Moutarde

by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

The coroner’s report said my cousin was 5’11.” She must have grown after she committed suicide. She was never that tall. She never towered over me like that. The last time I saw her I took her to a French restaurant called Moutarde. They served eleven different kinds of mustard with the entrees.

Did I ever tell you… she asked.

What?

I dislike mustard. You should have taken me to a restaurant called Ketchup.

We didn’t talk as much as other people. It was in our blood, a family trait. Laconic, that’s what we were, not terse, laconic. But we had a good time together, as long as it lasted.


After I finished reading the coroner’s report, I kept my dental appointment. 

You have holes inside your teeth, my dentist told me, so when you SCUBA down 80 feet or more and then come up, the air expands more than it compressed and you have these horrendous toothaches.

What can I do?

Have all your teeth pulled, and replaced with dentures. I can do it right now, if you like.

I looked out the window. The sky was blue, the redwoods were red. So was my wife, a Yurok Indian. I had my welding equipment in a metal trunk in my truck bed. I no longer measured life in terms of loss and gain. On my way home, I thought, I’ll stop and buy a jumbo bottle of ketchup.



Jello Shots

by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

After Tu and I made love, I fell asleep and dreamt I was running along the edge of a swamp. I knew I should be in the trees but there I was, exposed, sloshing through mud and water. Leeches sucked the flesh of my legs chest neck. They were my confederates, the only ones lacking deception.

I ran, hunched over, threw myself down in the water, shots and explosions all around me. One of them would kill me. People screamed. I couldn’t see them.

On the run again. Another explosion threw me into the air. I flew sideways, a torpedo, trailing pieces of my leg like a comet. I felt for my M-16, my best friend. I would never know a woman the way I knew that weapon. I flew over the corpse of a water buffalo, over fields of rice plants, the guardians of peace in the universe, tranquility waiting for us all somewhere. Maybe death is not so bad, I told myself, not worth resisting.

I awoke, cradled in Tu’s thin arms and knew it wasn’t a dream. I had been there, a soldier. Tu, her skin infused with the blue afterglow of napalm, had known it all along but, until that moment, I had been so filled with shame and guilt, I had suppressed and denied, utterly deceived myself, lived a lie, but I knew Tu had forgiven me, so it was alright.

I sobbed. She held me until my grief was spent, which took weeks, maybe months. I kept whispering to her: I am a cathode and you are my darling cathode follower. You will always be my cathode follower. We wear our components like dreadlocks, I and I. You and I slide across the ice to a ghetto village of fishing shacks.

So Jah say.

We dump ourselves into fishing holes to be eaten by ancient sturgeons, who come to down jello shots with the fishermen.

———

Work by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois appears in magazines worldwide. Nominated for numerous prizes, he was awarded the 2017 Booranga Centre (Australia) Fiction Prize. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and as a print edition. His poetry collection, THE ARREST OF MR. KISSY FACE, published in March 2019 by Pski’s Porch Publications, is available here. Visit his website to read more of his poetry and flash fiction.