Honorable Mention: Flash 405, August 2016: “Connect”
She didn’t ask you to fix it.
The old music box projects a reel of 196 found photos treated with homemade special effects on the wall at random while a record plays: a prototype, last descendant of a long line of attempts, and your first gift to her.
Seven weeks ago, the turning mechanism stalled, damaging the print.
The local camera store hasn’t sold film or had a private darkroom for rent in twelve years: the final processed reel ships after thirty business days, $25.91 in postage, $125.00 in special fees.
You bounce awake when the package flaps, Styrofoam soft, against the porch, then climb to the basement still in your pajamas. The basement because your old workshop is sunny, the ideal yoga studio: before that, she practiced poses on the porch behind the silvery mosquito netting.
She leaves coffee and Eggos on the top step when A Whiter Shade of Pale, the vinyl record on the turntable, starts. The screen door thumps when she leaves for her morning jog. When you adjust the speed, the blue crackle fades; your second attempt washes out the sepia; third, the turquoise bleeds.
Her jog is shorter than expected; her laundry dries quickly on the line. The reel uncoils itself. Rethread it. After lunch, she asks you to smoke weed under the orange tree with her. Reread old design notebooks. Two hours later, she shouts she doesn’t want to binge watch TV alone. The reel squeals, groans and gives off an electrical smell. Adjust the wiring.
About six, the front door slams, and then the wheels of her car crush gravel. She’s left a full serving of “pink and purple” in the ceramic bowl on the wet kitchen counter: beets, purple onions, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, cayenne and goat cheese, which you’ve always argued is neither pink nor purple.
You know you should eat it, drink all of the remaining heavy, dark beers; collapse on the bed with the unfolded laundry; and apologize when she returns before midnight.
Only you know now; you see the correct wiring in your mind, the pictures clear, the sound pure, deep and rich. Only you don’t remember which wire you connect with which, don’t remember the sparking outlet, the electrical smell crackling incandescent, or the hot expanding black, just the stinging cayenne on your lips, just the wind on your wet skin as the ceiling three floors above buckles, burns and flies away.
Genelle Chaconas is a 2015 MFA Writing and Poetics graduate of Naropa University. Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m Press, 2011). Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Milkfist, Image OutWrite, Bangalore Review, WT Paterson’s The Asylum, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Menacing Hedge, Futures Trading, Crack the Spine, Weirderary, Dirty Chai, Third Wednesday, The Fem, Crab Fat Magazine, Door is a Jar, Five 2 One, Bombay Gin, Calaveras Station, Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets, and others.