First Violin : Chapter 2

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Grace boarded the pistachio-colored bike. She had chosen it expressly for the color; that was something she had a great appreciation for. Her stripes were maroon, not red; her blanket was not gray-blue, but rather livid; her bike was not green, as others mistakenly called it—rather, pistachio. 

Grace boarded the pistachio-colored bike. This was not because she was particularly conscious of the environment; she was sympathetic, but lacked the fiery impulse on the subject many seem to have. She much preferred biking, that was all. It was relaxing, and you were in the wind, which she enjoyed. Grace tended to take her life exactly at her pace, which did not require cars. 

She trundled unconcernedly over sidewalks, she crossed intersections, she took bike-lanes. She lived, by choice, very close to her work. It took only ten minutes to reach it. 

Her bike slowed to a stop, and she placed her foot on the curb of a sidewalk bordering a row of storefronts. 

“Morning, Grace.” 

“Good morning.” 

She walked her bike in through the door of Round Wheel Pottery Works, leaning it against the wall. A, older woman with a hefty upper half and long, coarse gray hair was holding the door open for her. 

“Everything good?”


“Ready to get to work?”


Grace was exactly twenty-three years old. She had not gone to college because she hadn’t much wanted to. After high-school she’d lived with her parents to work for a year, one half as her father’s field assistant and the other as a waitress. After that she had used the money to start an apprenticeship with Falatrack Handmade Pottery, not far from their house. 

Grace wrote her name and the time on the clock down on the log. The walls, floor and ceiling in that room were all painted blue, but it was a calm shade, one that didn’t distract you. A mix of steel blue and sapphire. 

She put on an apron from the coat-rack on the wall—raw and unfinished. The hardy fabric was gray, dappled with dusty-white clay-stains. She rolled up her sleeves.

The work-room was small but not cramped. Along the walls were shelves of the same unfinished wood as the coat-hooks, loaded with pottery of all variations. There were tables, shelves with red plastic baskets full of tools, all messy and stained. There were plastic bags of soft clay too heavy to lift under work tables, there was the plain clock on the wall. There was a door to another room, full of large buckets for glazes and hundreds of hooks sporting clay samples coated in all the colors. There was another room for the kiln.

Grace was only a worker. The older woman, Kimberly, sat in the front room and did things on the computer. She oversaw her employees, she paid the taxes, she managed the website, she worked with costumers in the shop and online. She drove the truck to different retailers, and did a whole other slew of things Grace did not know about and did not want to. Grace did not have ambitions to get any higher of a station in that shop than she already had, because it suited her perfectly.

She had discovered pottery in high-school, an elective. She had liked it. She had liked it as much as knitting. She had liked it as much as coloring. 

Grace had known for a long time that she could be perfectly happy sitting on the clay-stained stool, hands clasped around a lump of soft clay, pressing her foot on the pedal and feeling its uneven, bumpy smoothness spin against her skin, feeling the sediment scratch her, so softly. Grace had worked at it, serenely she had worked at it, she had skill. She went to work and she made plates and she made bowls, she made vases and she enjoyed it.

She enjoyed sitting on a stool in the work room all day, spinning and shaping. She enjoyed dipping, she enjoyed priming, she enjoyed scoring and slipping. Sometimes, if she was waiting on something in the kiln, she would flip through the dirty (everything in that room was dirty, it was part of the business) magazines of glossy books of inspiration. A book of great archaeological artifacts in museums, a magazine of trendy home decor. She surveyed it all, she took it all in, she created, she created without artistic angst because she was not an artist. No, Grace was not an artist. She was only a calm creator. She worked the clay and it grew in her grasp. 

Grace signed out when Kimberly rapped on the door. 

“Time’s up.”

“Oh, thank you.”

She washed her hands in the large, messy sink. Grace did not mind messes. She had carefully worked at not minding most things. 

She still had a little clay around her nails. This did not bother her.

“Nice work today,” Kimberly was surveying the row of bowls on the rack. “I should get in here and join you. Darn administrative work.” 

Grace smiled in acknowledgement, hanging up the apron.

“But aren’t you supposed to be wearing a mask?”

The girl barely paused, unconcerned, dipping the soles of her shoes in the black cleaning tray.  A coworker looked up, listening. 

“I didn’t today.” 

“As your employer,” Kimberly said, watching Grace as she put away her tools, “I need to ensure that your occupation doesn’t cause you any harm. Seriously.”

Grace shrugged, that same unconcerned little smile. “They’re all ok.” She motioned to her coworkers, a young man with a flannel shirt and bird, a large girl with bright lipstick and hair dyed black. Kimberly narrowed her eyes. She remained unconvinced.

“Just wear it tomorrow.”

Grace did not reply. Neither did she refuse. 

“Bye, guys.” She wheeled out her bike to the sidewalk. 

She was not going home. Well, not to the home she paid more than her half of the rent for—she was instead heading up the ways so familiar they were practically on autopilot, to the house she’d grown up in. Grace had this habit, this inner calendar of filial obedience; she popped in for dinner every 8th and every 22nd of each month. 

She was surprised from this pleasant autopilot by the phone ringing—she looked around—was it hers?—yes—she pedaled to the curb and pulled her bike up over it onto the sidewalk. Grace did not wear a helmet. Her brother had fast cured her of that by his very insistence upon it.

“Hello?” She picked it up, surveying the road of passing cars, houses and buildings with idle interest.

“Hi, Grace.” It was her brother. His voice sounded fast and tense. This was not out of the ordinary. Grace remained unconcerned.

“Hullo.” She sighed, following a runner with her gaze as he moved across the scene. She waited for a second. “Is something the matter?” This was apparently what the tense silence on the other end was wanting her to ask. Growing up with someone, you can become more versed in their cues than you ever wanted to be.

“Well, it’s just—you know Anne Locklear, don’t you?”

Grace did know Anne, by sight. Grace, like the dutiful sister she was, had attended some of her brother’s concerts. Anne, with her intense gaze and skillful playing, had seemed to Grace to hold the whole group together.


“Well, I told you about how her husband got in a wreck—“

“Mum mentioned it.” Grace interrupted placidly, running her thumb over the white grip on her bike handle.

“Oh.” This seemed to give her brother pause. He managed to recover quickly, however. “You know she’s from Hungary? She came over here for college.” His voice sounded at once imminently focused and anxiously distracted. Grace responded.

“I think you told me that a while ago.”

“So it turns out she was only in the country fine because she was married to an English citizen, and that kept her good after she couldn’t have a student visa. But her parents had her go back to Hungary, and now she’s trying to come back, and I think she was on some visitor’s visa for a while, but it expired and now she’s been asked to leave, and she has a kid that she’s all worried about—she’s completely settled here, I mean, she’s lived in England her entire adult life—and, I mean, the quartet—”

Grace tilted the bike back and forth as she listened, wondering why her brother was telling her all this, wondering where it was going. 

“That really sucks.” She provided helpfully, as a silent pause threatened to swallow their conversation up. The anxious voice on the other end didn’t reply. Grace waited. It seemed to be on the edge of something it wasn’t entirely sure of.

“I—I think I’m going to marry her, Gracie.” breathless. Breathless from the thought and the journey, the numb decision, Grace could hear it all, betrayed in his voice. How he would rise, unexpectedly, to the occasion. 

Grace did not quip, she did not bicker, she did not fight. People who did annoyed her. But she did not acquiesce. There was a sort of quiet rebellion in her, to wearing the irritating masks, to disinfectants, to not lying on the beach in a teeshirt next to the bonfire next to Elliot’s friend. Her rebellions did not require audiences. Their validity lay in the actions themselves. Face expressionless and yet not drifted away, nearly sullen, eyes on the slithering flames. That is how she had looked in the photograph. Above all within her was a circle full of routines and things that she vaguely expected to happen, one time or another. Above that was something critics called passivity. 

She had gotten so good, on the couch with her coloring book, at pretending she didn’t mind Elliot and their mother sparring with each other, that she had nearly come to believe it herself. 

Grace, who had been on the receiving end of many a complaint about Anne, wanted to say, do you even like her? She wanted to say, are you drunk? She wanted to say, are you crazy?

She knew her brother. She knew him in all his drama, all his self-absorbed adventure. 

All she said was, “Hmm.”


It had come upon him suddenly.

Heart pounding, breathing strange like adrenaline, gazing straight, straight ahead. Staring. Occurring—how something reworks itself or presents itself, maybe; your ideas about things change but that is really life, isn’t it? That isn’t out of the ordinary, much. Elliot swallowed. 

Half of him had wanted to leave, half had needed to do something and’d realized it had to stay. He’d read her forms, he’d made some calls, Anne had not moved or breathed. So someone had to, or else it wouldn’t be right. Or else instead of life it would have been death. He’d found her laptop but that hadn’t helped either.

He had realized it—that moment, of understanding—one could call it a eureka but that would be an exaggeration—on the phone, actually. He’d been talking to some person in the government, God knew who—“And there’s no way—“ “I’m sorry sir, the individual is no longer married to a British citizen, and her visa situation was questionable from the beginning, never mind the salary issue—she has simply been out of the country too long—“

Elliot sighed. This time it was the kind that went through the phone-line. Running his hands through his hair, tight, filling the gaps between his fingers, thick and twisted and tangled.  

He turned from the bench and walked back up the steps, into his apartment. 


Elliot dialed the number of Bambridge School. He did not need to look at the caller-ID. He knew it by heart.

The phone rung idly, forgetfully, and dully. It did not seem to think about its ringing. That was perhaps, Elliot mused, what it did to keep itself sane. It could not worry or even think about what people were like or talking or worrying about on either end of the line, every minute of every day. Elliot understood. 

“Hello, Rolegade Vance, Bambridge School office.”

This was an interesting aspect of the old school. They did not have a regular receptionist. Last time Elliot had gotten Emilia Carnet, the time before that Frea Sala; he had gotten Ronny Rice two times, non-consecutively, to date. 

This gave the entertaining variety that, in an institution where many are overly familiar with you, one still receives a seemingly random stranger on the phone. This made life interesting.

“Elliot Roberts,”

“Aha, hello Mr. Roberts…that would be…class of 2007?”

Elliot could hear thick sheets of paper being ruffled through and turned over on the other end. He sat down and put his hand in his pocket.

“That would be me.”

“Would you like to be forwarded to anyone?”

“I don’t know—I received a phone-call the other day that I missed.”

“Alright, just give me a second here—what day?”

“I believe it was Tuesday.”

“Aha…hmm…well I didn’t make that call…not in my log…I think I’ll forward you to Mr. Blankenship.”


In many facilities, the phone would have, at this point, gone silent, as Elliot was forwarded to another line. However, he was very familiar with what proceeded. 

First, the phone did not go quiet, although the haphazard receptionist stopped talking. Instead, Elliot’s ears were filled with the muffled sounds of walking—shoe-soles on a thin carpet, ill-regarded work-slacks rubbing loudly together between a pair of legs. Also quite a bit of sound from the phone’s movement through the air, swinging from the receptionists hand, back and forth.

