These pieces are really old. All three were published in my 2011 collection, Wild Life. “Warrior” is the only one that’d been published prior to that, in the now gone journal Alice Blue Review.
I suspect all three were written in response to the daily word prompts posted in Hot Pants, the flash writing workshop run by Kim Chinquee. There was such wonderful creative alchemy that happened in that group. I wrote things there I never would have otherwise.
So things like “Dalmatian” turned out so sparse and odd and surprising (at least to me). Here we have the dream and the dog, then the unexpected arrival of the cleaning lady and emotion that leaps off from the piece. We don’t know who the narrator is and I want to criticize this early piece for that. This, like the others, feels like prose poetry to me.
“Warrior” is directly from my life, from a moment. We were living in Australia and I was heavily pregnant and painting the interior of a little house for a break in the rent. I had the whole house opened up so as not to breathe too many fumes and my toddler played just outside in the gated garden. This is a moment intensified via the details and language and I still really like this one.
“Searching for Samuel Beckett” was fun to write. I wanted to create this sort of banal conversation and give it some surreality, which seems entirely possible in a Paris cemetery on any given rainy day.
I dreamt of rulers and coffins dropping from the sky. Rulers, as in kings, emperors, dictators. Rulers in Persian dress with arms akimbo and unstartled faces. Plain, pine coffins. The neighbor’s dog was barking, whining. I pushed up the window. Pluto. Knock it off. I loved the woman in the polka-dotted scarf who came there on Saturdays. I loved her cool white forearms, turned out, as she gripped the handle of her bucket.
She scrapes paint off the walls of a small house on a spring day. The house sits in the middle of a garden enclosed by a stone wall and a wrought iron gate. The doors and windows are open wide. Her boy pushes a twig around in a birdbath under the swaying limbs of a jacaranda. He sees a snail under the lip of the basin and shouts “nail!” The woman goes to the doorway. Broken sunlight paints the boy’s head and shoulders. Lately, she’s had visions of fire ants crawling through his scalp, entering his nostrils, his eye sockets. She regards him with a terrible precision.
Searching for Samuel Beckett
At the CimetièreMontparnasse, he offers a girl his raincoat. I’m searching for Samuel Beckett, he says, and holds an umbrella over her as she consults her map. We’re close, she says, pointing. I’ll go with you. Then we can visit Simone de Beauvoir. My name is Scarlet. She closes her eyes. And I have been widowed twice. But she looks too young for that. After, he says, maybe we can grab a pint? The sleeves of his coat hang, black and wet, to her knees. She smells like candy cigarettes. They stand in front of Beckett’s grave. A three-legged cat shivers raindrops off its back. Scarlet flaps her wings and flies away.
Kathy Fish is the recipient of a 2020 Ragdale Foundation Fellowship. She has published five collections of short fiction, most recently Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018, from Matter Press. Her award-winning short stories, prose poems, and flash fictions have been published in Denver Quarterly, Washington Square Review, Electric Literature, Guernica, and elsewhere. Fish’s “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” had been anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best Small Fictions, and the newest edition of the Norton Reader. She is a core faculty member for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver and teaches her own intensive online flash workshop, Fast Flash©. For more information, visit her website: kathy-fish.com.