Tag Archive: portnoy

Tea by Elly Portnoy

Dean hates tea kettles.  He hates their piercing whistles and steam burns.  Dean loathes the shiny chrome kettles most of all.  When he sleeps, he often hurls himself awake, drenched in a sweaty dim memory of loud voices and walls that gave away every secret they were supposed to hold.  Sometimes, in those dreams, he ducks in time and that silver blob races over his head and loses inertia right about the time it dents the living room wall.  And sometimes, he just sees what was: the kettle soaring, as gracefully as if wings had been built into the thing; a thud that should have been a fist beating-pounding-kneading a ball of dough, but instead was the edge of the pot embedding itself into his brain stem.  The room was a lunar eclipse, details blacked out, with a maddening sliver of light around the periphery. 

He didn’t know then if his eyes were open or shut, and when he wakes up now, he is back to not knowing again.  His fingers are a blind man’s, frantically testing out the surfaces of an unfamiliar universe.  He knocks a glass of water off the bureau.  When his toes squinch into the soggy carpet, he wonders how he managed to find the bathroom without his eyesight.  It is 9 p.m.  His neighbor’s tea kettle throws its nightly hissy fit.  “Shut that goddamned thing off!”  Dean is sure he is screaming and feels mildly guilty.  His pupils dilate.  He glimpses his reflection in the mirror and realizes his mouth never opened at all.

Thanatos by Elly Portnoy

Nobody in the family knew what to do about Carl.  So, they fed him acid by the sheet.  Now Carl plays pool and gets erections when the nurse’s assistant inserts the catheter into his bladder.  He watches his roommate eat cigarette butts and laughs.  Carl sounds like a pig with laryngitis when he laughs.  Sometimes he asks his house manager if he could please have three dollars so he can go to Mary’s.  Even Carl knows that Mary’s serves beer until one in the morning and the girls take all their clothes off, and if you get close enough, you can smell the mystery rubbed into their shiny skins.  Every Thanksgiving, Carl puts on his favorite plaid shirt and paisley tie.  He stands at the bathroom counter, coaxing his myriad cow-licks to lay flat.  After he gives up, the hairs are still flailing, perma-tripped and defiant.  Carl and his hair wander into the living room and freeze mid-stride in front of the forest-green leather couch.  His arms are poised like a mannequin’s, bent at the elbow, leaning away from his trunk at awkward, unlifelike angles. The staff can hear him muttering under his breath angrily, but the words are mostly incoherent.  Carl dedicates these rambling monologues to his hallucinogenic experiences.  Sometimes Carl is pleased with his delusions, other times he is terrified of what he sees.  When the glaze drips out of his eyes, Carl lowers himself onto the couch.  Perched on the edge of the cushion, he glowers at the door.  He is sure this will be the year his family comes for dinner.