Welcome to Defenestrationism reality.

We proudly present

the 2015 FLASH SUITE Contest

 

And the winners are…

meet the finalists

What is a FLASH SUITE, you may ask?

guidelines

How We Judge

 

 

Finalists:

Misty Shipman Ellinburg: Indigenous Trinity

David Giannini: THEATER STAR

Laryssa Wirstiuk: winter(verb)

 

copyright by author, defenestrationism.net: 2014/2015

defenestrationism.net does not endorse any actions or opinions supported by this contest.

 

 

Indigenous Trinity

by Misty Shipman Ellinburg

 

Medicine Man

Before he began a long and illustrious career inhaling vicodin up his ever-bloody but still straight and somehow noble nose, my grandfather was a wild wave rider like canoe sojourners of old.

But even after he was going strong with the white powder, blonde and aging women in the local Wal-Mart couldn’t help but notice and remark on the Noble Savage sniffing milk past its expiration date while peeking sideways lest my grandmother arrive while he was trying to get away with something.

“God, his hair is long,” one would whisper to the other as he recapped the half-gallon and put it back on the shelf.

“Unkempt,” a second intimated to her friend, “But somehow, more authentic that way. Close to nature. All Indians are close to nature,” she added knowledgeably. “My great-grandmother was an Indian medicine woman, I should know.”

“I have Indian in my background, too,” said the iron-straight blonde. “Cherokee, I think. Or Choctaw. One of those. I don’t know.”

They both laughed. My grandfather had by now moved onto the block cheese, no doubt comparing it to Rez commodities in terms of relative foulness and trying to make a value judgment.

“I don’t know anything about my Indian side, or about Indians at all, really. But I think if I were Indian, I wouldn’t wear my hair down that way. I’d braid it back. And I definitely wouldn’t sniff cheese in a grocery store.”

“I’m distantly related to Pocahontas,” the other put in. My grandfather had moved on to the next aisle, a brick of cheese and a quart of half-and-half in his shopping basket.

“It must be so romantic, to be so close to the Creator. Gitche Manitu or whatever they call it. And having all those dances and ceremonies. If I knew more about the Indian in me, I wouldn’t squander it, that’s for sure. I’d be a medicine woman, like my grandma.”

“Great-grandma, I thought you said.”

“Whatever, great-grandma.”

In a Wal-Mart bathroom stall, having purchased his Velveeta and pocketed the dairy, my grandfather pulled a pill from his pocket, and crushed it using the back of a pen as a makeshift pestle inside an Altoid can. Procuring a razor from his boot, he chopped the powder up fine on the toilet roll dispenser, twisted a dollar bill into a straw, and inhaled up his noble nose.

 

 

A Love Song for the Impossible Chicken Dancer

1.

When you were seven years old, I watched you throw rocks, hurl kid insults and laugh with the other pre-k’s, swing a baseball bat into another child’s stomach and run.

I was fourteen and captivated by the yellowy-blonde boy’s wild eyes when he carried a pigskin; the smell of brown skin like sweat, wet.

Now brown skin smells of sweetgrass and sage. It smells like the calm after the rain.

When you were a child, you hit another child in the stomach with a baseball bat. How was I supposed to know over a decade later I’d have the wind knocked out of me, too, the next time I saw you.

2. A list of boys or men (dead or living) I have intended to fall in love with:

a. Martin Freman
b. any Doctor, ever
c. Langton Hughes
d. the dentist, even with his fingers in my mouth – blue latex gloves and thumb pressed into my cheek, my (as he calls it) “excessive saliva” dripping down his hand

3, A list of girls or women (dead or living) I have intended to fall in love with:

a. Desirae Hafer
b. any jazz singer (see a)
c. Lana Del Rey (see b)
d. the Shawl Dancer from last week’s powwow who didn’t place because her outfit wasn’t as pretty as the others, but whose high kicks and war paint made me feel brave.

4. A list of people I have not intended to fall in love with, but did anyway (dead or living)

a. You.

5.

It goes without saying you are too young for me.

6.

I have tried not to notice you when you sit across from me at work, singing Salish low under your breath, drum chants and tribal songs, or when you say the name of your tribe proud and deep, surfing Facebook, putting all the spit into the hard consonants, utilizing that archaic glottal stop, “Qalispe.”

I know your father is the cultural director and Language lead.

I know I am only a part-Indian from another tribe whose white skin tells no tales.

So when I see you see me I look away. Of course I look away.

You do not see me very often.

7.

