by Amelia Gray
The perspective of a mildew within a pool is such that anyone entering that pool is descending from heaven, and therefore must be an extinguished seraph. Sergeant Nicholas Brody emerges from the godhead followed by his obviously gleaming diamond wings, reaching forward as if to pluck some sad element from the floor and lift it to his mouth and take it in, concealing it between tooth and cheek. The very bones of his body are lighter than a bird’s, and when Sergeant Nicholas Brody chooses to emerge from the pool it will be with such a terrifying power that the frightened mildews will scatter to new corners and pile upon one another and wait, and wait.
Of what does Sergeant Nicholas Brody dream? He dreams of summers as a boy, of course, as a boy in England. A red-faced youth, eyelids a-twitch, the British boy dreaming within the dream of three lenses trained upon him there as he dreams, his thin pale arms committed to a high-definition kind of memory. The man dreams himself a boy dreaming of himself as a man who has a family, a quiet strange daughter and a real blank slate of a son and a beautiful wife with hair dark and smooth like the inside of a shoe—none of whom he truly knows, but who can know anyone, who can be known?
"Ticking time, gentlemen! It is I, Sergeant Nicholas Brody, here wet-faced and ready, a child emerging from the dark human tunnel towards the ball-pit of garish, unstoppable life! Please, all of you, quiet now, every one, take a lesson from this warming light and shine relentless on one another for all time. Love one another from the center of your faces outward. Calm and quiet, hold one another, breathe out longer than you breathe in. Observe my face, men! See my lips, the singular dry piece of my body entire, see how they part, a curtain, to reveal the tiny gleam of a single human eye! Here is my truth revealed! I am whole!”
Everything’s going to be all right, isn’t it? That’s the beauty of a roof; when you fear this old globe is liable to go up like a white Escalade packed with fertilizer, you can lace up your cross trainers, pull a cold-enough brewski out of the fridge and climb up to observe the goings-on of the neighborhood. There’s old Daniels, mowing his lawn like the effort of it isn’t going to kill him next month. And there’s Ginny, tanning her old tits in the backyard while her little shit dogs fight over a piece of bread. Heh, whichever one gets that bread is going to seriously barf everywhere.
“What is in Sergeant Nicholas Brody’s fridge?” Sergeant Nicholas Brody asks himself. “Tabasco, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, Wish Bone dressing, Dijon mustard. We are a two mustard kind of house. Horizon Brand Organic Cage Free eggs, purchased by Sergeant Nicholas Brody’s wife. Why does Sergeant Nicholas Brody’s wife only refer to him by his last name?” It is no matter, for as he observes the fridge, Sergeant Nicholas Brody is pleased to find every condiment brand new, full to the brim, ready for any snack-related challenge. Twenty gallons of tuna salad? No problem. Marinated chicken breasts for the entire neighborhood? Done. It’s depressing, how simple it would be.
SERGEANT NICHOLAS BRODY SEES YOU. YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE ANGLES? SERGEANT NICHOLAS BRODY KNOWS THE ANGLES. IF YOU WERE ON A POOL TABLE SERGEANT NICHOLAS BRODY WOULD BE MAKING A TRICK SHOT THAT YOU WOULDN’T SEE THE HALF OF BEFORE YOU HIT THE POCKET. YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO ENTER INTO A CONTRACT WITH THE FOREST, DRAWN UP WHILE YOU WAIT, WITNESSED BY CARRIE “ALL THE WHITE WINE” MATHISON, CO-SIGNED BY SERGEANT NICHOLAS BRODY. GET YOUR PACK, SOLDIER. WE HAVE A LONG WALK AHEAD OF US.
Amelia Gray grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Her first collection of stories, AM/PM, was published in 2009. Her second collection, Museum of the Weird, was awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. Her first novel, Threats, was published in 2012. She lives in Los Angeles.