Odd Angles: The Uncollected Short Stories of Steven Fisher
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by Steven Fisher
Description: These stories are uncollected in three ways. First they're uncollected in the sense there's no unifying theme, form or genre to hold them together as is today's standard in short fiction volumes. Second, Fisher's imagination works in an uncollected manner; whatever pops into his head, that's what he writes about, whether it be a mainstream, science fiction, fantasy or mystery story. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2000 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: November 2004
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [103 KB]
Reading time: 62-87 min.
The Best Part of a Woman
What if you could get what you really wanted out of a divorce?
The reason I fell in love with April was the sound of her voice. Men are like that. They fall in love with one physical part of a woman and learn to love the whole woman later. For some, it's the curve of a hip or a breast or the wideness of the eyes. For me, it was April's voice. Its power made me a one-woman man.
When we married 25 years ago, whatever she said to me had the quality of soothing honey even when she was cussing me out for wasting money or staying out late without telling her where I'd be. It was also an enveloping voice, way out proportion to the body it occupied. April had always been on the thin side, looking like a model, no bust line, but with eyes and legs that struck a man dead with their elegant beauty. Even though she couldn't sing a note, her voice sang. It was like listening to a perfect lyric soprano, all passion and sorrow and serenity. It was a voice to wake up to. It was a voice to hear when you laid your head on the pillow at night and wanted the day's troubles soothed away.
But time erodes us all. Time had worn April's voice away for me. It had become shrill and demanding of an explanation of why I had not done better in my career as a writer, of why we were still living in the same cramped house, of a thousand other irritations that accumulate like barnacles on a marriage. We were equally unhappy with each other. I wanted a wife and lover, not a sales manager who came home each day with competition woven into every word of a conversation. She wanted a husband who was not passive, who did something, for God's sake. Who could, at the very least, keep the cupboards straight and not chip the dishes.
The day we set out for Target to pick up essentials we had the argument that finally surfaced the subject of divorce. It was a pathetic thing as these disputes usually are. She accused me of being less than a man; I accused her of having an affair with Jerry Kubler, a salesman with slick hair and the morals of a rutting buck, and it went downhill from there until we exhausted our insults and could think of nothing better to do than get out of the house to go shopping.
April threw her things in the car while I took Hefty bags to the garbage. The driveway was still strewn with sand tracked in by the tires from the winter's snow clearing efforts, and it was April's footsteps I could hear quite clearly in that sand right behind me, crunching on the asphalt.
"Be sure to put the lids on tight so the dogs don't get at it," she said.
I didn't want her anywhere near me at that moment. Still boiling over our argument, I whirled around and asked, "Do you have to walk right behind me? Is this some kind of joke?"
April was in the car twenty feet away.
I could see her cleaning out the back seat where I'd thrown a coffee cup and pastry bag.
Did I break out in a sweat? No. My family has a history of hearing impairment in later years, plus we live close to the freeway and the noise sometimes bounces in crazy ways between our garage and the Emmits with their oversized house.
How did I know it was April's footsteps I was hearing if it was so noisy in the driveway? When you've been married for 25 years, you know all the small things about your partner and few of the big things. That's nothing profound. We all keep counsel in our own peculiar ways. But I knew it had been April's feet because she'd broken her ankle slipping on the ice five years previously, and her right leg had a hesitation in it that was more of a signature to me than any limp. There was no doubt in my mind that my wife had been walking behind me
I went back to the Honda and asked "Were you just out in the driveway?"
April looked up from straightening out the back seat. A very particular woman with a strong dislike of clutter, she was annoyed at me now.
"No, I wasn't," she said. "Can't you at least keep your trash in your own car?"
"I'll try," I said. "Are you positive you weren't out in the driveway?"
"What did I just tell you?" she said.
I ignored the sharp tone and said, "It was the damnedest thing, April. As I took the garbage out, it sounded like you were right behind me--and I mean right behind me."
"Well, I wasn't. Can we get going?"
After I'd backed the car out and into the alley, she said, "It was just the freeway noise.