Desire makes me flushed in the face.  I try to capture my thoughts and tuck them in secret places, in my bra, under my belt loops, in the empty spaces of my drawstring purse. But each time I see you, they flush my face again, they fill me with shame and excitement, and I am vulnerable to your youth and beauty.

8.

This weekend we danced together in your tribe’s powwow, and I wore my tribal colors and on the hard honor beats of the drum, I raised my fan into the air. I smelled like the sage I burned. I smelled like smudging and smoke and white leather and beadwork and fry bread and Pepsi and

the otter furs I wore in my hair and

at last I felt that I could look at you – and so when you danced, I watched you, the proud swoop of your neck and your shoulder-length black hair course and

I watched your eyes when you danced and the quick, pecking movements of your chin, the way you carried the staff and bag with stiff arms bent at the elbow and broad shoulders, with your jingling fur-capped ankles and the orange beads looped under your eyes and your feathered roach headdress and I felt worthy to look at you, then, with my own Eagle feathers high and proud

I wanted you to see me.

Sometimes when I danced I felt your eyes on me. I tried to dance harder, then, to get the swift up-down movements of Traditional dancers right, to look like All That is Woman since you are All That Is Man.

I don’t know how well I did.

9.

When I notice people notice me, I pretend not to see, refuse to acknowledge them in their curious approval. Sometimes I think this is why I will die alone. But it’s out of self-preservation and the fear of shame that I do it.

10.

If you notice me, I mean, really notice me, I won’t look away.

 

Kalispel 39th Annual Powwow, 2014

That day at the powwow, a tornado blew through the outdoor arboretum. The caucasian spectators, who’d come to watch us Indians in our finery and feathers, were quick to get into their vehicles and skip town as soon as the wind blew hard, but all the dancers put on their regalia anyway, and the children played in the center of the dance circle while a drum group, all under ten years old, beat their drum and sang while the rain came, barreling through two tee-pees and upturning all our tents. The children’s laughter kept us warm past the thunder, and even after the power went out, all the Indians were dancing, and the children were smiling as they cried out, “Hit-cha-a-a-a-!” and nobody was afraid.  We had already survived the apocalypse; what was a little rain?

 

 

THEATER STAR

by David Giannini

 

Real Life

Living constantly in a swarm of crowds creates the star’s fixed-in-place smile, gleam of teeth a type of light, says Porous.  Of course there’s a scrutiny of mirrors, as if through the eye of a needle another eye looking back. No.  More than one.  Certain insects come to mind.  Also their sounds.  Legs rubbing together.  Mandibles.  To be a blatherskite whose palaver stops only when a cadaver.  Some stars begin to resemble, until they become, the one in the last box, the coffin.

 

The Final Act

There are stars on the ceiling in the funeral home watching the sealed caskets beneath them, says Porous. They look for the “burp valve” on each of the gleaming boxes, but see none.  Unseen bodies swell below them.  Some stars worry about Exploding Casket Syndrome, but soon realize that, for ceiling stars, that is silliness redux.  A balloon full of water is not afraid to pop.  Let others below clean up.  No one tells the families.  [Off stage: the sound of a dial spinning this way and that and this, a safe being opened and shut.]

 

Question from a fan:  What is angel wing-pitch?

Their wing-pitch is the angle of the wings compared to the horizontal, the corpse. Quality angels have a wing pitch of 12-14 degrees.  Lesser angels can have a wing pitch as low as 8-10 degrees.  The higher the pitch, the more pressure the angel applies to the air in front of it as it turns and the more air is forced downward.  That is why some lesser quality angels can look like they’re spinning up a storm, but when you stand under them, you cannot feel anything.  The best way to judge is to test the angel in actual use, but, according to Porous, one must first be horizontal.

 

Birth, the Curtain Rises

Is it only an artificial haze sprayed across the sets on what appears to be a stage upon which the future will dance? I feel sought by its wet swirl reaching toward me, says Porous, in this darkened theatre in which I sense an audience of ghosts, a collective past to which I’m present enough to hear its shifts—as the gray, amorphous fingers continue from no visible source—no one yet in the wings. . . .

 

 

winter(verb)

by Laryssa Wirstiuk

The first two pieces of this flash suite were originally published at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/contests/instafriend-california/

 

Burial Ground

At 30,000 feet, I was reading about destruction. I admit: it’s not the most pleasant subject matter for someone who’s facing her fear by confronting it. But I needed a plan, before landing, for how I could burn away everything that had been holding me back: frustrated relationships, insecurity about my career path, a temporary creative block.

