Claudia Smith be Wigleaf Five Beers Full

There is a story by Haruki Murakami, the Second Bakery Attack. It opens with newlyweds experiencing a great hunger. It shows us the contents of their refrigerator: “Our refrigerator contained not a single item that could be technically categorized as food. We had a bottle of French dressing, six cans of beer, two shriveled onions, a stick of butter, and a box of refrigerator deodorizer.”

(Like all Murakami stories, it is 1st person POV, and people will soon be drinking beer. But where is the cat? A rare exception. No cat here.)

We learn all we need to know from the fridge items. They can’t make a meal. While they have a scattering, they don’t have a regalement, a snack, a sustenance. These are characters–and a marriage–in need. The empty fridge is a microcosm, and metaphor. In fiction, objects are significant. They are always an opportunity. (This is one reason you might want to populate your fiction with objects.)

{Metaphors should be organic, like homemade pizza. [I might have possibly made the ugliest pizza on the planet. But dern–it taste good…]


When I say organic I mean they appear naturally, not as “I am going to write a metaphor now.” Example. Look at Carver’s Little Things (A Freytag story, an allusion, among other things). It is minimalist, so doesn’t have many objects, right? True, but what gets knocked over as the couple fight in the kitchen? A flower in a pot. So? Well, can the pot act as metaphor? Yes. It can also act as image, as sound, as conflict, on and on. But, in its essence, it is a flower pot, in a kitchen first. }

In Claudia Smith’s “Leak” (Wigleaf Top 50 choice, and published in Juked, Juked, Juked), we get this opening: “She used up the bits left in the refrigerator; frozen peas, half a zucchini, an inch of white wine, a yellow tomato. There were five bottles of Shiner beer, something she wouldn’t drink because she didn’t like to drink alone.”

What do we learn here? Something of class. An interesting image of the 5 beers standing there, missing their one companion (the 6th of the pack). A possibly unreliable narrator. We get a sense maybe she doesn’t like to drink alone, but she does do it.

Then we learn she cooks in a Teflon skillet. Her husband took the cast iron one, and her husband, like that one beer and that bottle of wine, is gone.

[Who in the fuck takes a person’s cast iron skillet? You can make nachos in a skillet!]

nachos S

I’d argue we learn something about the husband here, too. And as the story continues, we learn its quintessence, every thing we need to know:

“Mom, you know what you do when you stir like that.”

“I’m simmering the vegetables.”

“You shimmer it.  It’s called you shimmer it, Mom.”

The moon was pressing against the door, leaking slivers of light in through the cracks.  The house wasn’t well insulated.

“It won’t get in, don’t worry,” she told her son.

“How do you know?”

“I won’t let it.”

As we know, one beauty of flash fiction is the ability for the reader to take the story off the page. A woman’s life is shimmering. A situation is shimmering. Quivering. Shaking. Should I say tremor? But she has it together (really)? In fact, she can halt the progress of the moon….right.

Things said to children. Tension in helpful lies. Helpful lies itself a phrase of tension. And we know, in our hearts, the children are wise to the game. They accept the lie, but not really…a cycle of mutual help/anti-help, a…coiled thing.

[To me, magical realism is then the fantastic enters realism, BUT IS SEEN AS REAL. The moon might be seeping in the door, or (again) might be metaphor for all of life’s tendencies (to eventually fall apart, to harm), but, in the words of the woman: “We’re okay,” she said.]

Yes, they are OK.

No, they are not OK.

I think this story is about fear. About consequences. About the impossibility of avoiding consequences (stay inside, refuse to move–even that will have a consequence, etc.). About hey look I am trying against big odds here, against like big tides and shit, big forces, the fucking moon!

I think I am trying to write about objects again here. This story swells with them. With things, how they enter our lives and leave them (they outlive us, remember?).

I would like to end by saying I enjoyed this flash. It made my synapses crackle.

And by quoting another Claudia Smith story, “The Harvest Moon”

What is a symbol?


I can’t tell you, I explain.  But I know it when I see it.



3 responses to “Claudia Smith be Wigleaf Five Beers Full

  1. I haven’t read your blog for a while, but, as usual, I am glad I did.

  2. Pizza and Murakami in the same blog? I’m game.

    BTW, ‘grats on the running performance.

  3. Thanks for this. I like what you said.

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