Ax and Lilac By Kirsten Webb

August 8, 2016 Comments Off on Ax and Lilac By Kirsten Webb

Ax rides around on a rusty bicycle with an enormous cardboard box around her, full of everything she needs. “Like some kind of wheelie-snail,” the man who sets fire to the wicks in the streetlamps grumbles when he sees her. The box has a waist-sized hole cut out of the bottom so that Ax can stick her legs through it to pedal. Pasted to the inside of the box are hundreds of sheets of paper, thousands, bunched and torn and stacked like layers of skin. Sometimes Ax gets off her bicycle, tottering until the box steadies, then she sits down on the ground, where there, inside the box, she scribbles down the thought she’s just had. Catches and carves it hard into paper. Then she glues it up with the rest. Slaps it onto the wall. Gets to her feet. Balances her cardboard world around her. Pedals away.

Lilac’s memory is white sound, grey space, blurred images of equal quality and saturation. He had once moonlit as a sculptor who twisted wires and affixed them to dangling steel balls in a likeness of the universe, but now, that’s faded too, and his hair has grown long.

Every night while Ax is curled up asleep in her portable cardboard hovel, Lilac creeps up to it, takes a few scraps of paper, and then walks away quickly down the block. In a narrow shadowed alley with Ax’s words in his lap, he sits and reads them aloud. He tries to enter them, for if he could, they’d enter him too and fill his blood with the certainty it had forgotten it was missing. Lilac doesn’t tell Ax about this. He doesn’t tell her anything. He grows his hair and reads.

Soon the layers of papers in Ax’s box become thick, deep, giant scabs of memory. She has only a tiny portal to see through, and she tries not to crash into lampposts and stop signs. The bicycle creaks like old bones. The box sags.

Early one morning, the air barely breathing, Ax runs out of paper. Unable to burrow out of the tangle of words, she begins to write on herself. Lilac creeps up to the box, and quietly, so quietly, he begins to push papers aside until he can see the scrawling on her skin. He needs to see what’s past it, needs to dig beneath and speak Ax’s words straight into her without the interruption of skin and bones rattling against each other. He will bypass the machinery, the bureaucracy, so that he becomes indistinguishable from her subconscious. Lilac begins to slice into the box, slowly, his eyes wild, his mouth agape.

Ax’s eyes open. She looks straight at him.

© 2016 Kirsten Webb

Kirsten Webb is a writer, artist, sound-maker, adventurer, and Yale graduate based in northwest Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Ode/The Intelligent Optimist, Elephant Journal, and Short, Fast, and Deadly.

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