More specifically, I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back. And from this man I was seeking approval that I should have been giving myself. I should have been enough, and I was taking this trip to remind myself.
With nothing but atmosphere between me and the Earth, I was studying Awakening Shakti, a book that introduces readers to female Hindu goddesses. Kali, I was learning, is a goddess who represents creation and renewal, which can only happen when a person destroys whatever is keeping her from growth. In New Jersey – my origin – my heart and creative energy had become as lifeless and cold as the mid-January freeze.

When I arrived at the following words, by Swami Vivekananda, I opened my mouth and closed the book: “The heart must become a burial ground.” I would need to lay everything dead and dying inside me to rest, and my heart would need to swell and grow in order to do that. I couldn’t just discard these things outside of myself, ignoring them. Instead, I would have to keep the decomposing pain inside me forever, honoring it.

When I landed at Los Angeles International Airport, where the temperature was about 40 degrees warmer than in Newark, I picked up a rented Hyundai Sonata and anticipated spending the next few days like a child’s lost and forgotten summer toy – a miniature water gun, perhaps – captured in a block of ice, waiting for the heat to melt it into being.

 

Instafriend

I peeled off the layers – a sweater, a hat, and heavy socks – that had kept me warm that morning and on the air-conditioned plane, and I considered what to do with my new sense of weightlessness. Hungry, I made my first stop Veggie Grill, a plant-based fast food chain with locations throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. As a vegan, I wanted to take this trip partly so that I could indulge in all the best vegan food that Los Angeles has to offer. I wanted to celebrate, in abundance, my decision to be vegan, a choice that many assumed was limiting.
When I arrived at the restaurant, I couldn’t believe how many people were eating lunch at an eatery with a meatless menu; all tables were occupied. After ordering a “quinoa power salad,” I sat down at a table that had just cleared and waited.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. In the moment before I turned around, I guessed that the person tapping me might be another solo diner, hoping to share my table in the crowded space. Or had I forgotten to take my change from the cashier? I faced the stranger.

“Are you Laryssa?”

I squinted at the dark-haired young man. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans. I tried so hard to place him in my memory that I could almost feel my hippocampus groan.

“Yes, that’s me,” I said.

Who, so far away from my home, would recognize me? I was trying to be something different here, to shed my East Coast identity. Obviously I was still carrying its weight.

“Do I know you?”

“We follow each other on Instagram,” he said.

Instagram is a social media community where I post photos of vegan food and other miscellany. To myself, I call it “Veganland” because nearly every one of the 1,000 users I follow is vegan. Whenever I feel alone, I can open the iPhone app and, as I scroll through photo after photo of vegan dishes, can pretend that our planet is a cruelty-free utopia.

But I didn’t recognize his face from any of the 110×110 pixel profile photos I had associated with people’s Instagram handles.

“What’s your username?”

“Spencer – “

“Oh!” I interrupted.

We chatted for a few minutes, and he hugged me: the perfect welcome. I learned that my Instafriend Spencer was visiting Los Angeles for the day to protest with an animal rights activist group from San Diego.
When he left, his absence made me feel as if my cover had been blown – what are the chances that someone would recognize me from my own square profile photo? I wouldn’t be able to begin this trip as someone completely new, removed from my past failures and frustrations. But I realized, between bites of my quinoa salad at Veggie Grill, where I was surrounded by people who were actively making the same ethical choices I make, that I’m in good company, not only in a vegan fast-food establishment but wherever I am.

I wouldn’t have to be alone to burn away my past identities. Instead, I would soften myself to allow connection, which is the only way I’d be able to learn about new possibilities and opportunities, to gain insight into the person I am and who I want to be. When I stepped into the parking lot, I felt a dampness above my upper lip. The sun was at its highest point, and I was sweating.

 

YouTube Celebrity

Months later, in a Barnes & Noble in New Brunswick, NJ, one of my former students approaches me.

“Professor, you’re famous!” he says.

“What’s he talking about?” asks my friend.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“The YouTube video. I saw it,” says the undergraduate.

My face turns as red as the passion-fruit iced tea I’m sipping.
In my defense, my senses had been overwhelmed by Venice Beach: talented skateboarders showing off their hard-earned tricks, men dressed in head-to-toe kelly green advertising marijuana prescriptions, muscle men earning a day’s dose of self worth, hopeful salespeople peddling painted ceramic skulls and handmade hemp jewelry. Under the spell of my own dizzying fascination, I was accosted by a group of four young men with professional camera equipment.

“Do you have a second?” asked the leader of the pack, a young Korean man named Josh.

“I’m not sure,” I said, frowning at the camera pointed at me.

“Just one question. For my YouTube channel,” said Josh.

