That something
pulling her, she knows, is her betrayal. Her 'motivation.' Smoke and
fire and flames and broken promises. It is intensely sexual. She knows
this, too, deep down, and she allows that knowledge to rise with her
and is ashamed, ashamed enough to let herself flush, to let herself
flush scarlet. But of course, this is all part of her play, her
practice, and she congratulates herself on her ability to turn scarlet
at will.




Rick Henry teaches literature, linguistics, and writing and has published fiction and articles in a variety of journals and anthologies. Pretending and Meaning: Toward a Pragmatic Theory of Fictional Discourse, a philosophical inquiry into the pragmatic foundations of fictional discourse, was published by Greenwood Publishing (1996). Lucy's Eggs and Other Stories is forthcoming from Syracuse University Press (2006). He is co-editor of The Blueline Anthology (Syracuse University Press, 2004). He is currently an Associate Professor of English at SUNY-Potsdam and editor of the literary journals Blueline and Unbound.


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