Elliot could hear, albeit somewhat fuzzily, a knock on the wall (the Blankenship office had no door). 

He could hear, again somewhat confusedly, the unknown voice of Rolegade Vance speaking to the unforgettable tones of Mr. Blankenship. Elliot shifted somewhat uncomfortably. Distance and years could never quench the flame of fright in an errant schoolboy of his principal.

The muffled noises became louder and more aggressive, and Elliot fancied perhaps that Mr. Blankenship was situating the phone on his own shoulder.

“Elliot Roberts?” The voice was old, the voice of an advanced thinking man with a salt-and-pepper beard that became round at the ends. It was not sharp, nor accusing. Ever. This is one of the things Elliot found the most imposing.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good to hear from you; I daresay we don’t too often.”

“Yes, sir.” Elliot replied meekly, rising to pet a highly distractible, bug-eyed Rosco. 

“How is your music going?” The calm interrogation, measured interest. 

“Well, sir.”

“I see. Have you gotten a position at a University?”

“I haven’t tried, sir.” 

There was a moment without words on the other, measured end, but not of silence. The principal was making a low, thoughtful, considering sound. It was rather growly, in the most thinking-man sort of way. It was something like a “Hmm,”.

“Hmm,” he mused, in the sort of fashion that meant Elliot was in some sort of trouble. “you know of course that here at Bambridge we represent an intense commitment to giving back education to our community.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Of course we respect whatever direction you want to take your life; however, considering your talent and the time that has been put in, I would advise at least looking at a University position.”

“Sir,” Elliot began, trying not to sound meek. He managed to infuse his voice with what he thought was a respectful firmness. “I do not think they would take me, I’m only 25, sir. I’ve also thought I was giving back by making music. With all due respect, I do not stay in my room practicing all day, sir.”

“Hmm,” it sounded as if he was leaning back in his chair. This was a peculiar habit of Mr. Blankenship’s. “Where do you play?”

“I’m in a chamber group, with Dax Herrman.”

“Interesting. He’s doing well?”


“Do in an orchestra?”


“Anything else?”

Elliot was silent. He did not. Blankenship seemed to understand this.

“Private lessons? Do you do that?”

Elliot was again silent.

“I play gigs, and I busk.” He offered, after a moment that was slightly dreadful. 


Elliot, feeling defensive, picked up Rosco hurriedly under one arm. The dog’s curly, skinny legs dangled deadweight, and his wild face looked curiously up, attacking the man with a floppy tongue. “But, sir, I was calling to follow up on a missed phone-call. The receptionist said he wasn’t the one who called me.”

Blankenship seemed not to hear him—his grumbly musing had remained uninterrupted, and now he broke back in, as if taking a sip of a delicately foamed cappuccino. 

“While I of course respect however a former student chooses to make a living, I must inquire, how do you have enough with only gigs, street-performing, and a chamber group?”

“And orchestra.”

“And orchestra. Hmm?” 

Elliot was silent for a moment. Blankenship had always made him uncomfortable. He seemed to see right through his skin, like a sheaf of onion under a microscope. The boy had never been able to understand some students’ admiration and even love for the imposing man.

Elliot adjusted Rosco under his arm as the dog began to slip. 

“I—I don’t only do that. Besides, I don’t need a lot of money. I’m a concertmaster—they pay me alright.”

“What else do you do?”

At this, Elliot was again silent. A string of elaborate and exciting lies jumped immediately before him. 

“I—a non-music, part-time job. I’m hoping to get out of it soon.” There. He hadn’t lied. 

Again, silence. Elliot felt his heat fuming around his ears. He narrowed his eyes and placed Rosco back on the floor.

“Our new under-principal Mrs. Venetta was just calling you in for work.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Whenever you want, in whatever form, you know the drill, I trust.” He sighed through his words in an attitude of dismissal, and Elliot nodded as if the man could see him. “We shall depend upon your Bambridge honor and good form. We’d love to see you around the school more, and we wouldn’t object to an inspiring-alum concert.”

“Thank you sir, goodbye.”

Elliot laid the phone down. He put his head in his hands. Rosco hurried over obligingly, inspecting his owner’s lips with his tongue. 

“Rosco—stop it, come on—“ Elliot yanked his face away, pushing the dog down with a hand. He grabbed the phone again with a listless grasp, stared at it and thought who he could contact.

Who would go out for a drink at three in the afternoon? Elliot felt a wave wash over him, a wave of dark thought. And tiredness. And nausea—fatigue. Maybe it was the adrenaline of calling Blankenship. Adrenaline usually felt good. 

The daybed provided itself more than willingly for these moments.

Elliot did not have many friends (he had many acquaintances). He had no close friends. This had been done carefully and on purpose, it had also been thoughtless, in all his actions. However, there were people who knew him well enough to be surprised and concerned when they heard. 

Dax had come over and Elliot had told him off. Hop had called in supportive astonishment. The suddenly-engaged did not doubt that many others he knew were worried, surprised, anything—behind his back. 

Elliot did not dress up for his wedding. At least, he did not at first. Then he reconsidered, and put on his black performance attire, in deference to Anne, who seemed to take life in a fancier, more well-put-together fashion than he. 

He rose at six-thirty a.m. He blinked the cloudiness out of his eyes. It was cloudy outside. He did not think much, when it came down to it. He didn’t think about going through with it, he didn’t think about pulling out. Afterwards he knew that he’d taken a shower, he knew he’d looked at himself in the sink mirror. Pale chest, the branching bones in a wingspan, small shoulders. He had been so proud of how broad they’d gotten (by his standards) at the end of high-school, but now, looking at them, he was only mildly disgusted, mildly disappointed. 

On the white, bony breast of Elliot was a work of art. He often did not think of it, but sometimes he stopped to look, in moments like that, in quiet awe, inspection, or remembrance. 

Drawn in careful, indomitably flat and smooth and sharp ink on his practically smooth ribs, skin of a child, was a moth. It was a beautiful moth, it had beautifully round and perfectly-shaped wings, it had beautiful shadows and texture, it had the most delicate black legs. On the shades of its wings were beautiful spots, beautiful lines. It wore beautifully short antennae. 

Elliot could remember gazing at it, hazily, for a long time. He’d had time to kill, after all. He could recall the beautiful smell of henna, when he looked at that tattoo long enough. He hadn’t smelled it in years, henna, but of course he could remember. Of course he could remember that delicious perfection of the scent of it when you mix it with fragrant oil and sugar, when you place it with messy love into cones. He could remember how it stained your hand. 

He could remember how it looked like brownie batter, but it smelled better than any brownie because it hadn’t smelt like food at all, which sickened him, because instead it smelt like something infinitely delicious yet not edible at all. Instead of melting in your mouth it caressed it, invisible. 

But that was for a life of beauty. 

His life had not been beautiful then, when he had smelled it, although it had sometimes felt like it was. Beautiful memories, yes, but he was glad to be gone. 

This was entirely different; it was kind and yet mercenary; it was real and yet not; he thought you could write poetry about it to seem beautiful, but really that would be a lie to the reality. And that always made him bitter. But he was too distracted, by nothing, really, staring at the mere, fuzzily, to be bitter. 

As has been said, he first, that entirely ordinary and dull morning, put on a plain t-shirt. He put on plain light-brown pants, the kind that clung around his skinny legs, he buttoned them below his stomach, lean but bloated. He then, as has also been said, changed, in deference to Anne.

He combed his hair, his hair that was so, so very light-colored; he took care of it and so it was soft but he wished it wasn’t. It curled delicately at his shoulders. There seemed to be nothing to it, and yet everything with that light gold color that reflected any beam of radiance in glossy white. His skin was pale and smooth, his eyes were light blue like a little girl’s. He wondered how anyone could bear him.

Yes, Elliot could remember his morning, as he walked into the Register Office. Anne had thought they should do it first thing because she was that kind of person. His morning, however, felt as if it could have been years ago and at the same time have gone on forever.

He signed the papers numbly and had the glimpsing thought that away he was signing himself, and any hope. He mostly felt, foggily, that it was a tremendously heroic moment. He was sacrificing his freedom, he was sacrificing his hope, his possibility. Yes, that was very romantic. For Anne, for his friend. It felt, numbly, like that. 

Anne was very businesslike. She signed everything. They did not exchange rings. Grace, in the yellow dress she’d had since high-school, was the first witness. One of her strange friends (was she rooming with her now? Elliot couldn’t keep track.), with an elfish nose and slews of byronic, brown curls, was the other. 

There were some sort of vows said, Elliot answered however it seemed from context he was supposed to. It all felt a little odd to him. Something so monumental should have fireworks, he thought, explosions. Something. Life could feel odd, like that. To Elliot. 

It ended, Anne left without ceremony in her own car. Elliot, at a loss, had gone to work.

He sorted and pricked and arrayed insects. He copied field notes. He felt funny and strange and utterly nothing. When Dr. Fishback came in, Elliot had looked at him, at his busy lab-coated back, he had opened his soft lips. He had wanted, very much, he thought afterward, to say something. What does one say? Dr. Fishback, I have just been married? Dr. Fishback, something large has happened and I do not believe it? Do you?

Elliot remained silent. He sliced off a sliver of a grasshopper’s leg, and placed it strangely on a slide. He remained silent. 


It was cold and the air full of invisible water as Elliot pulled up to Anne’s house. There was perfect visibility right before his eyes, but a strangely unreachable, unchasable fog on the edges and horizon-lines of everything. 

Elliot got out of the car, the driver’s door clicked supply shut behind him. He walked up the moist concrete to the door, rubber in his shoes squeaking. 

One can be suddenly unsure of themselves in such situations. The eureka was not a wordy one and hard to fathom. It was more a feeling. More a realization—more processing. The man fumbled. 

Luckily for Elliot, the front door opened, and a rather small woman turned out of it, locking it behind her. 

Her heels—spool and olive-colored—clacked on the steps as she came down, skirt stretching over wide hips and back to come down around her knees. She clacked, in a rather quiet, business-like fashion, down past him. 

She turned back to look at him. Her curls were frizzy around her eyes from the weather.

“Hello, Elliot.”

Elliot nodded awkwardly. 

He followed after her down to his car—it was rather an ugly car. Elliot always found it offensive to his aesthetic sensibilities from this angle—the small roundness of the headlights, the flat shark-like-ness of the smoothly curved hood, the general flatness of the whole vehicle, and, for that matter, the horrible beige color—

He stopped in surprise as Anne opened the driver’s door from a handle once again offensive for its cramped roundness. He blinked. 

“Uh, Anne—“

She turned to him rather dully. Dull, but unyielding.

“I’m not riding in a car that you drive.”


Elliot slid into the passenger side, onto the flat, gray cushions. Anne was busy, eyes cold, pumping up the seat to her height. 

Elliot turned his gaze to the wet, deserted road before them. He was becoming more and more disillusioned with what had at first seemed such a heroic turn for his life to take. It really had, for a moment, been a eureka. 

