THE WRITER IMAGINES himself writing. At a table. By candlelight. In a small room. In a stone turret. In a castle. At night. The candle is almost burned down. Wax covers the candlestick. He looks up and squints out the arched window. He decides to add a gargoyle, no, make that two small gargoyles to the outside of the window at the corners of the sill. Pats himself on the back. “Nice touch.” He squints out the window into the moonless night forest. Lights flicker with menace through the trees below.
“Goddamn villagers,” he swears.b>Bacall. Bacall discovers Caledonia in the ghostly arms of Joseph Cornell. She hurls a furious spell and changes Caledonia to a plant. “Take that, you bitch.”
* * * The boxes. Box #1: a bird’s nest, a key whose lock is long forgotten, a little shard of broken mirror. When he looks at this box, he sees his own face inside the box.
* * * Caledonia. Caledonia awakens from a deep sleep into total darkness. She feels him hover above her. She feels the heat of him. She hears his breaths and feels them warm, slow and wet. The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand over her mouth and pushes hard. It forms a seal. Caledonia can not scream.
* * * Box #2: two inches of barbed wire from Auschwitz; a button from a sailor’s coat, a buffalo nickel and a corked vial with three dead bees inside. He weeps.
* * * Box #3: little tin milagros; el Corazon burning with ecstatic fear; stories only the tortured oreja can hear and pins of truth to pierce los ojos; love and death in the loins of el toro; and la mujer de arrodillamiento with desperate prayers to find guile in terror and inspiration in constraint.
* * *
The ghost. Bacall changes Caledonia to a plant. For all his powers, the ghost of Joseph Cornell can not reverse the spell. But he can do this: he gives Caledonia tiny flowers with a sweet smell and botanical magic to pacify the liver and embroider dreams. Then the ghost of Joseph Cornell presses her flowers and puts them in a box.
* * *
The writer looks at Caledonia’s boxes. “They are all I have left.” This one has egg shells, an empty box of matches, and the El Boracho card from a Loteria deck. And this one is unfinished, but is wrapped with a map of Venice singed and burned through in places to show shell casings and a swatch of rich brocade within. He hears commotion, sees light flickering through the trees. The villagers advance with bloody intentions.
* * *
The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand tight over Caledonia’s mouth. He puts his mouth close to her ear. “Your cunt is a box,” he whispers. “It leads to the inner box of your womb. Your mouth is a box. It opens to the box of your mind. Your left fist, clenched to hit me, is a box that flows from the box of your raging heart.”
* * *
It was warm but she was cold. She wore blue flannel pajamas. He ripped the bottoms off and crushed them into a ball. He put the flannel ball in a small compartment of a small box. There were other compartments in this box, the box of the ghost of Joseph Cornell. In one compartment was the head of a doll. A wolf’s tooth in another. He put his hand over her mouth so that she could not scream. He whispered to her about boxes. Then he raped her. She was raped by the ghost of Joseph Cornell.
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Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.