BANG! authors are showcased individually here online for a month. Each author installment is made up of three pieces in any combination: poetry shorts (20 lines) or fiction or nonfiction (500 words each) for a month. All work on must be previously unpublished. Submission period runs all year round. BANG! pieces are not published in The New Guard. Work should be very short: flash-short. Pieces on BANG! are meant to serve as a kind of calling card for the author. :: Our next installment will be posted on April 26, 2017. ::
Our March-April BANG! author is Susanna Baird. Susanna is a BANG! selected writer.
Susanna Baird is a regular contributor to Spine Magazine and Creative Salem. Her work has appeared at Dribbble and Punchnel's, in Boston Magazine and Across the Margin, and is forthcoming in the Apeiron Review. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her son and her daughter and her husband and her cat.
Photo by Kim Indresano.
Two stories and a poem
BY Susanna baird
Last night's scotch sours in the back of his throat as he listens to metal scraping macadam, feels his neighbors staring at the stretch of sidewalk he is not clearing. He sighs and he ups and he coffees. He bundles and he outs and he shovels. With his first push, he assesses. By first toss, he knows this stuff is not the slight down that flutters earthward in fairytale flakes. This snow rejects fancy, falls in purposeful sheets, clumps as it lands, gathering heft.
He digs and he does not look at the lady from across the street, watching to see where he dumps the snow, clucking disapproval even as he clears a path from her doorway to her car. His muscles flex and tease, taunting him with the strain whose pain he will not feel until tomorrow. He stabs the snow and he scoops the snow and he lifts the snow and deposits the snow in the least offensive places. He marvels at new snow mountains delivered by plows-men, a gift to the dead-end's children a full month after Christmas.
He watches amused as they stake claims, these pressing slide-lanes with cardboard toboggans, those hollowing snow caves with shovels manufactured for sand. Watches tense as a boy shrieks happy, sledding from mountaintop to icy street. Feels grateful they are not his.
His own stout stein of a father loved to take him sledding. His father laughed loud and his father said, "Ho Boy!" and his father sat in the back of the sled with strong arms around him. He did not cry out every time snow stabbed into the bits of his face not covered by mask. He would not cry out, and he could not think for the air, and he could not breathe for the strong arms and the speed and the sharp steel blades conveying him to the bottom. Quickening unhappy puffed from his mouth. The wool mask grew damp as he waited to see if this run would be enough for his pop.
Like his father's were then, his arms now are strong. He will not use them to take children flying. His is the earth, not the sky. Flying is for the birds and his father.
He's glad as he shovels, relieved and almost arrived at the end of his sidewalk. The neighbor’s gone inside and the sledders gone inside and his coffee waits inside and he begins to go, but then puts down his shovel and turns to the plow-mountain, emptied of child. Folding himself just so, he tucks into a cave. All he can hear is the snow.
and i have a girl
The poster said missing.
The news said drowned.
The neighbors said the pull at high tide
where the creek meets the ocean
was something else altogether, a something
you had to respect, but something
you’d never shake hands with. When it
showed up, you turned and walked away.
The news said she drowned and the mother
made the poster and the poster said missing.
When the poster was new I looked at the girl
straight-on. I am a mother and I have a girl.
I said I can only imagine.
I said I cannot imagine.
Summer peaked and the poster grayed.
I am a mother. I could not look
at that girl anymore. I did not say
anything. I pretended
she was no longer there.
—After Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl"
Sticks stay outside; you are not a dog. Boots stay in the mudroom; this is not the Wild West. Always ask for a guest’s coat; never ask for a guest’s shoes. Manners before mud. Be the first to offer your hand. Be the last to take a second helping. Open the door for your grandmother; I expect it. Don’t open the door for your aunt; She resents it. Don’t ask me why. Don’t hit your sister. But she said I … Don’t interrupt. If it’s urgent, say “excuse me.” If your sister hits you, you deserve it. No means no; I don’t care what you thought she was saying. Clam chowder is milk and potatoes, not broth and tomatoes. Boil lobster in seawater and serve with drawn butter. Never eat shellfish in a month without an R. Always eat shellfish with vodka, preferably in a Bloody Mary. Horseradish not Old Bay. Celery not jalapeno. Always have the first drink. Never have the third. Nobody likes a sloppy drunk or corn from New Jersey. I’m not old enough … Don’t interrupt. If it’s urgent, say “excuse me.” Philanthropy not charity. Baseball not football. Station wagon not SUV. J. Press not Brooks Brothers. English setter not golden retriever. Vinalhaven not the Vineyard. Don’t pick your nose; that’s what Swamp Yankees do. Pick a woman for her bottom and her brain, not her chest and her laugh. Good ankles are not to be overlooked. Excuse me … Don’t interrupt; it’s not urgent unless your pants are on fire. Marry for love and a shared literary sensibility. Stay married for friendship and tennis. The Wall Street Journal is not literary. Golf is not tennis. Sex is important and don’t let anyone tell you money is not. When you talk, speak up. Don’t mumble. Don’t mince words. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t talk politics or religion; it’s crass, as is imitation maple syrup. Don’t swear in front of your aunt; she thinks it’s uncouth. Don’t swear in front of your mother; she finds it low. If you’re going to swear, commit to a proper epithet. Do not bother with the Lord, he’s not worth your Sundays or the breath from your mouth. Excuse me, could I try saying … Your pants are not on fire and the answer is no. I don't care what you thought I was saying.
Fiction and poetry © Susanna Baird, 2017. All rights reserved by the author.
Previous authors with appearances on BANG! are: Patricia Smith, Jose Padua, Pete Follansbee, Jillian Brenner, Alexandra Oliver, Kerri Quinn, Mike Heppner, Marc Mewshaw, Timothy Dyke, Marcia Popp, Quenton Baker, Joshua Graber, Charles Wyatt, Julio Duggan, Scarlett S. Diaz, Erica Vega, Amy M. Alvarez, Jonathan Segol, Lissa Kiernan, Roger Bonair-Agard, James Kimbrell, Bridget Boland, E.G. Cunningham, Melissa Goode, Mark Wagstaff, Carla Stern, Sarah Glass, Jennifer Amell, Zakia R. Khwaja, Julie Poitras Santos, Lyall Harris and Amy Nash.