“Put on you seat-belt.” The order was quiet and firm. Anne barely even looked at him.

Elliot obeyed. This was not because he was passive like Grace. It was because the nonnegotiable tone in Anne’s voice made a person’s fingers jump to the buckle before their mind could even process the command. When his did, Elliot flushed up to his ears with annoyance, but Anne was too engaged in her defensive driving to notice.

The man wanted to be irritated, but he felt mostly disappointed. And he was irritated, at least a little bit. Anne was so selfish—yes, of course he felt bad for her—but could she not even say thank-you? Could she not even appreciate the sacrifice he was making her? Elliot not only might have been the most rapidly disillusioned person in the course of human history, but possibly also the most spurned and unappreciated of its heroes. This was, at least, what he thought, as she took a turn like she was handling an army vehicle.

“Where’s Renata?” He asked strainedly, focusing his energy on trying to keep himself together. His insides had other thoughts. 

“I have friends, you know.” Anne replied sharply and dismissively, apparently offended by his ignorance, eyes trained at the road before her.. “It’s not good they’re making us move in together.”

“It might be,” Elliot offered, following her in.

“No, it’s not. It means they know it’s a fake.” Anne, voice quiet and business-like, was brimming with pessimistic surety. It was amazing, Elliot thought, how he had been with her a full twenty minutes, and she hadn’t looked him in the eyes once. She narrowed her gaze upon the parking spot she was trying to squeeze into. “I told you, no idiot would think I actually want to marry you.” 

This left a surprised Elliot behind a moment, an Elliot whose ears soon flushed again, this time with hurt resentment. He wondered what Beowulf would do if so spurned. Who said he wanted to marry her?, an angry voice inside him exclaimed. He wasn’t doing it for himself, it wasn’t some pleasure-ride—no, in fact, he was the one who’d been frying his brain on calls and research over her problems, he was the one— 

She had already disappeared behind the glass coffeeshop door before the heat in his ears could come to fruition from his mouth. He followed her in a rejected huff.

“What do you think of this one?” Elliot asked, looking over Anne’s shoulder. She was wearing a magenta cardigan. The laptop was on the table in front of them, and her fingers were scrolling thoughtfully through the display.


“Why?” Elliot asked tiredly, taking a bite of an apple. She hadn’t even really seemed to consider it.

“Too small.”

“It’s a two-bedroom, Anne. Perfect.”

Anne turned her head back coldly toward him. 

“Has it occurred to you that Renata and I might want a bit of space from you? We’re not college roommates.” She delivered these words curtly and with finality, whipping her head back around before Elliot could respond. She continued to scroll, too slow for anyone’s liking, but too fast to really look at any specific listing.

Elliot blinked at this, feeling rather miffed. Anne had a way of unexpectedly coming on top like this that left him sheepish and rather irritated. He opened his mouth to reply, but she, back still towards him, cut him off.

“What do you think about this? 112, Lakeshore Drive. Pretty.”

“Let me look—“ Elliot leant forward beside her, resting a hand on a table, putting his other one of the mouse pad as he clicked on the listing. The house was a virulent red, the door of a soft white. It was two stories, three bedroom, three bath. Elliot raised his eyebrows. “Anne, you don’t really think we’d live here—“

The Hungarian expatriate turned upon him sharply. 

“Why not? It’s in town like you wanted, isn’t it? And we could probably lay out things so as you could have your house, and I could have mine—look at the floor-plan—“ Anne conquested the mousepad instantly, and Elliot drew his hand back in surprise as she clicked on the picture of the layout. “See? Me and Renata could have the front-door, you the back, and the corresponding sides of the house—“

Elliot’s nostrils flared at this; an affronted heat surged in reaction.

“What, is that the servant’s door or something?” He exclaimed, eyes accusing. 

“No,” Anne replied sharply, and Elliot was nearly taken aback, surprised by her tone. By the thick wetness in the sharpness. She seemed almost a little hurt. He opened his lips and closed them. “I was just meaning that we could divide it into two sides, and leave each other alone.” The words were not quiet but had not an inch of militancy, not an inch of anything that demanded anything in return. She wasn’t looking at him. 

“Oh. Oh, ok.” Elliot tried to back down, awkwardly, in his tone. Anne’s sudden switch from sparring to—well, whatever this was—had taken him off guard. They were silent for a moment, staring at the screen. Anne was sitting, for a moment forgetting posture, on a chair of swirling iron design. Elliot was leaning beside her, tendons stretched and prone on the wrist he had propped against the table. Neither of them were quite thinking anything intelligent about the listings they were numbly staring at. A thought suddenly occurred to him. “Anne,” he straightened up, and she turned to look at him in surprise, as if he’d woken her from a daydream. “how do you expect me to be able to afford this?” 

His tone was matter-of-fact. This was one of Elliot’s ways, the Elliot between performance drama and private brooding. This was, incidentally, the most natural part, the reaction he thought least about. 

Anne scrolled up to the price-tag. She took a moment, seeming to be doing the math quickly in her head, behind the focused eyes. She looked back up at him in an instant, dark eyebrows challenging. It made Elliot more comfortable, instantly, as if he no longer needed to tread lightly; she seemed to have completely recovered herself. 

“You would have to put down 113,378 pounds total.” 

“Exactly.” Elliot hit the table for emphasis. The violist narrowed her eyes. 

“You wouldn’t have to all at once.” Anne could be so obstinate. Elliot sighed, long and testily. He did not spend much time with his personal finances, but he knew them to leave little room for margin.

Anne, I’m a musician, you can’t expect me to be rolling in dough.” Elliot leaned back on the table again (a bad idea, the small glass circle was rickety in its frame). Light eyes piercing. He knew it. 

Anne turned her head up to meet him. Obstinate. 

“I’m a musician too. I could afford it. Some of us spread our nets wide, Elliot. You could be considerably more pragmatic about it. It’s running a business.”

Elliot couldn’t help being testy. Anne made him testy. 

“There are those of us,” he delivered back, face unlined but very intent, “who believe in art for the sake of art.”

“Oh give me a break.” Anne rose in a huff, not meeting his eyes but everything else. She snapped the laptop shut beside his hand, she turned to look at him. “I need to go.” 

Elliot watched, silent, as she put the laptop back into her bag. He watched, face unmoving, as she slung it over her shoulder, as she turned and marched away. She did not look back. He did not look away. It was not because he missed her. It was more that his eyes trained on his leaving opponent. 

Elliot had watched a lot of those movies. He’d been a cowboy one year for Halloween, the year after he’d been Superman, the year before he’d been Robin Hood. His mother had sewn him felt fox-ears for that, he remembered. He could remember standing at the cheap fold-out craft table, glue everywhere as he was struggling to attach the ears to a skinny black headband. He’d been enraged with frustration. Nobody had paid him any attention. He couldn’t remember how he finally got them to stick, in the end.

He had not asked her the question that’d sprung to his lips. You still on for practice? No. That would have been too conciliatory. Of course Anne was on for practice. And if she didn’t show up, they would practice without her. Who needed a viola, anyway, he thought bitterly. Besides, she would come back in. 

He opened the dark door tucked back near the counter, went up the poorly-lit stairs, and into the room above. The Minndish—the rather cryptic name that café had taken to itself— prided itself on being a pillar of the artistic community. It was a revolving door of art exhibits, but also a live music venue (there was outside seating). What mattered to Elliot, however, was their free multi-purpose room upstairs. 

He gazed at the empty space rather tiredly. He did not like empty spaces. They smacked too much of loneliness, when he was the only one standing in them. It might have looked romantic in a photograph, with the right lighting, but at the moment it felt like nothing he wanted at all. He set up the chairs, he set up the stands. The others arrived soon, they were surprised that he’d beat them there. Elliot smiled wryly in acknowledgement, but it was really only for their benefit.

There was something nearly awkward about the group of them today. What could Elliot have expected, anyway, from the moment Anne barreled in, darkly, behind Hop. The second violinist, Dax, glanced strangely between the violist and the first violin on either side of him, both silently adjusting their position in the seats.

“Well,” he ventured, unfolding his music on the stand. “it’s nice to be back, all together again.”

“Yes, it seems like it’s been even longer than it has.” Hop added sanguinely, his skin folding severely around his eyes as he smiled. Elliot nodded. He coughed. Anne was silent. 

They went farther in the Schubert piece. They passed the quagmire of an introduction, they shocked any listening ghosts with surprising group chords, they continued on and on. Elliot played his part rather mindlessly. The tidal wave occurred to him as they reached it, but not to his fingers. He remembered to look at the cello, at the second violin, to meet their eyes. Out of habit. He avoided the viola. He did not think about the viola. He did not look at the viola. It was hardly on purpose.

They went on and on, then they would stop and talk, then play again. Elliot still felt tired, but he tried, he tried every time. The unfulfillment felt maddening. The climax not reached, the depth and the height and the span. Elliot could feel it. Like it was vaguely in his power but out of reach. He played. He ate minutes. 

They would be silent, and then they would breathe together and make more noise. It was nearly surreal to him how it happened.

And so they made sound again, and the viola’s blended with the rest, and it wasn’t too hard to not look at her, it wasn’t too hard to be studiedly apart. She made him crazy. It made him crazy that he had to play with her. He ate minutes. 

“Good practice,” Hop said, zipping up his cello lustily. Like moving his fingers for the notes was all he needed to make art. Elliot stared at him, tired. 

Dax took a moment to respond. His face, large and the lightest sort of brown—the shape of it sometimes reminded Elliot of a monkey—seemed troubled.

“I don’t know—I think we haven’t gotten back into our groove yet. I mean—“ he added hastily, standing back up from where he was bent over his case, “completely understandable!”

Anne silently packed up as if she hadn’t heard. Elliot nodded. He knew it. You have to always rise to the occasion, and Elliot was good at that. He could always rise if it was for someone else. He nodded. You can know something and not anything more.

His numb mind was at once on something else, even while he heard the words. He packed up and left. He felt like he was walking in a fog. 


Downstairs the Minndish was dim. Bustling with the quiet noises of talk and the clanking machines behind the counter. The floor was like a cobblestone road except it was glazed flat. Also dim.

Elliot passed the intimate human surroundings of the coffeehouse in something of despair. He came up to the counter and stood waiting behind an old man of a disinterestedly fashionable appearance. He gazed blankly at the intentionally ratty briefcase slung over his shoulder. 

In a moment it was Elliot’s turn at the counter. He took a glance at the wall-clock. Minutes were still there. Elliot turned back to the barista as she greeted him.

“Hullo! Nice day, isn’t it?” Her skin was very white and her lips very pink. Elliot was having a hard time looking her straight in the face, caught between the distracting qualities of her impressive array of piercings and the incredible lowness of her shirt-neck. How could she not understand, know, it was suffocating. She had probably never played music in her life. She probably didn’t have an artistic bone in her body. It made him mental. 

He hurriedly snapped his eyes to the menu.

