Back to Issue Thirty-One

Fleas, Markets


The man trades a television for a goat. A woman trades a well-shellacked rocking chair for a sturdy pair of boots. A boy trades his body for a framed picture of a bridge. Some trades are more equitable than others. A very old man with one arm deftly haggles the deed to a distant orchard into two pianos and a cello. One of the pianos is in bad need of tuning but the old man isn’t concerned. No trade goes unnoticed. A mother trades her daughter for a sack of fertilizer; the girl trades herself again for a pistol, which she uses to shoot herself through the jaw. There is an argument over who gets possession of the fertilizer. It goes on for days and days. A scrawny, sore-riddled man who came with nothing to trade trades the dead daughter’s body for something he is offered in a whisper but negotiates to keep her hipbone and fingers. Patiently he strips off the skin and muscle, which he trades for a bottle of expired antibiotics. Restored to health he plays music by striking the dead daughter’s fingerbones against the hip. The music is lovely enough that people are forced to notice. What they hear are their own heartbeats, their own footsteps. The beat of a song in a club, a march, a fervid star’s pulse. They hear rage and the moment before rage. They hear birds. They hear vanishing lovers. It is all momentary and piercing, a flash across the unbalanced field of time, fair as theft, kind as theft; accordant, possible.


Pete Segall‘s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Conjunctions, Joyland, The Bennington Review, The Arkansas International, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago.

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