“Sugaring Off” by Margaret Barbour Gilbert
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Margaret Barbour Gilbert deals with the pain of being in love.
We went to dinner at the Russian Tea Room on West 57th Street. There was a gypsy beggar in the cold with a melancholy accordion player near the door. The music made me so sad I wanted to cry, but I went inside with Sir Rudolf. We sat at his customary table in the front of the restaurant, where I dined on beet borscht and blini with sour cream for fifty dollars. Afterward, we went upstairs to the second floor—with the dancing bear, the tree, the stained glass ceiling, and a five-piece orchestra—and danced. Then Sir Rudolf told me he had to leave soon for his radio show. “You have a radio show?” I asked, incredulous. “Yes,” he said. “It’s called Sunday Evening at Eight with Sir Rudolf Bing. Be sure to tune in.” I promised to do that. Then I took a cab home. In the cab, I found a new ten-dollar bill. It had begun to snow. I couldn’t imagine Sir Rudolf on the radio with his thin, faraway, heavily accented English voice, but I decided to turn on the radio back at my apartment. I had no heat, and I was very glum. My apartment echoed with its own silence. There was the Duncan Phyfe chair, the wardrobe trunk, and a few empty cups and plates. It had begun to snow again, and I watched the snow fall outside my window. I felt very lonely until I turned on the broadcast at eight o’clock and Sir Rudolf’s small droll voice resonated strangely in the empty apartment. On the radio, Sir Rudolf sounded even farther away. He had invited a famous soprano to be his guest. I could hear the soprano, but I could barely hear Sir Rudolf. I turned the radio up until it filled the empty apartment with the sound of their voices like the screen sound of two lovers in a movie house. Maybe they are lovers, I thought. They were discussing the soprano’s recent role in Don Carlo. She had a beautiful English accent like Sir Rudolf, and I had seen her picture in the paper with him. She had gone from a novice to a star in one night! He was escorting her off the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. On the radio, Sir Rudolf invited her to have coffee with him after the show so they could continue their discussion off the air. Suddenly, I was insanely jealous. I got out my new copy of 5000 Nights at the Opera and flipped through the picture section. There she was again with Sir Rudolf. I turned off the radio and tore the book into a thousand pieces, just as I had done with my mother’s letter. I took a knife to the hard cover until I had destroyed it. I put the pieces of the book out with the trash for the super to collect the following morning. Then I locked the door, lay down on the cold board floor in my apartment, and began to sob uncontrollably.
MARGARET BARBOUR GILBERT is the third-place winner of the 1999 Mudfish Poetry Prize, selected by C.K. Williams, for excerpts from her poem in prose, Sugaring Off, about a relationship with a man who collected Grandma Moses paintings. (All the poems are named for paintings by Grandma Moses.) She holds an MFA in poetry from City College of New York and a master’s degree in English literature from Rutgers. In 2011, she was a Cooper scholar with an original paper on the literary relationship between James Fenimore Cooper and Emily Dickinson at the 25th International James Fenimore Cooper Conference at SUNY/Oneonta. In 2014, Finishing Line Press published a chapbook, My Grandmother’s Engagement Room. “Eating Oatmeal” from this collection is included in the Everyman Library Pocket Poets anthology Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems (Alfred Knopf, 2007). “Church Goers” from Sugaring Off was also published by Akashic Books as part of their Thursdaze flash fiction series. She is a US instructor at Berlitz Languages, Inc., in Rockefeller Center.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jun 4, 2015
Category: Thursdaze | Tags: Drug Chronicles Series, Thursdaze, Margaret Barbour Gilbert, Sugaring Off, flash fiction, short story, excerpt, short fiction, love, Russian Tea Room, Rudolph Bing, Duncan Phyfe, Don Carlo, Metropolitan Opera, 5000 Nights at the Opera
Featured: Music/Popular Culture/Art
- This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake
- Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary
- How the Left Lost Teen Spirit
- I Love You Too
- Censorship Now!! (LIMITED SIGNED HARDCOVER EDITION)
- Censorship Now!!
- Artificial Light
- The Accidental Hunter
- Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises
- What Is Punk?
- Black Music