Deep Breath

by by Lucy Kissel

illustration by by Diane Zhou



I - V



He would start walking around a little bit in the fall.  Thinking, Why am I holding these dog leashes?  Checking the weather on the front page of the paper, sitting on a bench, thinking, That seems about right. Saving the rest of the pages for later.

In the lobby, he would ask the doorman, Have any treats for the dogs?  See the front page this morning?




Haloed in sweat, he would ask for a back scratch.  Nobody’s paying attention to me.

He would dial his father’s phone number.  Someone would pick up.  The number, once belonging to a man now dead, secure in his temporal cortex, reissued.  He and the woman on the other side of the line would talk for a while, until she had to go make dinner, go take a shower, go do something the living do.

Next, he would call the police.  My wife is out of town and I am very lonely.




In the tub, he would get hot then cold quickly.  The water feels like liquid nitrogen!  He would bring the paper in with him and get it too wet to read.

I’d really like a nice cold Coke.  What, is it going to kill me, then, Jeez, I was just joking around.

He would think the view from the window looked an awful lot like Pasadena.  He would stare, scratching the sickspot.




You’re so far away in the kitchen and I can sort of hear you and you need to speak either significantly louder or significantly softer.

He would want the paper read aloud to him.  Words like “investment” and “subway” and “mother” would prompt tangents.  He would fall asleep and snore evenly.



His hands would stop working.  By April, they would no longer hold.

A neurologist would loom over his bedside and tell him he was lucky. His feet would twitch under the sheets, a somatic reaction to the affront.  

In a few hours he would remember only the shadows of anger. He would wake up curious about the hydrangeas next to him, the cards on the table, the people who had left them there.

You’ve had another stroke, someone would say gently.

He would wink. A stoke of what? Forgetting to ache for a moment, able to grasp nothing.




Something about the Depth of the Inhale

The Graces’ house has a long and winding driveway, on which they ask that you drive slowly, so as not to dislodge the gravel.  It is sheltered by trees and the weather that rolls off the pond behind it.  

There is a tent in the yard, keeping the rain out.  High heels planted in the dirt, anteriors waving, drinks spilling.

Delilah says, I was sorry to hear about your father.  I’m really going to miss playing tennis with him.  

The new house next door, visible when the trees thin in fall, is a low-lying stucco misfit.  The zoning committee will let you build anything during a recession, Audrey says.

Two young boys play tag in the rain.  We watch them, closely, needy, as if they are little oracles.

Mr. and Ms. Grace separated last summer.  They still live together in this house, for part of the year at least.  It looks like a wedding cake.  All that architectural frippery that had made them overlook the wonky heating system and decrepit plumbing.

Somebody makes a speech.  It’s not a toast, but everybody follows it with a drink.

I read that if you eat one hundred calories of dark chocolate per day, you can’t get a sunburn, Delilah says, changing the subject, the grass dead beneath her.

Smoking cigarettes in the morning is worse for you than smoking cigarettes at night, medically speaking.  It’s something about the depth of the inhale, Audrey adds.

Ms. Grace says hello.  

You know, all of the ice in Newport used to come from Lily Pond. Daphne pointed behind us.  This used to be as big a city as New York.  She takes a drink from her sweating glass, and stares over its brim for a few seconds after its finished.  

The Grace’s dog ambles with senility, knocking into tables and legs, wondering what we are all doing here.