in beauty, snow, beginning normal

J. A. Tyler

With black. Silence, hanging. Like that. Then a man's mouth, framed in by black. From cheek to cheek, a face sliced in edges. He says: I make snow. And we see his teeth and the posture of his lips, the conviction of the words: I make snow. And then the black again, quick and held, darkness, and inside it the laugh of a woman, strong, sensible, beautiful. And her face, shoulders to top of her straight hair, her face the structure of an overblown balloon, lips inflated and ripping from the rest, cheeks drooped and unsteady, eyes warped in swollen squinted lines. Her: laughing.

Black. The insides of a shadow. Then: a coffee pot filling, dripping. A kitchen window and cracked backsplash tiles, steam going up an inside pane of glass, the wind, a breeze. A kitchen table, blonde wood, clean. Two coats on wall pegs, one green and bold, bulky, hurt, one slack and thin. An unmade bed, the corner peeled, like an orange half naked, like a skin. The blind of a window. The guess of light. Conjecture. And from nowhere, invisible, two loud claps, hands meeting. Loud. Clap, clap.

Outside: the want of sun, the clouds, an unbeautiful sunrise. Gray. Fall fallen leaves, stirring and subtle, rattling in stuck positions. An empty metal trash can at the end of a gravel drive. Residue of iced rain on moments of concrete. No sounds of birds. Trees stoic, their bark romantic, the imagined hum of piano keys. A dejected fence, slats falling. An unused birdhouse hanging from a limb. A pale street, like a shroud. The quiet of dying.

His face, the man, thick glasses, wide, rimming his face. His eyes magnified. His face behind another glass, a concave lens, another magnifier. Him: concentrating, licking lips, pulling a strand of leftover hair back over his balding. Terse in colorless walls, a sagging ceiling, dormer windows behind and around, his hands, playing at microscopic instruments. The shift to the focus, to the object at work. Nothing but air, but space, pretending.

He tightens his hands, knuckles unmanageable. He clenches and unclenches, flexes. Closes his eyes, listening to voices in his head, listening to silence, listening to the rhythm of unheard words. Directions. The stoop of phrasing. The wind, a breeze. Him picking up and setting down. A tool, a tool, a tool. He wants. We see he can't. Flexing and unflexing. He needs but can't. Transparent. Apparent.

And her, in another place, sitting on the flush of a bench, the cold damp cement. The gray behind her. Her coat black. Her frame of nothing, weightless in ways. Her face encumbered with squinted eyes, the swell and punch of bruising, the constant look of her face. The lips, tearing away from her face. Creeping off or away. Her. Sitting. Hands underneath her thighs, resting. A follow from her laughter, a continuation of her look, she looks up to the clouds, the haze of deep snow cloud gray. She watches at nothing. Smiling in her big and uncomforting face. Kicks her heels on the ground, bouncing, the gesture of small girls. Shoulders hugging in to her neck.

Another man, a slicker man, a man with black hair in rifts, waving back. A man with cut chin and square jaw. A man with glistening in his smile, he is smiling. He is waving. He holds one arm up, raised enough to lift the shoulder of his suit, to create a ripple. His stomach abed and flat inside a button down, underneath a greased tie, the new colors, the shape. He is a man that people want. He is pretty. He is clean. He is not shaping invisible objects with thin metal tools. He waves at crowds. There is applause, occasional muted voices, the sound of admiration.

Close on: the tools, diligent around nothing, weaving in and out of the air, darting, pecking, a tool traded out, another in, another. Creating in shapes and shouting movements. Up over. Up over, under. Through. Through. Nothing. Tools, tools.

The woman's thick face. Smiling. The man's tools, working. The sound of muted applause and conversation, the excitement of seeing the other man, the one waving, raising his muscled arm to a crowd.

To black. To dense color until there is no color. Sick darkness. The words: happily ever after.

They sit at the table. The blonde table. This man, his knuckles, this woman and her ugly face. She is ugly. He doesn't see it. He lifts a fork of mashed potatoes to his mouth. She smiles and squints. He smiles back. His face is smaller and distant, he is consumed. She is happy. He takes another fork. She stabs a green bean. He takes a drink of iced tea. She does the same. She smiles at him and he smiles back, smaller again. She looks down at the table, thinking of something. He eats. Thinking of nothing.

The waving man, his face, crunched by the black frame, the outside lines, his face being touched up by make-up, a brush and swift movements. His eyes are closed tightly, his face a plastic smile, happy. Fingers tussle and grip his hair, adjust and skim it, making changes. He keeps his eyes closed. He keeps his smile on. He always keeps his smile on.

J. A. Tyler is the author of THE GIRL IN THE BLACK SWEATER (Trainwreck Press), EVERYONE IN THIS IS EITHER DYING OR WILL DIE OR IS THINKING ABOUT DEATH (Achilles Chapbook Series), SAMSARA (Paperhero Press), & SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (Ghost Road Press). He is also founding editor of MUD LUSCIOUS and ML PRESS. Visit for more.