“Uh—one café au lait, please.” The prospect of asking advice reviled him and so he was not entirely sure what he was ordering. It was much better to pretend one knew things, and suffer the consequences proudly. Elliot was excellent at appearing as if he knew exactly what was going on. He was a good actor. 

Elliot paid, he sat down at a table. He looked as melancholy as he felt—gazing about himself tiredly, at the mint-colored shelves hammered into the wall, at the specialty bags of coffee beans and grinds they sported. He gazed morosely at the interpretive, colorful nudes hanging without frames, he turned his eyes disinterestedly to the vases packed messily with local flowers. At the large glass windows above a long tank system full of giant fish topped with vibrant plant growth. At the seats outside, which nobody wanted today. Elliot followed the fish with his gaze, their pale puckering lips, their eyes at once lazy and intent. 

He noticed the grey condensation of the windows. It was raining. Strange. The woman had asked him what a nice day it was. 

He and Anne would never find a house, he could feel it surely within him. And even if they did, he would never be able to pay for it. And Anne still probably wouldn’t like something about it. And—this was a new thought—the prospect of living with her, it would probably be for the rest of his life. This had not occurred to Elliot. To be in the same house as Anne, forever. He could feel it already, she would critique is every move.

Elliot turned in quiet misery, looking around him. He had somehow landed himself next to the group of teenage girls and the woman presiding just as engagedly in their midst. They all had notebooks and pens. Perhaps they were artists. 

That made him feel a little better, but still in a melancholy way. Elliot had been comforted by the artistic quality of this place, which is why it was a haunt of his, in mind if not often in body. He watched the barista, watched her as she cleaned the machines, as she dripped the coffee or foam or syrup with an intent gaze. It held little allure for him. His mother had wanted him to be a barista, when he’d been looking for work. 

It’s a good, safe, honest job, Elliot! Why not? 

It’s just—mom, you don’t understand

What don’t I understand?

You’re just working and working and working, and people can treat you like dirt, and they just expect you to do things for them, you have no dignity—

Well welcome to the service sector, Elliot!

Exactly! Ugh—

Elliot laid his head back against the brick wall. His thin hair was no protection, the rugged blocks scratched and pained his skin, but he did not move. Elliot could take pain.

Time could have gone on forever. One of the girls started reading something from her notebook, beside him. He turned his head, barely. It seemed like a poem.

Elliot closed his eyes. He thought of the prospect of his life and was filled with wretchedness. He turned his head lazily again where it was propped back against the wall, he watched the barista erasing parts of the blackboard over the coffee machines, standing on a stool, she was drawing in new pasty words in swirls with colored chalk. The word “Waffles” formed with light magic beneath her dusty fingers. Another girl was reading now, and the poetry came into his ears but he didn’t comprehend it.

It was at moments like this, the farther he descended, that he suddenly could not bear to be alone. It would seize him, attack him. 

No. He had to get up. He had to go be among people, he had to be laughing and ruling and performing. Pretending was better than this, he felt with a desperate anxiety, if this is what was real. 

He opened his phone hurriedly—it clicked open to the missed calls. Bambridge. They were old—he deleted the notifications, vexed. Like creepy-crawlies were scuttling up his arm. 

Elliot was annoyed—by the state of the world around him. Restless. The poet group provided no help. Neither did the waffles; nothing, not the koi, not any of it. Bambridge was an annoying institution—it was like selling yourself into slavery—Elliot sneered in frustration, tearing the music sheets from his case, running over them with fiery eyes as if that was something to do.

Down the lines. Of Schubert. Of nothing. Elliot lay back in his seat, gaze floating. 


But then it made him think of something else, as he stared above the eager heads of the girls to the rain reflected cloudily outside. Bambridge? It made him think of closets full of linen clothes, it made him think of bonfires, it made him think of laughing all together, sitting on the bed. Johnny and Roxanne—they’d been dating then, he remembered. She was in a swimsuit, sandy ankles. And Clara and Yesun, and he could see them all in his mind laughing, he could remember himself gesticulating, eyes wide as he retold the story, he could feel the solid back of Delfino pressed against him, he could see all their bare feet beneath pulled-up knees. They’d been in the West bedroom, windows open and darkness outside with the biggest moon, he’d been sitting on the edge of the striped bedsheets. That’s what it made him think of. 

He had not felt lonely at all. He had, in fact, been in his element. That’s what the Bambridge house was like. He longed for it, suddenly. Longed and longed, beyond the rain dripping down the Minndish window. Beyond the cold coffee. 

The girls left. They put their notebooks and pens or laptops in different bags, slung them over their shoulders and pushed their chairs in and were gone. The empty table next to him made his corner feel too large, too vacant.

He got up. 

Elliot did not want to be suffocated where he stood. 

He didn’t know how, but that would be his solution. Elliot could feel it irresistibly, and he grasped at it, desperately. 

Elliot took his violin case home but that was where he left it. 


Tune in next Friday to read more!

[questions from the author:

Should the Anne/Elliot fighting in the car scene should be cut/condensed? I know we have that sort of thing in the whole house-hunting part right after, but I don’t want the transition/storyline to be too abrupt, and I fear it may be if I take out the whole car scene. Thoughts from fresh eyes? 

Also, please take the Grace intro in the context that in the next draft this will be the first time we meet her—she’ll probably only be mentioned in the scene at his parent’s house.

One final question. What the moth is trying to say about Elliot? As in his tattoo? Should the moth be dropped, or changed? This I think is just a question to think about through the whole story, as you get to know him and his arc better, any themes and motifs, etc. Just throwing that out there.] 

August : King Arthur (Part Two)



Did you know that there’s actually some archaeological evidence for the existence of Arthur? I think that’s pretty cool, myself—of course not the Medieval-esque Arthur or popular imagination—that setting never actually existed and is largely fantasy, established by some core retellings that were written in modern-enough English to inform most current retellings. The historical “Arthur” would have been in post-Roman-rule Britain, fighting wildly against the Anglo-Saxon invaders. This is a fun rabbit trail to go on. 

Part Two:


Part III

So strange and why did it have to be him and for who else in the whole world had Fate spent so much time, crafting it all out, and had it been smiling or grim when it had. For almost certainly it had and this was the sort of thing people wrote stories about. The sort of thing people carried with them but the two of them wanted to cast it so far away. So far away, so far away and why did it have to be him.

Him, him and neither one remembered exactly when it had been, what it had looked like meeting him the first time. Dear dear but he always smelled the same way and when they heard he was dead the knight sat down so hard and it didn’t make a sound, only hurt. Sat down so hard on his knees and he didn’t feel the bruises, sat down so hard because someone had to do something.

And she took a step and she tried to see the sea outside the window but afterwards she couldn’t have told you what it looked like.

Oh castle of joy. Oh castle of joy and she never prayed to the ones that watch over fruitfulness and they never gave her anything, she only prayed at the end and after all the ignoring but still never to them. 

She prayed and he carried her. Walking and you’d have thought a knight would bear burdens better and so it seemed he did. And the books must have been written wrong, the pages smashed and things were never supposed to end this way. Corpses are heavier and it makes sense. Heavier because she could not lift herself up with her breath and the things in her eyes, the things in her eyes that were sometimes there for him and sometimes it was for their friend. 

Their friend. 

Sometimes things can get so mixed up.

She understood that. Understood that sometimes things can get so mixed up that there’s really nothing, nothing and she was heavy in his arms, arms he couldn’t feel.

Asleep and she had fallen asleep like the wizard and like the king and people say they were all too great for the world and the man with one flaw lay down too because that king, that king was their friend.

Friend. They were all friends and why did everything have to end so badly and how many people would carry it with them, he certainly would not. Could not. Could not and he laid down and the water danced in his hair and he was always, terribly hers and his son was her phantom and his son was not their friend like the king was.

Like the king and why did it have to be him. Why did he, their friend the king, have to be the one.

The knight died breathing the dancing. Died but people never say any of them died. 

People say they are asleep in the land. They say they can never really leave it, that place. 

And the king took both their hands. 

And he tried not to be sad.

They say you can’t be sad up there.

Part IV. A Departure. 

There was, terribly, in him, desire. 

When he was young he had desired to serve and to see; he had fastened Kay’s armor for him, practicing alone in the stables till he’d get it right. It was desire that pulled the sword out, and it had not been for him. 

There was, terribly, in him, desire. For strict codes written right, to hold himself up, unflinching. For newness and goodness. Anyone can be good and in some things it’s not as hard as you think it might be.

He liked her red hair in soft waves but he desired the eyes, light-colored laughing, like they were hiding something. He desired friendship and warmth. Peace. And love; he loved Lancelot most but Gawain too and Kay still and sometimes he still wanted to rush, to help, with the armor.

He desired lavender tea in unexpected, early morning—the only one, in the lavender sky, awake. World paused in an illusion. And he desired his ink to come easily off his pen when he wrote, and when she wore green, of any shade, he desired nothing else.

No one ever talks about desire and loneliness in connect—despair, rather than that. And, more than despairing, Arthur mostly felt lonely. Most of the time.

Lips closed, seeded by the fire in the fabric of his being it grew, unfurling, slowly. He was not always sure which came first, actually. He was always sure, quiet reading, of the lady with red hair and the knight with black, the French knight. 

He was always sure he loved them, and for all his laughing—sunflowers, cornflowers—Arthur was a silent man.

Silent, a vessel, sitting. He smiled quietly, sickly, down at his hand. Tanned, light hair lacing gold-like up his wrist, closing his eyes.

And it anyone would ever have taken the char-pit and, in their arms, smelled his hair, they would’ve smelled lavender.

Ardently, quietly.

All in all loneliness can’t even quench it and he was still, at the end, Artur Ard Rhi.

He crushed small wild berries between his fingers and he did not cry. 


Does any period of history or realm of mythology or lore captivate you? For me it’s the Celtic and Norse stuff that just inexplicably lights me on fire, for as much as I love the Classical world. 


First Violin : Chapter 1

[note: this work is intellectual property. The author has worked hours, weeks, and months to have what they are allowing The Snottor to post. Please fully respect the rights of the author, who, although this is posted for anyone to have access to online, has full ownership over all this material]

First Violin 

After the noise there was always, always a quiet. Elliot had noticed this when he was very young and it had made him want to scream.

The violinist, still in his every-day clothes, stood in the back of the concert-hall. Wasn’t there a poem he’d read once, about how every man is an island? He couldn’t remember; the thought occurred to him suddenly and without illumination. With only the stage lights on—a fine wooden stage, smooth and new—the seats were dark. Elliot stood behind the very last row, hands on the fabric backs of the chairs.

He breathed out.

In the group they all breathed together. On the stage, but they could have been anywhere because they no longer saw or smelled or tasted, it was only hearing, vague commands followed. All they could see were each other’s bows and sometimes eyes and the eyes were the only parts that mattered.

Elliot’s violin was golden-painted and at the baton it woke up. His eyes were blue and he stared at the conductor’s deep-seated ones, dark and hollowed. Intense. Burning.

For Elliot it was always pretending to obey.

