I Love You When You’re Pretty

This piece was published maybe 10 years ago at a venue that no longer exists. When I first started publishing short fiction, there were many new, experimental web journals. Many of them were very good. Many good ones still exist, but many are, as David Thomas might say, now ghost-towns.

This piece also appeared in the first edition of my chapbook, What Other People Heard When I Taught Myself to Speak. That manuscript is going through some new revisions with a second edition coming sometime in the spring.

I Love You When You’re Pretty

When you said hi, I didn’t see you in her fitted polka dots and your hair like a USO girl and your legs in heels. Everyone is beautiful in your grandma’s pictures but we dress with conscience now, buffing out your curves or the square cut of my shoulders with fair-trade cotton. What right do you have, anyway, in eye shadow and stockings, wearing lipstick I can only see close? What right do I have, now, to closeness, to feel like cigarettes won’t kill me and sex is not transaction? What right to be pretty? And to love you when you are?

Story: A Winter Ascetic

A Winter Ascetic

The house is cold at 60 and January lies. Outside everything’s washed bold under bright sun and heavy light but the air’s still cold like New Year’s. The shadows are crisp, too, I can see without my glasses, but the lines of my hardwood floor run together at the door. I won’t go outside today.

The dog got walked twice on Tuesday and yesterday the same. He’ll be fine for now with the city paper in the basement. I don’t give him the free paper, though – that I save that for kindling. It’s not as good a grade and burns much cleaner than our subscription rags.

I teach here in the Valley, English at the county’s liberal arts college, and we’re still on what my editor and the administration insist on calling Break, but I don’t get much done. They brought me here after my dissertation because of the exciting work I was doing on cognizance and the nonnegotiable particulars of a working Kantian regime in British Lit. I scrawl it out in pencil or pen on blue lined sheets of paper with thin red ledger lines. They’re curling on my curio and they blur together, too.

The dog comes in with my fedora. The fedora is for Thursday walks, he knows, with the beret and scarf for Sundays. I scratch behind his ears and tell him not today. “I’m working on the ending, Scout, and then I will be finished. Once more through the ending and then the intro after that.” No one reads the middles so I don’t even bother. Better authors put their real points there, buried in a paragraph or single sentence, buried in the middle where no one reads. To me it’s just a vehicle, an excuse for clever starts and pithy, pithy ends and I think maybe I should have been a poet.

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Publication notes:  This is another of those pieces that is so old that it was published at one of the early online microfiction journals, in this case, a venue called Thieves Jargon. Like elimae and Tuesday Shorts and others from those days, the Jargon is no longer.  “A Winter Ascetic” was published there in December of 2007.  Copyright Chris Cocca 2007 – 2018 and in perpetuity.

Story: The Insult

This was originally published years ago at Six Sentences.  I have slightly revised it since then, but I think the revision makes it more of story and less of a prose poem. 

The Insult

There are no bakeries outside San Marco in 1968, no fish markets or butchers, only tobacco fields and salted meats between Carmine’s and the piazza.  Dirt roads spread like long brown leaves from my cousin’s to the church-square and we ride to town on ox carts and warping wooden wheels.
      I give my aunt a big roast in the cool dirt kitchen where summer meats are hanging. At dinner there’s a small cut roasted and I ask about the rest. Three quarters of my trophy, cured, turns above the table. Flies land on the slivers Zizi portions, oblivious and greedy.  Li mericani! she says, forgiving my abuse.

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All rights Chris Cocca, but do feel free to share, and, please, do comment.

The Gospel of Mark as Sudden Fiction

Sudden fiction is another term for flash fiction, but the two aren’t simply synonymous, at least not to my ear.  Don’t read too much into the title of this post.  I’m not making some argument that the Gospel of Mark ought to be thought of as fiction or non-fiction by modern definitions.  I’m talking about effect.   Where does the writer mean to take us, and why?  How do we know?

The Gospel of Mark is short, but it’s also very sudden.  Replete with “immediatelys,” the narrative is constantly moving.  Like a good short story, it feels meant to be read in one sitting.

I’ve just finished a sudden read in this manner.  My sudden thoughts follow.

In Mark, Jesus is concerned with telling anyone who will hear that the kingdom of God is at hand, the kingdom of God is here, and that this news is good.

Often, his message gains traction through healing and exorcisms (these may or may not be the same).   He is clearly opposed to entrenched religious systems and values, but not to the teachings of Israel’s prophets.  His je ne sais quoi  has precisely to do with his vision of God and God’s kingdom in the context of Rome’s empire, Herod’s puppet vassal, the Sanhedrin’s religious hegemony, the temple-merchants’ guild and the common-place fiefdom of first-century mores, beliefs, and expectations often beguiling his disciples or other parts of the general public.  Often, those outside his immediate circle understand him best.  He is arrested, tried, and crucified quickly.  He even dies quickly.  His tomb is found empty, and his followers are instructed by a heavenly presence to meet him, the Risen, in Galilee.  No big deal.  Biggest deal ever.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Nanoism is Fitting

I went to the doctor today to get some paperwork for school filled out.  Since I hadn’t been there in a while, they made me do weight and height.  It turns out I am the height I feared I was, not the one inch more I keep saying I am knowing I’m probably not.  Well anyway, this lie will continue.

But, in related news, I have a very, very, very short story up at Nanoism today.  The fitting part is the shortness, not the content.

I’m not short, by the way.  Just concentrated.  Potent.

Admit two, please

I just got the galley proof for next month’s issue of AdmitTwo which will feature a hundred-word piece by me that I combined with a creative commons licensed picture from Flickr (with appropriate credit and permissions from the photographer.  It’s the Dylan story some of you have read.

Now that that’s ready, I’ll be getting in touch with those of you that wanted to work on some pieces for future submission to this unique venue.