"Maybe," I replied. "It's never had that kind of effect before, though."
"I heard something," I insisted and drove out of the alley in a car full of intolerant silence.
I didn't forget about my experience in the driveway. I'm not the type that forgets anything, despite April's assertions to the contrary. It wasn't only the experience itself that nagged at me; it was the quality of it. The sound had been so absolutely real, like the difference between stereo and monaural. I'd never been the victim of hallucinations before, but I assumed that sound quality wasn't a strong feature of them.
So, I wasn't totally unprepared when I heard the sounds again.
This time, however, they were inside the house. I'd sat down in the morning to read the Star Tribune before going upstairs to my office to continue writing a seminar on customer service, a subject my clients never seemed to get right. As usual, I sat on our blue leather couch that April hates so much because I'd stained it at one end with Cheetos and cranberry juice and at the other with coffee and bordeaux. I'm not the kind of guy to have leather sofas around and had warned April about it. She went ahead and bought it anyway because it was her money. When I opened to the Op-Ed pages, a cup rattled next to me, and I heard the sound of delicate sipping, then the crunching of toast. I lowered the paper and looked to my right.
There was no one there.
"Hello?" I said. It was a dumb thing to say, but then what is the right thing to say in a situation like that?
The sipping and crunching paused for a second, then the voice continued in absolute clarity of sound. "Are you finished with the front page yet?"
The hair on my neck raised so fast I thought it would lift me off the couch. I recognized the sounds I was hearing just as I'd been familiar with the sounds in the driveway.
It was the sound of April eating and drinking. And talking to me.
Not half-an-hour earlier, she'd been sitting at the table across the room, eating her usual breakfast--herbal tea with a heavy dose of cinnamon and whole wheat toast spread with red raspberry jam. Then she'd gone to work.
"April?" I said, but this time it wasn't a question. It was a demand. I wanted to know who or what was next to me. "Damnit, April. Is that you?"
Again, there was no response, and I was desperate. I checked the cushion to see if there was a depression from someone sitting there. The leather was smooth. Then I grabbed the Lemon Pledge from the table where I'd left it as usual after some half-hearted attempts at dusting and sprayed it into the air over the sofa. The wax drifted down onto the leather and left no outline of a form in the air as I'd hoped. But the chewing and sipping stopped abruptly.
I called April's office immediately. When she answered, I hung up without saying anything. What could I say?
I had my hearing checked the next day after browbeating the receptionist into an emergency appointment. I wasn't any easier on the audiologist and the ENT man, but when the tests were done all I knew was that I did have a hearing loss in the high frequency range from farm work as a kid and riding the Hueys in Nam but nothing significant, nothing to account for auditory hallucinations. The doctor was polite and suggested the name of a psychiatrist. I made the mistake of telling him I already had a psychologist. He didn't throw me out--no one does that in Minnesota--but his face froze into a great imitation of a glacier, and I knew it was time to leave.
John Gladstrum is an excellent psychologist. I'd seen him for years for counseling on depression. He's a rotund little bearded man with cherubic features that sometimes give you the feeling that you're telling your troubles to a highly sympathetic imp. He's good at what he does because he sees what's true and what's false in the conversation you deliver up to him.
I told him about the auditory events. For the first time, I saw alarm crack through his professional face. "You're hearing voices, you say, Paul?"
"Not voices," I corrected. "A voice. April's voice. I hear it when she's not around."
"Is her voice telling you to do anything? Commands, orders, anything like that?"
"Not a thing. She--it--just has conversations with me."
Always honest, John said, "I've never heard of anything quite like it before."
"Great. What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"I don't know. Do you sense any threat from this ... manifestation?"
"And it was April's voice both times?"
"Yes, just like I said."
"How do you know that?"
"She talked to me, for God's sake. That's what I told you before."
After a long silence, John said, "I don't have an answer for you."
"That's just great. Just damned great."
"I'm sorry, Paul, but I can't think of anything that will satisfactorily give you an explanation."
But an explanation was what I desperately wanted so I took a wild stab and suggested, "Maybe it's a doppelganger."