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Five Fictions, by Kim Chinquee


Libraries of Time

I cook listening to the book, drive listening to the book, sit in waiting rooms reading the book, fall asleep reading the book. Unlike a protagonist in the book, I don’t go to bed starving. Like the protagonist in the book, I don’t have a sweetie pie, don’t hear a drumroll. The book is over six-hundred pages. Covers libraries of time. Parts of the book reenact parts of other parts of another book within the book, and has children wearing costumes, reenacting yet other parts of the book. I wait at the doctor’s office with the book, then later, after a phlebotomist hurries to take my blood, telling me to make a fist, her finger palpating on my vein, I drive home listening to the book, my wheels turning, my mind living in the world of the book. Wheels in the book are described as stratospheres, donuts, things that whirl. I turn the pages like wheels make things move, like the wheels on my bikes, the wheels of my mind, my memories, my words, wheels like vehicles through time. Books like wheels, and wheels like books, moving past worlds, universes, galaxies, centuries beyond me.


Time Is a Circle

Time is a circle in my dreams. I wake, thinking I’m a monk, but then I’m just me with earplugs and an eye mask, dressed in my warm robe, surrounded by blankets. It takes a while for me to realize there are no longer ramparts, no cobblestones roads, no wigs made of horsehair. I don’t know how far I go back in my dreams, but it seems another century. I may have been reading too many books. In my dreams, all the people have halos. Like the characters in the book.

I drift to sleep again, and take on a lighter sense of the book: its floating images, its haloed characters. My three dogs, also haloed, wake me again and beg to go out. I step down the stairs, lighthearted and light-footed, as if an angel myself, and I release the dogs to the backyard.

I see halos on trees. Halos on the back garage. Halos all over everything.

It’s beautiful. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen.

To make sure I’m awake, I step into the bathroom and look in the mirror, where I see a giant halo, shining bright, hovering, embracing.


After the Removal

“There are some things you should know,” a man says as she walks by on the sidewalk.

She’s with her dog. It’s the first day out after the removal of the dog’s Elizabethan collar.

The man’s a regular, selling his own jewelry. He’s known in the neighborhood. He wanders around. The story is he’s homeless. He doesn’t have teeth. Some of the locals cater to him, talk to him, embrace him.

She’s been living in this town for fourteen years and is still not sure what to do when he approaches.

She’s worked hard to make a living for herself and it wasn’t easy.

Finally, for the first time in years, she says to him, “What do you do?”

“I’m an artist,” he says. “I read the Bible.”

Her dog sniffs him, barks.

She knows she’ll see this man again. Her father was schizophrenic and was never that resourceful.


One of the Newest Trends

“I can’t make it tonight,” he responds on his bowling club’s social media group invitation.

He says his hand is sore. He’s tired of the bowling gossip, particularly about the woman who went on to bowl in California, Ohio, and Wisconsin. He dated her once, more than once, and she’s in their club. She dated another guy in their club more than once, too: a bookworm who always comes to the events smelling like rain.

He’s almost sure the other guy will be at the event tonight. He’s not sure about the woman. The club has mixers when the season’s off. Tonight’s at a beer house, one of the newest trends in the city. Local craft beers are being made and bars cater to the clubs. He doesn’t see a need to go all the way downtown to hang out—there might be some talk about bowling, but after a few beers, it’s talk about the people.

He doesn’t even like beer. He misses the woman, though he will never admit that to his bowling friends. She has a way in her step before reaching the line in the alley, the way she swings her body, her arm. He misses the hum of her.

She used to call him teddy bear. How obscene! He didn’t want to be seen as anyone’s bear. That stuff is for children. He misses her touch, how she let him get close, how she let him inside her, told him she loved him.

He didn’t know the whys of the rift but he knows it’s probably his fault. Too true to be good. He accused her of cheating. With the bookworm. The man smelling like weather. Better looking. Younger. Wet. Better bowler.

He considers texting the woman. Calling her even.

Instead, he stays home and cooks. He cuts potatoes. He cuts onions. Makes something he’s never made, randomly adding thyme and sage and whatever else he can find from the cabinet.

He fills the dishwasher.

He decides he should make banana bread, too, with the bananas about to go bad. He keeps buying bananas, telling himself they’re good for him.

He mushes the bananas with his hands. Finds it cathartic.

Licking batter on his fingers, he tells himself the bananas taste better this way.


All Over the Planets

She imagines a gentler approach to life, imagines herself a petunia, somersaulting out of her skin after she dies.

She watches real-life mysteries, people’s lives ending in doom.

Will people see her in an eggplant after she dies? In a tomato or a plum? Or just ashes in an urn?

She sees her aunt and grandmother. They tell her to remove her skin. They take her flying all over planets she’s never seen. She flies so high. She never sees her schizophrenic father, but they say he’s out there.

She dreams about dogs running away and coming back to her. They’re still present when she wakes. Surrounding, depending.

She opens blinds. Opens the door and lets the dogs out.


  • Kim Chinquee is a regular contributor to NOON, and has also published work in Big Other, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, The Nation, Story Quarterly, Fiction, Mississippi Review, and over a hundred other journals. She is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, Veer, Shot Girls, Snowdog, Wetsuit, and Pipette. She is Senior Editor of New World Writing, Chief Editor of Elm Leaves Journal, associate editor of Midwest Review, and co-director of SUNY Buffalo’s Writing Major.

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