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Inventing a Frown
by Brad D. Green

One way or another, Felix Saraband knew that before 3 o'clock he must invent a way to stop smiling. "You are not being human." he said to the bathroom mirror. "Stop, stop, stop smiling." An hour away from her funeral and he wasn't dressed. He swallowed a deep breath. How bronze his chest looked! On his stomach, his fingers sounded a hollow and tight thump thump. Clotting hair crackled under his rubbing palms. In the reflection, if he raised his heels and arched his back, his penis sprouted hard and long as the handle of a ratchet.

He unwrapped two new toothbrushes and set them in the holder, pushed one so that it leaned into the other, bristles touching. Reaching inside the medicine cabinet, he fumbled for a new bottle of cologne. Three prescription bottles crashed to the floor instead. On one of the wobbling labels he read her name: Ona Saraband. He kicked the bottles behind the toilet.

Stop smiling, he thought. Forty minutes from the funeral, he decided to entertain thoughts of immense gravity. He imagined holding a broken kitten, soft as warm pudding. The sound a butterfly's bone might make, breaking. Supermodels with bullet wounds. Infant autopsies. Felix Saraband tried his best to stop smiling.

He looked in the mirror. Damn.

Later, he received a phone call.

"You're really coming then?" he asked.

"She was my sister after all."

He concentrated on that fact. "What you going to wear?"

"My black dress."

"That really short one? Wear that short one."

"Just be there on time," she said.

He straightened the knot in his tie over the humor in his throat and tried to swallow it away.

On the way, he stopped at a store.

"What's the most sour candy you got here?" he asked the clerk.

The clerk pointed.

"That'll work great, I think."

Ona's sister was late. Oh well, he thought. All the better. The body was small and indistinct in the polished coffin. The hands of his friends and relatives found his palms wet, his neck steamed, his cheeks dry. Men shook his hand and gripped his shoulder; women feathered his stomach with their fingers as if to calm something there. All eyes on him softened.

When she entered, chewing gum, he fumbled in his pocket for the sour candy, tossed a piece into his mouth and bit down. Midway through the motion, he realized that he had misjudged where the clerk had pointed, and, as the orange cream exploded, he laughed.

About the author:
Brad D. Green nurtures a strong dislike for skunks. Read the other journals that have been kind enough to accept his work: Thieves Jargon, Johnny America, Fried Chicken and Coffee, The Blueprint Review, as well as others. He maintains a blog of questionable worth at

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