SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Kim Chinquee

A Character in Short Fiction
I wore my grandmother's lemon-colored skirt, and lit a candle with my lighter. I was sitting with the chaplain. We were in my grandmother's attic, and we were drinking whiskey. He was 30, maybe 40. He'd been my grandmother's helper when she couldn't remember. I didn't live there anymore, but had gone back for the funeral. He told me stories all about her, how she told him she dreamed of being in the opera, how she had wanted him to dance with her. After my grandfather passed away eleven years before her, she fell and broke her hip, and that kind of broke her memory.

"She always liked to dance," I said to the pretty chaplain.

I toasted him, and he took a swig of whiskey. He was sitting on an old, dusty drum. My grandfather used to play it in a band, and he would march and I would follow in the float that my grandmother would pull on their John Deere tractor. It was for the Legion. I didn't tell the chaplain about the time my grandparents told me that I couldn't be their granddaughter any longer. It was when my mother decided she would divorce my father.

"She loved God," the chaplain said. He was getting wobbly on the drum.

I didn't tell him that I didn't see my grandmother for many years, not until my grandfather's funeral, and after her mind started drifting far away, I started seeing her more often. She remembered me more and more as the child before I was eleven. She gave me several different names that I would not remember.

My father loved God religiously since his mental breakdown. My grandparents said that if he would have had stronger Faith, it never would have happened. That was before I turned eleven. That was right before my mother left my father. Now my father lived with other hurting people, dwelling in an institution.

I sat on the dusty floor, pulling the skirt up just a little. Everything was clean the last time I was up here, but now there were webs and spiders everywhere, mice droppings, and everything was coated gray. I could hardly breathe. Everything was dusty.

"I fell out of love with God," I told the chaplain.

He said he didn't judge me. He smiled down at me. I got up and dusted off the record player, turned it on. I found an album, played The Elephant Waltz, which I so clearly had remembered. I took the chaplain's hand. I pulled him up and danced around him on my toes, like a ballerina.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Kim Chinquee's stories have appeared in Noon, North Dakota Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, and several other journals. She's Night Train's fiction editor.

Read the interview.
Issue Five (August 15, 2004): Lovers by Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Shore by Susan Henderson «» Lovechild by Ellen Parker «» Lipstick by Claudia Smith «» Back Home by Bob Arter «» Gloves by Gary Cadwallader «» Gilda by Patricia Parkinson «» Attic by Kim Chinquee «» The Radioactive Chicken or the Egg? by Randall Brown «» Summer Swim by Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Two Benches by Pasha Malla «» Fall by Richard Hulse «» Drop by Roy Kesey «» Galveston by Steven Gullion «» Every Pane of Weathered Glass by Ellen M. Rhudy «» I Can't Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know by C.R. Park «» Something of Value by Brian Reynolds «» The Therapist Told Her Not to Stop Smoking–Right Now by Astrid Schott «» Maintenance by Miriam N. Kotzin «» Enough by Katrina Denza «» Interviews: Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Susan Henderson «» Ellen Parker «» Claudia Smith «» Bob Arter «» Gary Cadwallader «» Patricia Parkinson «» Kim Chinquee «» Randall Brown «» Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Pasha Malla «» Richard Hulse «» Roy Kesey «» Steven Gullion «» Ellen M. Rhudy «» C.R. Park «» Brian Reynolds «» Astrid Schott «» Miriam N. Kotzin «» Katrina Denza «» Cover Art "A Character in Short Fiction" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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