Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Michael Cocchiarale

A Parable for You Know Who

Pipes burst in a basement, prompting a concerned neighbor to phone a plumber for the owner of the place. The plumber looked and said, “In my professional opinion, you need this fixed now.” From above, the owner scowled. The gall of this man, thinking he knew more than what the owner felt. Those fancy tools weren’t fooling a soul. The plumber, sensing anger, merely suggested he turn off the valve. The owner declared, “I’m within my rights!” Shrugging, the plumber left an estimate. Scoffing, the owner went to bed. Later, the water rose, and carried him away in a rage.

Miracle Worker

Drizzle, fog—it’s not the most auspicious day. But as the wisps of mist disappear, there stands a pretty girl in a spangled top and skirt. Leg warmers. Ear muffs and cherry pie cheeks.

The tarp at midfield falls away for a handsome man in stripes. Cheers. Horns and drums. A fight song frenzy.

The girl’s hands move over mouth and nose as the soldier approaches. The crowd explodes!

Closer, he doesn’t look so hot. For one thing, the uniform’s in shreds. Also—I’m sorry—there’s considerable blood. It gives me great pain to state that he only has half a face.

The crowd groans. Some discernible boos. From the alumni section, someone yells, “Go back to Dover!” These people are upset; after all, they’ve paid money for a good, clean, wholesome show.

The cheerleader softly screams. The soldier shakes to his knee.

The coach of the red team says, “That’s weak. Fellas, a true warrior would never make a moment like this about politics.”

The solider teeters. He falls like a tree into the mud.

The crowd gasps. Thinking quickly, the announcer gets on the horn. Within seconds, four jets in a diamond appear in suddenly blue skies. Look!—see those spiffy whip cream trails? Everyone blinks, cheers, feeling holy and national anthemy.

The girl is screaming. Could it be the tragedy is only now sinking in? No, no—this is something different. Joy, fever, hysteria. She’s jumping up and down, shoes spanking the back of her skirt.

The soldier is now standing. Lord, he hath been healed! Plus (let’s hear you sing-song it): CRYS-tal’s GETT-ing MARE-ied!

The announcer smiles. He leans back in the booth, a “my-work-is-done-here” smile upon his face. The crowd whoops it up. The soldier embraces the girl. All’s right again in this unrivalled land.

Bad Apples

The barrel was some distance away, on the other side of the line, but even from where I stood, I could say with a great deal of confidence that it was filled with apples. I moved five yards closer. Yes, confirmed: apples. There were some Red Delicious, plenty of Empires, a Granny Smith or two. I turned to the others and said, “Apples. Good apples too.”

Someone from the shade inquired, “How do you know?”

I moved my nose over the line. The apples on top certainly looked good—smooth and shiny and all of that. But in fairness, I may well have been assuming too much. I bent over more and saw one with a brown, thumb-shaped depression. Another was gored with worm holes. A third resembled the face of a very old man.

“A few bad apples,” I announced.

“How do you know just a few?” asked someone else. “That’s a big barrel. What about the apples underneath?”

“I’m not comfortable crossing that line.”

“It’s just an arbitrary demarcation. And anyway, who made it?”

Up to this point, I believed I’d been patient and reasonable. Now, with these questions—these critiques, really—I grew angry. Was I supposed to scrutinize every single apple? That was an awful lot of work.

“Where is the quality control?” They asked.

Bitterly, I told them I’d not been there when the barrel had been filled.

“Why are you upset at us and not the contents of the barrel?”

I threw up my hands. They’d gone and spoiled it all now, these whiners behind me. All we were trying to do is have another good old fashioned apple festival. Those people are why we can’t have nice things.

Arrest them? Yes. If they continue to be aggressive, I may have no other choice.

Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections--Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, and Main Street Rag. Website link: https://michaelcocchiarale.wordpress.com/