His back was so straight and his body so taut, everything, tensed and pulling and pushing and he drew his bow hard and digging and it played with the strings but never flightily it always belonged and deep too. Playing the melody which is the point and the message over the plucked beats, he touched eyes—gray—eyes—green—eyes—brown—with his own, cello looking up and nodding, viola, second violin.


He did not need to look at his stand-partner because he felt him and together they were like one but everything was inside Elliot, everything was him and he was beyond the ground his feet sunk into, beyond the flat concert-hall ground. He was beyond the faces below that received.

Elliot talked to the stars and all around him they sang back. He said things and proclaimed and danced and did not know what any of it meant. Rather, he knew it meant something. 

The only thing he knew for sure was that it proved time a lie. It always did. It made the numbers and units he lived by meaningless and made-up. Always. 

They played. 

Elliot talked to the stars.


It was 9 pm. 

Dax breathed out. “That was long,” he murmured, working his sweaty hands. Elliot beamed—he pulsed, he radiated—he jumped onto Dax’s back with a loud whoop. 

“Great performance, everybody!” He cried, waving his arm and a cello laughed and nodded, a viola shrugged. “That rocked,” he repeated decidedly, dismounting the large violinist, swaying with surprise as his feet reached the ground—he balanced himself against the wall.

“Elliot,” Dax sighed, bending down to pick up his instrument case. “do you want a granola bar or something?”


“Are you sure? You really look—“ 

“I’m fine, Dax, I’m not hungry.” 

They were milling towards the green-room’s door—musicians tired, excited, energized, relieved, thick around them. The conductor, tall and raptor-like, was proceeding hastily through the ranks, loudly congratulating and encouraging his thralls. He took Elliot and shook him heartily by the hand.

“Good job, concertmaster. Aha!” He laughed, beaming at the thin violinist. “Very good. As always—you lead well, Mr. Frey.”

“Thank you, Ariel.” 

“Oh, Elliot,” Dax murmured in his ear, and the man turned from the beautiful flutists he was hailing, surprised. “Anne and Hop are here, we should probably find them.”

“Oh, yeah. Probably—bye guys, catcha later.”

Elliot saw the woman first—she was standing against the wall, polished in nice clothes over stiff heels. Standing straight, arms sagging around the large viola case at her front. Hop, beside her, jumped forward at the sight of them. 

“You guys! That was so good! It made me want to jump out of my seat—such energy!” He exclaimed, skin pulled tight in his large smile, all teeth showing, eyes crinkled, crow’s feet. 

“Thank you—thank you so much for coming—“

“Ah of course!”

The woman, arms crossed as she watched, stepped forward, dark eyes on Elliot. 

“Did you know you stick your tongue out?” She inquired dryly, Hungarian accent, and Elliot raised his eyebrows, surprised.

“What? What are you—“

Her deadpan face folded into a pleased smirk as they turned, milling slowly towards the door. 

“Yes, you were.”

“What! What are you talking about! That’s absurd—“

“You do.”

“I can’t—“

“Ask Hop, he was sitting next to me.”

“Hop, did I?”


“That’s ridiculous, Anne.”

“No, you looked ridiculous.” 

Elliot was silent a moment, following her contemplatively. The performance high was already beginning to wear off. He was beginning to remember his stomachache. He came back quickly. 

“So, what, are you going to discount the whole performance because of—“

“I never said I was discounting anything.” She stopped at the door, pushing it open with a look. “Although I dislike coming to such late concerts. I do have a life, you know.”

They walked out into the rainy darkness, lit far-up by small streetlights. They’d gone out the backdoor, and the desolate parking lot moved here and there with other men and women in black performance attire, hoisting a double bass into their car, talking or laughing or silent. 

Dax yawned. He was an absurdly tall man with a sturdy, large frame, huge fingers that always looked strange to Elliot around the tiny fingerboard of his violin. But he didn’t play clumsily, not at all. He quirked a smile, unlocking his car.

“Have a good night, Elliot.” squinting, he added, with a look at the sky, “Better get out of here quick, though.”

“Yeah—geez—“ the rain was getting worse every second, and the other musicians abandoned their talking to hurry into their cars. 

Elliot’s was ugly and tan-colored, a low-to-the-ground sedan. He rushed in, drenched, throwing his violin case into the back seat and himself into the front—slamming the doors shut, he stopped, panting. Dripping.

The water poured onto his windshield and he lay back in the seat. Breathing out.

He was tired, now. He pulled his knees up to his chest as his stomach growled, he sighed nauseously, searching for a bottle of water. There was none.

In the darkness Elliot Frey thought he didn’t much want to drive in the weather. There was nobody at home anyway, that needed him. The dog would be alright—there was food in his bowl. 

In the darkness Elliot Frey lay back into his seat, closing his eyes. Breathing. The rain pounded.


Emil was a structural engineer. He was a pyrographer. 

He’d studied and worked and gotten his license; he’d married her young and had a kid young too. Because the Hungarian girl was always welcome in his apartment; the young student at the Royal Academy of Music with her heels and her bag and her freckles.

She would clean things for him.

He’d have his pencils, all sharpened and organized. His rulers and compass and equations and everything, moving slowly, definitely. Hours on hours he would burn, a little every night, into the wood. Serene perfection. It always brought him calm.

They moved to the suburbs and he would come home late because he would motorcycle around the block on his Suzuki Marauder until he felt alright enough to go inside. And there they would be. 

And finally, after the hours and the hours and the hours, slow without caring, he would sit back and exhale and it would be done. Locklear, A + E, 2004. A wooden heart-plaque, he’d hang it on their door.

On the 16th of February, 2012, the Suzuki Marauder was hit on the side by a pickup. The wheel was ripped off; the rider was dead before the paramedics arrived. 


Upon the gravel, lining and skirting and flanking and coming up to the building, was a veritable garrison of parked motorcycles. Being late as he was, Elliot was able to walk about these beasts in relative privacy. More like a fog, really, than privacy—people were walking by on the street, cars trundling past, it was an altogether dry day and Elliot, black clothes draped or clinging about his thin frame, was surveying the scene with light eyes at once piercing, focused, and completely and utterly not so. 

There was no one to say anything to, no one to perform anything for, and so he went in. He went in by the single, front door, painted a darker blue-green, to find himself in a cream-colored hallway. You would have only needed to look at it in a picture to feel its stifling quality, although large. There was no door on the other end of the short entrance-way, only a large, square opening with promises in the noises behind it. 

He followed it like a cat, long sneakers padding heel-to-toe, head cast slightly down but eyes straight ahead on the entrance, inspecting. 

Arriving late at anything can work a strange change on anyone. It often does not come on until one is before the entrance, beholding or about to behold the hordes of people that somehow, miraculously, arrived on time, and that somehow, miraculously, have become a sea of sinister eyes to be escaped. 

Elliot’s cheeks, however, were not a-blotch with nervousness, shyness, or embarrassment. Elliot was not in the habit of escaping people. If he did, it was because he willed it, not the other way around. Elliot entered the doorway with a suddenness and then paused. Facing him were rows of backs. He made a sudden move from his stillness, attacked an empty chair in the back with fast strides, countenance stonily focused but cheeks patched with red. 

His exhale was barely audible and less visible, nostrils wide, he let his face rest for a moment on the throng before him. He hadn’t realized he’d been dreading it, sitting here. Even in the back.

Where was Anne—where was she—Elliot’s heart flipped in apprehension as he twisted and craned like a discreet marionette until he caught a glimpse of her curls. They were brown as always, curly as always, frizzy as always beneath a black hat. Anne had the silliest taste in clothes, he had always thought. She worried too much about them. All he could see was that edge of hair and hat and a stiff dark shoulder, no face. She was sitting completely still and beside her, lower, was a head of different brown hair, straight and sleek, a black flower clipped upon it. He could bet she wasn’t crying. 

He kept his gaze trained on her for a long moment before sitting back again, strangely disappointed. What had he expected, Elliot asked himself? There, the fatal glance, he had seen them, he had seen the two of them and there they were. Apparently alive, apparently breathing. It was at that point that Elliot began to hear the words of the man standing up, beside the coffin in a black suit. It was also at that point that he realized he didn’t have a program, only tissues. He sat on his hands.

Elliot loved to be sad and he hated it. It sucked to be sad about someone, he thought. It sounded divine and yet here they were and it really wasn’t. What was Anne’s problem? What was Anne’s stupid, silly problem to get married so young, and to have a kid with a man who rode a motorcycle? What was Elliot’s problem? How had he ended up here? He, who didn’t love Emil, how had he ended up here? 

He had studied heroes and he knew that no good hero loves anyone to the point where they give up themselves and yet they love everyone, they would die for anyone, and so what was this? 

It sucked to be sitting in the back of the room and thinking and sad with nobody to see it because no one else cared, they were all too busy sobbing. 

He was thinking, he was thinking in that undercurrent how is it possible to leave the everyday, and real-life, for this vortex? How is this real? He felt like his chest was burning. It felt like a long time but it ended too, just like everything else.  

Elliot was following the coffin with blank eyes and wondering what it felt like to be in it. 


“So was he in a gang, or something?” Nettie asked, eyes raised from the crumbs she was sweeping on their glazed kitchen floor. Elliot, who had not considered the possibility, shrugged.

“I dunno. I don’t think so—I mean, somehow I can’t see Anne tolerating anyone anything less than entirely legal.” At that he laughed, rolling a stray marble between his fingers. The table was too low for his long, thin legs and he adjusted them uncomfortably, yawning. “They were probably all his friends.”

“That’s just terrible. Hmm. That’s so terrible—your poor friend—have you talked to her? How is she?” Nettie shook her head, eyes sad, as she rose from her squat, emptying the dustpan into the trash. Elliot stretched his arms above him and shook his head.

“Nope. I don’t know about her,” he stopped, considering. He shrugged. “She’s…pretty stoic. I don’t know if she could ever cry about anything.”

“Poor girl.” Nettie shook her head again, stacking the dirty dishes from lunch. Elliot looked up from the giant list of side-effects and warnings he’d unfolded from Grace’s newest medicine bottle. His sister watched him, silently. 

“What? Oh, Anne?”

“Yes—that’s her name. Poor thing.” 

Nettie put a hand on her husband’s forearm as she spoke; she was just as big as him, she was blonde but it was coarser and wavier and more golden than either of her children—dyed that way, now. Her eyes were darker, her skin tanned in the sun; it was spotted too, in places. Her upper arms were larger now, her waist. She had the earnest, piercing look in her darker blue eyes blonde women can have, and, to her son, it was always unpleasantly inescapable. Her joints crackled and popped whenever she bent down and Elliot knew why.

“Elliot,” Grace sighed, raising her eyebrows at him. He looked up. “please, give it back. It’s alright, it’s working great—“

The Rodgers’s moved into number 26 when Elliot was four. They had moved from a worse place. Elliot could not much remember it—he’d been at the age where you look at the world and remember how things look but not any feelings about them—the outside world causes no fear, no loathing. 