“Alright, I guess.”

What I show my friend in the Barnes and Noble, using the YouTube app on my smartphone, is the following exchange.

“So far, how many kisses have you gotten this year?” Josh asked, his arm around my shoulders, pivoting me toward the camera.

The “year” in question had only lasted two weeks.

“One, I guess,” I said, remembering a prosecco-fueled, Times-Square-ball-drop kiss in my married friends’ apartment.

“Want to make that ‘two’?” asked Josh, pulling me toward his face and planting a dry-lipped kiss before I could protest.

A perpetual “good sport,” I managed a smile for the camera.

“Make that two kisses,” I said. “I may have found my soul mate.”

My friend and I watch the rest of the video: a montage of Josh kissing women with varying degrees of willingness.

“Well, that’s it – I’m famous,” I say to my friend in the bookstore, hoping that no one else will recognize me. I sit for a moment, remembering the sun setting on that 65-degree evening. When the cameraman had finally pointed the camera toward the ground, I felt like I could stop acting.

“How long you visiting?” asked Josh.

“How did you know?”

“You look dazzled,” he said. “And you’re wearing a scarf.”

“I’ve been cold for too long,” I said. “I just landed a few hours ago. From New Jersey.”

The winter had been particularly brutal, with sub-zero winds numbing my entire body as I had stood waiting for trains and shoveling my car out of colossal snow drifts. Sometimes, when I had finally been able to enter a heated building or my apartment, I worried that the feeling would never return. But it always did.

“Stay here with me, soul mate. You don’t have to go back,” he said.

“I have a dinner reservation,” I said, walking away.

He gave me his phone number, but I couldn’t bear to tell him that I had already purchased my return flight.

 

Opalite Rabbit

The Pacific Palisades Farmers Market allowed me to relive two of my most vivid childhood memories: eating sun-ripened tomatoes and raspberries from their plants in my grandparents’ backyard and spending Saturday mornings tasting so many food samples at the membership-only wholesale club, while my dad did household shopping, that I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch.

I had never seen so much fresh, beautiful produce in my life, let alone in January, the worst month for produce in the Garden State – so awful, in fact, that I had been known to weep over a bag of sweet cherries imported from Chile, $9.99/lb. The teal-blue pint containers of berries – strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries – were arranged like squares on an heirloom quilt. The farmers market stretched at least a full block, and nearly every vendor presented a luscious array of samples: citrus, grapes, apple slices, nut butters, gourmet spreads, etc.

I wanted to buy at least one of everything but knew that, with only three more days in Los Angeles, I still had so much more food to eat. Compromising, I chose a pair of perfect apples that I could enjoy as a light breakfast.

Other vendors at the farmers market were selling nonperishable items. At one table, a middle-aged woman was displaying her healing crystals. I picked up a miniature, carved opalite rabbit and admired it.

“Are you a tourist?” she asked.

I nodded, though I didn’t like that I could be distinguished so easily from a local. Was it my pale skin?

“I knew it,” she said. “You have a clarity I don’t often see in Los Angeles. The locals always seem cloudy.”

I turned the cool, carved opal over in my palm.

“I’m just seeing this for the first time,” I said.

 

Scenic Overlook

The greatest luxury of traveling alone is being able to stand in one place without worrying that your traveling companion is getting bored or is going to leave you behind.

Indulging in that luxury, I stood for about an hour at a scenic overlook in Santa Monica, admiring the Pacific Coast Highway and the coastline beyond it. I was taking photos of the colorful beach houses: slate blue, canary yellow, lavender, and rose pink facades.

“Are you a photographer?” a male voice behind me asked.

I was in no mood to be humored or interrogated or interrupted from my single-minded enjoyment of the view.

“No,” I said, not turning around.

“May I ask you something? I promise it’s not a boring question.”

I tried to anticipate his query: Are you single? Are you available for drinks later? Do you come here often?

“I guess,” I said.

“What legacy do you want to leave behind?”

I turned around to face him, wishing I could be him, seeing me against this backdrop that I so admired. I wanted to try the Pacific on for size, test myself as a character with Santa Monica as my setting. I almost asked if he could take my picture. Instead, I opened my mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

POSTING:

-December 25-27th:

Indigenous Trinity by Misty Ellinburg

-December 28th- 31st:

THEATER STAR by David Giannini

-January 1st-3rd:

winter(verb) by Laryssa Wirstiuk

 

-January 3rd- 17th:

Fan Voting — now closed

(fan voting works American Idol style, so !vote early and vote often!)

 

-January 19th, MLK Day (US):

Winners now announced

 

 

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