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On the Banks of the Fall Creek by William Akin

Blueberry lights glow thick as fireflies in the lush summer trees, are seen as stars through the glassine walls awash in the cornflower glow of underwater swimming pool lamps. The origami house, beneath the fullest moon, is brushed and blended in every other shade of blue, from the twilight sky to the palest of ocean waves. The flicker-fleeting shadows of gawkers and vandals cross the lawn and gardens, tiptoe past the parlor window, always peeping and spying but never coming in.

These nosy nancies and looky-loos drag along fantasies of their own, of gilded and golden coffins of glass, of sleeping beauties and unblemished bride-corpses, of a deep and undying love that he has never known. The three ex-wives, alive if not well, are fading and aging just as nature intended, perhaps a slight bit swifter, were little more than bi-weekly signature lines and occasional hellos. Each was a bit of blue unto itself, a ray of light that had leaked from the house to find liberty and wider skies to color.

Somewhere out in the night, one hundred and fifty dogs bark and howl at the moon that is almost falling into the creek.

In the solariums and setbacks, terraces and greenhouses, he incubates his compulsion and melancholy. He can see them crawling through the tall grass and bustling through the hedgerow, their fingerprints smeared across the window panes. If they only knew how the house was haunted, if they only could see the ghost that walked the echoing halls instead of the shuffling silhouette of an opaque man breaking up the light from within.

There was once a large empty room in the center of the house. The walls and ceiling and floor were covered with white tile laid in Baroque curves, swelling then diminishing, filling in ever smaller bits of space. The tile had been quarried from a single source and was pure and polished, while the grout work was so precise that the exquisite filigrees were visible only under close and direct scrutiny. Long ago he would sit in that room, on the stone floor warmed by hot water pipes flowing beneath the marble, and think, and his thoughts became spreading vines and blossoming flowers across the blank expanse. He would think until the room around him was a teeming jungle of his own imagining, humid and green and perfumed, and he would fall asleep to the songs of the painted birds up in the canopy.

He told himself it must still exist, somewhere in the heart of the house, beyond the rooms and layers he has imprisoned himself behind, each more translucent than the last, until the whole thing takes on the appearance of something from a coleopterologist’s specimen box, a steel and glass carapace pinned in place with a copper lightning rod.

Dawn rises pink and lonesome. The trespassers have all fled in the night, leaving behind a trail of trampled irises and violets, lewd graffiti, and silver beer can lilies dripping with morning dew. With a bag of blue bulbs and a ladder, he moves from tree to tree in the arboretum, changing out each light that did not survive the darkness, and when his work is done, he collapses in the conservatory and falls into dreams so clear he doesn’t believe they exist.

tadpole

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William Akin was a dirty-faced little boy, bare-chested and thin, with a ragged bath towel safety-pinned around his neck, running up and down the block. He passed by his neighbor, a girl about his age, sitting in the grass and brushing her doll’s red hair. She put it aside and walked up to the gate

-Hey, why do you have that old towel around your neck?

-It’s not a towel, it’s my cape. I’m a superhero.

-Yeah?

-Sure am. I fight crime, over there in the city.

-Your mom won’t even let you cross the street. She laughed and returned to the serious task of grooming her child.

-Mom doesn’t care…long as I fly. He stared at his feet, bound to the earth and shuffling, trying not to cry because he was a superhero, though he was certain then he know how kryptonite must feel.