Only his parents lived there now, second floor (the highest floor). The building was all wood and painted brown. You got down to the bottom with outside stairs. It was slippery when it rained.

“Oh, and Gracie,” Nettie looked up, smiling. “I’ve got that patch you needed for your bike.” Grace, snatching the medicine box and papers from her brother, stepped quickly to the door. 

“Thanks, mum—here, it’s down by the street.”

“Did you lock it?” Elliot asked suddenly, standing up as if to follow them, and Grace smiled tiredly, rolling her eyes.

“No, Elliot, I’ve never had my bike stolen and of course you know it’s because I just trust to the stranger and leave it free and open—“

“Elliot, talk to your father. We’ll be back.”

Grace’s bike was pistachio. Not green. Just like her shirt was ecru and her blanket lavender—her bathrobe deep berry and her rug mauve. Pistachio. Elliot sighed and sunk into the couch, putting a hand to his temples.

“How’re things, dad?” 

The man opposite him shrugged benignly. 

“Same old, Elli.” His voice was soft and getting wispy. Elliot watched, afar-off as he was, eyes trained guardedly as his father lit up—in a moment, at a thought, straightening up to reach for the camera on the table beside him. “I’d forgotten—I got a nightingale.” He whispered, smiling faintly as he clicked the camera on, and Elliot leaned his face into his hand. 

“Did you?”

“Oh yes—here, you’ll love it, it’s a gorgeous bird—see?”

Gerald, Elliot’s father, was blond too. His was very light, like Elliot’s; cut short and feathery. He had drifty, blue eyes, pale like his skin. He was a quiet man and one not prone to hysteria, excitements, or ever yelling. Elliot took the camera to look.

Gerald folded his hands and they were a little small; he smiled sweetly, a little apologetically at his son; Elliot thought he always looked a little sleepy.

“Nice, dad—nice. Dawn or dusk?”

“Dawn. Dawn is always the best time. Here—there are some swallows, you know how beautiful they are—oh, and I forgot.”

“Hmm?” Elliot’s eyes felt sleepy, too. The house was too quiet and soft and dim for anything else, not after a morning of nothing but practicing, of staring at music right in front of your eyes and losing yourself and forgetting about anything else, anything like this. Elliot yawned.

“Birders United Kingdom’s asked for another article.”

“Really? Hey, dad—“ Elliot leaned back into the couch, surveying his father. Silent. “wanna have a drink?”

“Sure—if you want to.” They drank red wine because that was all Gerald Rodgers ever had. And not the cheap kind either—he thought about his drink, it was not something to be consumed mindlessly. Elliot would say he was the same way but that would be a lie.

They sat across from each other and drank. Elliot watched his father. They did not speak.


Elliot was, technically, a professional musician. He was first violinist of a chamber group made up of other professional musicians. He had graduated King’s College with a degree in violin performance. However, he was also 25 years old and did not have enough reliable gig work (much of which he turned down, for various reasons). He was rather too proud to work in the service sector and so had found himself as the sole unskilled assistant in a Biologist’s insect-lab. 

The Biologist, Dr. Fishback, was enthusiastic enough that he had an assistant (he had not been able to find any young scientists willing to take the job; his lab was generally thought of as something of a sinking ship) that he did not require Elliot to come in at specific times. Instead, he had to work a certain amount of hours in a day or a week, which suited the musician very well. 

The lab was small, it was a perfect rectangle, the walls and the floor were flat and uninteresting as the benches of smooth black. Elliot recopied a stack of jumbled field-notes with his mind firmly in one place: to be outside. Yes, to again walk on grass or something interesting, to again breathe unpredictable air that tasted like something, to feel it on his skin. 

The lab had no windows. To Elliot’s romantic sensibilities, it was one of the worser places he could have been in the entire country of England. He dreamed of freedom. 

However, this was better than making coffee. It was better than catering other peoples’ events, it was better than cleaning toilets. Elliot could bear none of those things. To serve? No, not like that. Not in the petty things. He served them in his music. 

He had plans to escape this less-than-ideal side-hustle as soon as possible. 

Anne stayed in Hungary all the rest of February and March too. 

It is funny how, no matter how sure we are that things will never be the same way again, they can somehow all keep going. Elliot received his check, he bought Rosco his medications, he went home and practiced the rest of the day. The days past and sometimes flirted with the idea of getting a little warmer but mostly they changed their minds. The Leda Quartet did not meet. Anne was gone as easily as she had been there.

He sat in a small, polite chamber music concert and was the only person there under the age of 70. He took the bus and if someone had asked it would have been to save on gas but really it was so that he could read. 

Elliot was not a big reader; he preferred music. However, he was a man entranced by heroes—more properly, a boy entranced by heroes, for that is how it had started. It had started back as long as he could remember. When he read about them he was them. 

He lay on the green daybed—soft velvety minky, luxurious and against the largest window of his messy apartment—and considered such champions. He had a running list. 

His favorite was Beowulf. Beowulf was perfect. Nearly as good as the Norse Gods. Elliot was thinking about how great it would feel to have a whole court be in awe of you, of how you had strangled Grendel with nothing but your own strength. About how you would have no children and no queen but many, many followers, and how you would be buried overlooking the sea.

It was a sweet fantasy, and decidedly his favorite. 

Elliot picked up the phone.

“Hey,” he drew the word out, lingering long on the middle sound, “Dax, you around?”

“Is that you, Elliot?” Dax sounded distracted and fairly tired. Elliot was rather disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm. 

“Yours truly. You around?” 

“Yeah, do you need something?”

Elliot rose and began to click shut the clamps along his violin case.

“Can Hop get away from his kids yet?”

“Gee, I don’t know,” Dax sighed, “they’re still sick—“

“He’s probably fine enough for a rehearsal.” Elliot spoke louder and faster, overriding whatever it was Dax had been about to say. “I bet he can get away—I mean, can’t his wife take care of them—“ He stopped. The other end was mute. This was a common problem with Dax. “Hel-lo? Is the line down?”

Another moment of hesitating silence. 

“What about Anne?” 

Elliot paused for a moment.

“What about her?” He flicked with affected unconcern at the edge of his shirt hem. 

“I still don’t think we should practice without her.”

Elliot sighed—long, long-suffering. 

“Oh come on, Dax! She’s still in Hungary—who knows when she’ll be back—we can’t just sit here forever with nothing to do— Just once won’t mess us up.”

“She’s back.”


“She got back. She and her kid.”

“What! How long—I mean—“

“A week. She’s—I mean, I know you want to rehearse, Elliot, but—maybe we should do something for her instead.”

Elliot paused. He moved his weight from one foot to the other, squinting out the sunny window. The truth was he did feel for Anne. But meals felt clumsy, flowers felt clumsy—I mean, what were you even supposed to do

“Don’t worry about Anne. There are lots of people looking out for her—did you see all Emil’s family at the funeral? She’ll be fine, and when she’s ready, she’ll come back and practice with us again, but before that—“

“I just think it’s got to be hard.” pausing, his voice rung with sympathy. “She really loved Emil. She kind of put everything into him, I mean, other than Renata he’s the only family in the country she’s got.” Dax spoke quietly. Unchallenging.

“Well why don’t you go bring her flowers or something.” Elliot snapped back testily, quickly seeing the practice he’d been looking forward to dissipating, quickly seeing the rest of the afternoon on the daybed. The second violin didn’t understand. He didn’t understand having to fill days, having to organize your life, hours, minutes. He didn’t understand going up and down. 

Again, silence. This feature of Dax irked Elliot especially.

“Well, come on! What do you want to say, then?” He exclaimed, laying back down heavily and hitting his head on the bed-frame. “Ouch—damn this—“

“I’ve already sent her some stuff.”

Elliot lowered himself carefully down, forearm braced on the windowsill. 

“Oh. Ok.” The little admission had subdued him, mostly because it had surprised him. He could hear it in the words coming out of his mouth. 

“I tried to call on her a couple days ago but she wouldn’t have me. She told me she was too jet-lagged.”

Elliot sucked in a quick breath of air. He felt rather miffed that she had gotten back and he hadn’t even known it. 

“Typical.” The first violinist was tapping his finger on the windowsill. He could hear the retreat in Dax’s voice, and it was making him feel guilty—and now he looked (and felt) pretty selfish—here was Dax, quietly doing all these things for Anne, and they hadn’t even crossed Elliot’s mind—I mean, he couldn’t really be blamed—

“Anyway, I think Hop is probably sick.” The voice on the phone continued quickly, quiet and low and dull. It sounded like an escape effort. “I haven’t heard from him in a couple days.”

“Yeah. Probably.” 

Elliot hung up. He looked around; nothing in the room lent any help, he gazed back down at the phone. There was a missed call. 

Bambridge School (yesterday)


He looked around the room and breathed out, distractedly. He got up.


Elliot chose the left turn, driving for a few minutes with a scowl on his face before pulling into a new town. He slammed his hands on the sides of the steering wheel in frustration. 

Of course he wasn’t about to call Dax, tell him he was going to Anne’s house, and ask for directions—the idea was insufferable. Elliot could feel, just envisioning it, everything Dax would be thinking on the other line. 

However, as he had only ever been to Anne’s house once before, and then being guided by her own militantly delivered directions on the phone—he himself paying more attention to replying in an equally militant fashion than to the turns he was taking—it really didn’t help Elliot much at all.

He turned the steering wheel and backed out, u-turning onto the road he had come down on. This was far from the first time this sort of thing had happened to him on that drive. 

Elliot turned on the radio, which made things even worse. He knew it even before he pressed the button; he found himself too frustrated to turn the thing off, and so the pair of them proceeded in a very unfortunate state back up the road.

He cursed himself for his incredible lack of memory concerning his earlier drive. It really was quite amazing, what arguing on the phone with someone could do to your recall of anything else. 

It seemed to Elliot like ages before he finally found the town. It was, in reality, the one right next to his own, but he had not quite put two-and-two together. Once there it took him at least another three-quarters of an hour to finally land on the edge of the little cookie-cutter suburbia of Anne, and if he hadn’t had to keep his hands on the steering wheel he thought he’d pull his fingernails out. 

Elliot Roberts drove into “Oaks Residence”, past the large stone wall bearing that name in tarnished metal letters. He took the right fork, passed sterilely executed landscaping that left the whole scene feeling rather sparse. He went past identical concrete steps, identical and well-spaced trees, eerily similar mulching jobs, and the like. He took the moment to liberally dislike all of it, which, for Elliot, was not hard at all.

Eventually, a blur of identical houses later, he found himself back at the fork. He sighed. 

Elliot Roberts took the left fork. He took the left fork, sneered at the vertex of sameness around him, and wondered what sort of people would allow themselves to be inside a dull house with twins all around it, a house over which they had no apparent decisions of even thought. 

He found he had a little respect for the ones with garden decorations, whirligigs, and wind-chimes. They redeemed themselves slightly in his mind. 

Elliot Roberts drove back and forth on the road, gazing at all the houses with narrowed eyes. One of them was Anne’s. However, there was not a one with a motorcycle in the driveway. This made things for Elliot rather inconvenient.

