Two Stories by Rhoads Stevens
River View, No Rent
I asked him if this, his business, was profitable.
He said, yes, unfortunately, it was profitable. He said so long as he held onto the space, so long as the space was covered, physically covered, and so long as the rent was paid, then it was profitable.
And I own the building, he said, so he didn’t have to worry about rent.
The river, the Detroit River, was outside.
So, for him, it was just the space and if the space was covered. He had no rent.
He had a burn on the top of his thumb.
Pan burn, he said. Making pizza.
It had been a blister but then he rubbed off the blister skin when he took a bath. It had been a deep wet pink trench and now it was a deep dry purple trench. I could see pores in it where hairs had been.
I asked him if I could build on it and he said yes. I laid down rebar and concrete. Made a building. From the building’s window, I could see the Detroit River and it was the day of the hydroshow. Hydroplanes were racing and I knew one would crash, launching into the air and fluttering, because one always crashed. The only question was if it would land into the audience.
They are spectators, a crowd, not an audience, he said.
He was so big because I was living in his scab. I was smaller than his iris.
Why does an iris look like the underside of a mushroom, I asked him.
He had a building. I had a building. This guy was so unsuccessful but I lived on his body and we both had the same view.
She Was Survived by Herself
The rats. The traps were laid for the rats because there were rats in the walls of the house.
The spider was in its web, which was spindly between a fig branch and a black metal outdoor chair.
The wife ate a rat and a spider in an afternoon. The rat she skinned, gutted, breaded, and fried in safflower oil. She ate the spider accidentally as she ate the rat.
The rose bush outside was prolific. She wished it would stop blooming so that she could stop giving away roses that were the color of peptobismo.
She went through her day, imagining it was she who killed Abraham. She ate him as she ate the rat.
If she found herself hating someone, she stopped. She could not always stop immediately. She had to do it gradually sometimes, she had no choice, and she did this over a whole day or many days. She dreaded each day, when she was hating through each day, but she tried to imagine her hate as a dwelling that crumbled and collapsed on top of her, pinning her. Not killing her but crushing her into the sand.
When she was drunk, she did not stagger. She drank a wine from her wedding cup and a rum and another wine, a wine that had turned, and a beer from her neighbor, a man whom she had given a rose.
She died, and they didn’t put her body into a car hearse, a long hearse, a modified limo. They put her inside her own body.
Rhoads Stevens lives in Seattle.