Thursday, November 22, 2018


I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire
By Janet Shell Anderson

The tide’s ebbing on the Potomac, but you can’t see it. I’m walking with my uncle, Kiki’s father, Lanny Goldman, under the stunted cherry trees of late August as the Tidal Basin turns stark red in sunset.

Looking at the scarlet light, my Uncle Lanny says, “Some say the world will end in fire.” He talks like that sometimes.

He was a stockbroker, like his father. Now he’s old, almost sixty, but a good looking man, a dark-eyed version of long-ago movie star, Paul Newman. But dark as a foreigner. And strange.

Everybody in town’s worried there’s a coup coming. Tanks hover by Memorial Bridge. Oddly innocent pairs of soldiers circle under the trees. I keep coming here. Meeting people like my uncle. I shouldn’t. My family’s a political disaster. Lanny’s daughter, Kiki, was with the Administration and then she wasn’t and then she threatened them and then she disappeared. Two weeks ago. Lanny always said he was a stockbroker, lived in downtown Baltimore, old family, richer by far than my other relatives. We were the disgraces, my Dad, my brothers, into failed businesses, things like that. Political rabblerousers. I’m seventeen, so I really don’t know too much about it.

My father said, “Watch out for Lanny. You don’t really know what he is.” My father went bankrupt. Disappeared. What did he know?

Lanny’s had three wives, two dead, one he divorced. He’s mixed up with a party named Rita Corona, who lives with him in his condo. She’s sarcastic, pistol hot, looks like she’s weighed and calculated his worth to the penny. If anybody comes out of all this ok, it’ll be Rita. Now he’s bought a huge house for her in Mount Washington, an old part of Baltimore, and wants me to go there to be safe. Right.

It was a family house.

I went there as a child.

It’s a huge white mansion set among enormous sycamore trees and surrounded by white roses, white hydrangeas, white chrysanthemums. I dream about that house sometimes, and it’s filled with my missing family, my father, Kiki, my mother who died so long ago, my grandmother, my brothers. I’ll never go there. I remember a mirror that showed dust and a long corridor and golden light. And my face about a hundred years old.

Lanny says time has turned around. Time is turning around. He’s going to see the girl he went out with in college, Marsha Harper, and she’s younger now than I am.

We’re all going to see her. We get in a cab under the stunted trees of the Tidal Basin and go to 1600.
She lives in the White House.

She’s married to the Chief Executive. I’ve seen her on the news, and she looks as young as a pouty new Jezebel, a teen-queen Salome. Lanny says she’s Judith to Holofernes, whoever they were.

My father said Lanny was CIA, said never to trust Lanny, said the house in Mount Washington did not really exist.
Rita Corona’s snaking across the lawn, her painted face upturned in the sunset, her wide lips smiling, and the shadows are purple.

“I loved her,” Lanny says as if he has just discovered it. The grass is turning red, and the west side of the gnarled trunks of the trees in the Rose Garden are limed red, and the vast pillow box hedges are lighted with sunset fire, and he is not talking about Rita Corona. He’s remembering Marsha Harper, who is now young again and living in her own White House with the Chief Executive.

The hands on my watch run backwards. The tide is ebbing on the Potomac. The sky is iconic. Everyone fears a coup. Marsha Harper lives in the White House now, getting younger and younger. The sunset is very prolonged. The red humid air pushes against us like a tide.

“What is going to happen, has happened, and what has happened is what will be,” Lanny says. A fortune cookie, but good looking for a dark, old man.

The roses in the Rose Garden are almost spent. Not one is white.

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I write flash fiction, am an attorney. I've been published by Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Vestal Review, decomP, Grey Sparrow, FRIGG and many others. My work has been included with Joyce Carol Oates in an anthology "Choose Wisely."

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