He drove along the street in one direction. 2520, 2521, 2522, 2523, 2524….

He narrowed it down to four options. This was a careful elimination process. The first step was to knock out all houses with no distinguishing features. That was easy. His four options were: a house with a birdbath, one with a pair of children’s boots outside, one surrounded with low-to-the-ground, carefully tended flowers, and one with a very attractive sculptural array. 

Elliot drove back down the street. He had never seen Anne have any sympathy at all for small animals. She also disapproved of nudity. 

He drove the other way, past the houses again. The children’s boots were very convincing. Anne did, after all, have a child in her house. But there were also messy, homemade window-clings peppering the windows. This made Elliot unsure. Try as he might, he couldn’t imagine Anne engaging in such an haphazard craft with her daughter.

He finally decided on number 2534. He pulled up into the small concrete driveway, he got out of the car, marched up to the step, and knocked.

The reason for this discriminating choice was the row of modest flowers around the step. While Elliot could not quite envision Anne gardening, he did rather expect that her house would be one of the spruced-up ones. Surely she would want her home to be, even just slightly, her own. 

“Hello?” A small, old woman peered around the door. Elliot blinked. It had taken him ten minutes of back and forth driving and staring to decide this house was the one, and he was by now rather sure of himself. “Is there something I can do for you, young lady?”

Elliot pursed his lips and smiled politely. There were few things that bothered him as much as his looks. He took a quick breath.

“This isn’t the residence of Anne Locklear?”

The old woman narrowed her eyes thoughtfully.

“I don’t know any of those. Sure she lives here, dearie?”

Elliot laid his hands very forcefully in his pockets, adopting a still tighter grin.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Do you know what she looks like? I do see people going back and forth, I might recognize her.”

“Ah, younger, she has dark brown curly hair, she has a kid who’s maybe five—actually, probably six—“ Elliot searched his mind quickly, the woman’s eyes lit up.

“Oh yes! Never had a word with her, but I have seen them coming and going. Not a very sociable woman, I will say—the house to the right of the one with the ‘no dog poop’ sign, you see—“ she leaned half out around her door, drawing Elliot’s gaze with a thin spotty finger down the block. “That one.”

Elliot gazed at it a moment. It was completely and utterly a blank.

“Number 4206?” 

“Yes, dear. Now have a nice day.”

“Thank you.” He replied quickly as he turned away, eyes trained on his newly defined target. He walked at a fast pace down the flat, white sidewalk, sneakers bending. He turned behind him once and the old woman was still watching, peeping out around the door. He made an about-face and arrived at Anne’s step. 

He walked past the stock window-box (empty), a stock side-window. Somewhere down below he was nursing a disappointment in her. He would never have chosen this house for the world. 

Elliot was surprised by the realization, as he approached the un-ornamented door, that it had been nearly a month since he had seen Anne. It didn’t feel that long. He shook his head. 

All in all Elliot couldn’t help feeling just a little heroic, after all his struggles to arrive. Here he was, the only one, there was no car aside from hers in the driveway. He had intended on bringing her some sort of large dish of substantial food, but gazing at the options in the prepared foods case at the grocery store rather disgusted him. He never quite could separate the stomachs of others from his own.  

But the lack of pasta dish could not keep down that feeling of heroism. It perhaps even heightened it—he had saved the mourners from a disgusting, heavy meal. Elliot nearly felt a little smug. He knocked and put his hands behind his back.

One second.

Two seconds.


Elliot tapped his foot, turned about awkwardly and surveyed the neighborhood around him. He could never understand places like this, inhabited and yet ghost-towns. He turned back and rung the bell.

He heard it echo, muffled, within. One second.

“Anne?” He knocked again. “Hullo in there? Anybody at home?” 

He turned again—yes, it was her car in the driveway, he recognized the small navy-blue station-wagon, a Volvo, four-door. 

She mightn’t be home, he thought. It felt strangely futile to have gotten all the way here for nothing.

Elliot picked up his phone and called her. He pressed his ear to the door.

There it was, he caught the muffled sound—Anne’s cell-phone was in the house.

It rung and rung and rung. It eventually stopped.

Elliot grabbed the knob (gold-painted metal, the paint was coming off) and shook it.

“Anne! Anne, are you in there? Can you hear me?” He was prickling, now, around his temples. Perhaps it was this strangely uninhabited place (not in fact very strange, but Elliot did not, as a rule, spend much time in any sort of suburbia), he didn’t know, but things suddenly felt irrationally urgent to him. 


He stopped shaking the door. He took a step, turned back out to look at the silent street, the silent houses on either side. There was a carefully placed ten feet of textureless, flat grass between each. Perhaps someone had picked Anne up and she’d forgotten her cell-phone. Easy enough. 

Suddenly a movement above him caught his attention—Elliot’s head whipped towards it. At the top of the window beside the door, at the upper corner of the blinds—yes, it had moved—yes, there had been two little brown eyes, there had been a lock of messy hair—

“Renata! Hello!” Elliot knocked on the window. The blinds shook hurriedly again. Elliot waited. Nothing. Nothing, you could have thought you’d imagined it, the house was again dead.

“Renata! Let me in!” Elliot went back at the knob again, jerking it in a turn, and everything suddenly gave way, he fell forward—

Elliot Roberts caught himself on the doorframe in surprise. He looked back at the knob. The door had never been locked in the first place.

Elliot Roberts closed it slowly and carefully behind him, turning his head to look around. He had never been inside Anne’s house before.

His eyes took in a little front hall, bare aside from the small rain-boots, women’s spool heels, girl’s sneakers, and a pair of men’s loafers for work. Every pair was standing with a precision not attained by accident. Elliot gazed down at them numbly. He looked up—there was thin table of dark wood above the shoes. Upon it was a box of keys and a pair of woven zebra statues. He shook his head and kept on.

He turned into a kitchen. The pantry door was open, there was an open box of crackers on the counter, but beyond that everything was organized impeccably and in baskets or jars or jars in baskets. All the dishes were clean. That surprised him. 

“Renata?” Elliot’s call was considerably quieter, he surveyed the room. “Hello?”

It is rather odd to roam free in someone else’s home. It was on the one hand incredibly interesting, but it mostly made Elliot feel uncomfortable. 

Beyond the kitchen was a living room. Elliot entered with steps of catlike caution. 

“Hello? I know there’s somebody at home.” He was prickling again. Talking helped.

Entering, there was a couch of a soft gray tweed, and silence—he suddenly noticed something askew in this impeccable abode and it caught his eye, he bent down at the corner of the sofa. Peeking out was an edge of red paper, folded into a point. Elliot got down on his hands and knees, peering underneath.

Reds, blues, greens, yellows—hoards of folded paper greeted him and a pair of animal brown eyes in a snap, he withdrew as the hidden creature squawked in surprised alarm, he heard the thing hit its head on the bottom of the couch before a small girl appeared like a flash on the other end, gone even faster into the kitchen.

Elliot blinked. Again, silent. Again, uninhabited. From there the floor went down a few inches to a sort of lower level long step, to a lower room that led to the bedrooms.

This held a piano, large windows with blinds, music, stands, instrument cases, a basket of toys, there was a wedding picture up on the piano and a painting on the wall—and there was a woman, laying on the ground on her side with her back to Elliot. 

It gave him a visceral shock.

Her feet were bare (this was odd for Anne), she was wearing a mint cardigan and a flower-print skirt. She was not moving. She was laying, in an impeccably kept room, in the midst of a whirlpool of official-looking forms and every phone in the house. 

Elliot, who knew little of jet-lag, still had a feeling that it did not entail this. 

He did not know what to say. He did not know what to do. He felt, however, that he needed to say or do something. 

Seeing Anne, registering Anne—it shouldn’t be so surprising to come upon someone in their own house. But it was. 

“Uh, Anne.” His voice came out quieter than he had expected. Elliot was not in the habit of talking quietly unless there was a dreamy or romantic reason. This was neither. He walked cautiously around to her front.

Her eyes were open, completely open, staring at nothing. 

Elliot swallowed quickly. 

“Anne, are you alright—“

“I can’t do this anymore.” She did not turn her gaze to look at Elliot. Her voice sounded dull and low, sticky, not a single tear. Elliot looked nervously at all the papers; it gave him something to do. 

“Is it paperwork about Emil?” Elliot asked, picking one up. Anne did not answer. He looked down at her and then skimmed the document.

It was not about life insurance, it did not have anything to do with death. It was from Her Majesty’s Home Department. He looked down at Anne again. 

“I have to leave the country. They’re not going to renew my visitor’s visa. I was gone too long. I have to take Renata back to Hungary.” She spoke drearily, not looking back. 


“Could you please go away.”

“Anne,” he stuttered, “what—what are you talking about—“

Anne didn’t answer. 

“Can I make you guys some food or something?” Elliot offered, trying to find something to say. Again, nothing. 

Elliot began to suspect that she had not been washing any dishes. 

He laid down the piece of paper. He turned and walked into the kitchen.

“Renata,” he called loudly, not looking up as he opened the fridge. “I’m making you lunch.” It was not the hour for lunch. Elliot did not think this was terribly important. 

The fridge turned out to be very unhelpful. 

“Renata,” he called again, opening the pantry, “please come out.” 

Elliot hated making lunch. In fact, he disliked food preparation of any kind. He surveyed the pantry rather despairingly. He pulled out a can of tuna, and, after ravaging every cabinet in the kitchen, a plate.

There was a window over the sink through which he could see part of the unmoving form of Anne. He looked back down at his work.

“Renata!” He found some orange juice in the fridge. 

Elliot sat the plate of tuna and crackers and the cup of juice on the floor beside Anne. He tried not to look at her. He got back up and went out of the room.

“Renata!” He bellowed, grabbing a long curtain and shaking it, rattling the metal rungs against each other. He threw open a closet. A Tuperware container stuffed with mittens fell onto him from where it was stashed above the coats. He did not find what he sought. 

Elliot looked under rugs, he lifted up furniture. He peeked behind the tv, he searched behind the shower-curtain. He returned to the kitchen.

He looked in the fridge, he looked in the freezer. He looked under the sink.

He cast a frustrated glance through the open window, above the stainless steel basin. Anne remained, exactly as he had left her. He looked up sharply at a movement in the corner of his eye, only to see the tip of a rumpled sock whipping itself out of the way, out of sight atop a cabinet. Elliot jumped upon the counter, grabbing the top edges of the cupboard. 

Renata, small limbs of smooth brown, messy pink play-dress, drew back. The animal eyes were fixed on him. The looked frightened, frightened as a rabbit’s would with foxes dancing in the reflections. Elliot drew in a breath. He tried to calm his heartbeat, lower the volume of his voice.

“Uh, Renata,” he spoke quietly, fumbling. Making up whatever it was he needed to say. “I made you some food. Can you please come out?” 

The girl withdrew further, mutely shaking her head. 


Tune in next Friday to read more!

[questions from the author: do you think the second scene, of Elliot and his friends after the orchestra performance, is necessary? Do you think it would be better cut out, or do you think it is a good way to introduce our characters?

Secondly—Any ideas for Elliot’s last name? It was originally Smith, except there is already a famous musician that was named Elliot Smith. What I liked about Smith was that is was basically the most boring last name I could possibly find, which is what I want for Elliot—it has to leave him underwhelmed and irk him, prompting him to pick a stage name. Currently it’s Rodgers but any better ideas are very welcome.] 



EXCITING NEWS : The Snottor’s Press

The Snottor, as the reader has likely perceived, is a lover of literature. Tending many flowers, he hears quite a bit of back-talking from them, and, recently, a bright gardenia suggested he sponsor some of the fledgling literary attempts he sees around him. 

Enter: The Snottor’s Press. 

The Snottor will now add a THIRD (things are getting slightly out of hand, he knows) prong to this blog, titled BOOK (the capitals are necessary for the exciting nature of this new adventure in the Snottor’s sage existence), wherein The Snottor will upload the novel of the poor little seedling he has condescended to patronize, bit by bit, every Friday. 

Being, as the reader has seen, a loyal follower of the Victorian tradition, The Snottor, with much love towards the esteemed Charles Dickens and George Eliot, has decided to upload this work serially. That is, every week the reader will get more. This lights a particular kind of fire under the author’s editing pants that The Snottor finds highly beneficial. 

NOTE: The uploaded work is a second draft. The esteemed Sunflower, Hibiscus, and Common Blue Violet, three of The Snottor’s favorite flowers, have already read and criticized, and the novelist has attempted to edit accordingly. However, as this novelist is still a very small flower, The Snottor advises the reader to pile on all constructive criticism thick, to aid in their artistic misadventures. 

So, prepare yourselves. This Friday is the first. With love, The Snottor. 

August : The Pickwick Papers


Despite the fact that the Snottor’s eyes are going, he does dip his pointy toes into the murky waters of the literary every now and then. Seeing as the Snottor can neither confirm nor deny his age, which he assures the reader is illustrious, one can never be entirely sure if he has ever frequented, haunted, or patronized Victorian England himself—however, the fineness of some of the gardens of that time period suggests to some individuals the affirmative, which might explain his unnatural fascination with the literature of that time period.

About this Work:

Many are likely familiar with Dickens—the great genius (Nabokov and most people), the insolent teacher/preacher (Virginia Woolf), the dreaded assignment (the Snottor will discreetly not elaborate, but he can think of names)—but fewer are familiar with his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, published in 1836. 

The fabulous individuals at the BBC made an adaptation of this work in the ‘80s, which, despite being at first painfully fuzzy for the high-def-attuned-modern-eye, quickly grows on one, with the unfortunate yet often hilarious adventures of Mr. Pickwick and his comrades—Mr. Winkle, Mr. Tupman and, The Snottor’s personal favorite, Mr. Snodgrass. 

The Snottor, although hating to admit any weakness, has been compelled by the proof-reading Phlox (The Snottor never deigns to proof-read) to add that he has not yet actually read this work. It is a terrible sin, he acknowledges, to watch a movie without having read the book, and hopes to rectify this immediately. However, from what he does know about the novel, now that the hopeless Phlox has let him off, he would like to add that it includes his favorites characters ever met in all of Dickens’ creation. Really—people rave about Miss Havisham, yes, he attests—Sydney Carton, Fagin, Scrooge—but that is only because they have not experienced the enlightenment that is Samuel Weller.

It is also likely his funniest.

It was meant to be entertaining, and one can see him flexing his novelist muscles—although, later on, the darker elements of debtor’s prisons and finagling lawyers that remained a deep theme in Dickens’ works enter even this hilarious comedy.

The Snottor promises the reader will never be the same again. The Snottor promises that whole new doors will open for the reader—snooty dialogue amongst thick arm-chairs with fellow conspirators, discovering with delight real-life Mr. Jingles (it has happened), and finally appreciating, with zeal, certain perviously over-looked passages of Little Women. 

August: King Arthur (Part One)

There are few characters that have captivated the world so long, eternally, or malleably as King Arthur and his court have. Oodles of movie adaptations, a musical, stories, series, art, retellings, and poetry later, he remains a thick pillar indeed in not only British history and love but that of many other cultures and countries now, as well. I, as you have likely guessed, am not immune to this potent bug either. Behold, the first half of a short four-part cycle inspired by my love for these captivating stories:


Part I

“What’s the flavor?” he asked, licking lips chapped on the edges and the chocolate was staining itself messily over them, it shined in the light. 

“Raspberry fudge. Arthur got it for me.” twirling the edge of the hem and it curled around her fingers. They were pale and would have looked nice with freckles. 

“Hm.” Arthur had good taste. He always did, in everything. Good taste because of the wizard who knew everything and really the king knew nothing. Nobody can be perfect. “Melts in your mouth, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know. It has flour in it, remember?” she raised an eyebrow and he nodded, of course, how could he forget. Forget because you don’t think about things like that on the long days, the quests when you think of her. 

“Right, right. Thanks.” And she was looking at him, through eyes just barely narrowed, just drawn up around the bottom, a little smaller. 


The knight rose, stared back. He needed to leave. 

“Lancelot—he is a great friend, you know.” The knight leaned against the doorframe, and she was standing, unmoving. 

“He’s a great friend to me too.” 

Part II

They could not help but love him, either one and the knight would sit underneath the tree and say “Is it not terribly cruel that it should have to be him?” and she would nod and neither one knew they would be forgiven. For how can one know, how could one know that a man with only one flaw could sit like that and the wizard knew but they put him to sleep and-when-the-castle-fell-he-was kissing her, when-the-castle-fell-he-was breathing her in—and is it not terribly cruel that it should have to be him?


Do you have an opinion on Lancelot and Guinevere? For or against? Do you like Arthur or hate him?


July : Skirt (Part Two)

An Ode to Pockets

The pocket an article that, in women’s clothes, is sadly—tragically, in fact—disregarded. It takes only a casual, unsuspecting stroll through Target to discover this awful fact. Pop on a pair of jeans, maybe you like them—but try to tuck in your wallet, a small pen, a bag of peanuts, or even non-chalantly insert your hands—and you will be instantly repulsed.

This is because, dear reader, pockets in women’s clothing are a farce. They do not warn you, apologize for, or advertise this fact, but they are a farce: they’re a downright lie—and because we women (or, in my case, female flowers) own wallets, peanuts, small pens, and hands, we all suffer for it. 

Enter: making your own clothes.

While I am guilty of wearing many clothes not made by myself, from the moment I put this skirt on, the magic of making something for your own utilitarian (not to mention aesthetic) preferences became immediately evident.

The way my mind works is a little scattered—I’m sort of your classic absent-minded professor type, which isn’t necessarily a good thing—the majority of my writing ideas, musings, pieces of stories, thoughts, and a few slim eurekas come from my subconscious and when I’m going about my day, doing entirely other things. Immediately the pockets became invaluable—they easily fit a slim, medium-sized notebook and pen, without even looking like they’re holding anything.

My mother conjectured a small watercolor set and pad would fit too—at the farmer’s market today I found an immediate set of bags at my side to drop change, and, when I was living in college dorms a week this summer for a camp (at the very end of the hall and farthest from the bathroom, I’d add) they were great for toting my toothpaste, brush, and everything else I needed in the mornings.

Pockets are, to put it simply, gorgeously convenient. 

Have a pet peeve (or serious issue—they do abound) with the clothing industry? Or, if you already make your own clothes (or want to and have opinions about it), do you have favorite things you add (or would like to add) to your creations? For me it’s pockets (among other things). 


July : Middle Kids


The Snottor has been nursing his migraines—peeling the clothes off his sweaty skin, he proceeds haggardly to his couch, falling heavily upon its soothing cushions. He takes solace in his window-boxes and portable fan.

On a brighter note, however, there are marigolds—a bit shriveled, he fears. His phloxes are gone completely, despite his attempts to resuscitate them. His wordiest phlox (that is, The Phlox) has been kept artfully frozen, with warm baths at appropriate intervals for her maintenance.

About this Artist: 

Lounging in this miserable fashion, the Snottor still must occupy his mind. Snottors are so wise, the reader must understand, that their minds are always at work—pearls take a considerable time to grow and fully form and become rightly polished, after all. When he dearly wants a rest music can be a wonderful thing to sink his mind’s teeth into (even a Snottor can tire of pearls), and a current favorite of his is the up-and-coming band Middle Kids. First of all, they have excellent music videos. The Snottor hates to say it, despite being the classic raggedy indie-hanger-on-er he is, but most such groups have awful music videos. Even the gems that are Belle and Sebastian (The Phlox’s personal favorite) and Regina Spektor. Really.

 However—those of Middle Kids are interesting and watchable, keeping the attention and telling and interesting story.

The band, formed in 2015 and composed of the venerable members Hannah Joy (lead singer), Tim Fitz, and Harry Day, makes what is, at least in his opinion, the best sort of music. The kind that at first you aren’t very keen on and don’t think much of but that continues to call to you—ghost-like (if the Snottor was idiotically superstitious, as some are, he might be frightened by this strange magnetic quality)—as one is yanking weeds from the dry earth, washing gloves by the too-low hose—

The Snottor digresses. In short form, he would like the reader to know that it is the sort of music one goes back and back to, perhaps without always knowing why, until you understand and feel lyrics you only heard before, until you hears the song-openings with a peculiar fondness—looking up pictures of the band on the internet, and being excited for their next album.

He encourages the reader to check out “Lost Friends”, wherein Hannah Joy artfully explores much more in life than just love and breakups, yet in an equally familiar, relatable way, and often it’s still that but with a different spin:

July: Skirt (Part One)

This is the part where summer starts getting looooooong. Even if you have a lot to do, it can get repetitive, and, in a desperate attempt to retain my sanity, I embarked on a seemingly simple sewing project. The pattern is from PurlSoho, and can be found here:

I finished it on the 4th of July, late in the afternoon, a sudden, hurricane-like gale buffeting the upstairs windows in a short, blurry, gorgeously wild blast. 

Do you have a favorite trick to try to beat, as some friends of mine lovingly refer to it, summer depression? 


June : Rocky Pictures (Part Two)

Welcome to part two! Tired of dog paintings yet? I hope not!

The first is another of the beloved Rocky, done in watercolor and graphite, as a card for a dear teacher who also has a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The second is the imposter in this line-up—a watermelon-loving hedgehog, for my hedgehog-adoring brother. It occupies a place, in fact, in his stuffed-to-the-gills hedgehog shrine which, believe it or not, includes everything down to hedgehog luggage tags, socks, and a painting done by a hedgehog complete with pieces of bedding and poo. Done in watercolor and graphite as well. 

Have you ever tried painting animals? It’s actually really easy, and there are a lot of simple, quick classes available on the internet. I am an extreme amateur myself and you can see I’ve done it, which leaves you with no excuse….