“Firewater & Pixie Dust”
by Karen Lillis
Words Like Kudzu Press, 2013
Karen’s “Meet the Writer” feature can be found HERE.
I first encountered Karen Lillis’s work Watch the Doors as They Close from Spuyten Duyvil here. I recall thinking that the women in the novella was trapped in a relationship that seemed less-than-healthy. The theme remains the same in “Firewater & Pixie Dust,” but the tone in Lillis’s chapbook is one I liked more. She describes a dysfunctional relationship, but the female is more analytic. The result is a funnier story that doesn’t lose the message of problematic relationships that, from what I’m reading, most likely need to be put of out their misery.
A woman and her boyfriend David are on their way to meet the woman’s brother at a bar on Halloween. Even the costumes the couple wear are wrong, his being too pretentious for anyone to really “get.” This is our introduction to David. We learn that he likes to talk a lot, too:
He told her stories about his former lovers and stories about his former colleagues and stories about all the other bright young things he used to run with in a former life full of ambition and hope. He told her stories of his childhood in Pennsylvania and stories of the days he spent in Paris and stories of the months he spent in Austria. He told her stories that annoyed her and stories that surprised her and stories that made her marvel that he was here to tell them. When he ran out of stories, he told her jokes in which a viola player always suffered the punch line: she was learning that these were the Pollock jokes of the classical music world.
What a ridiculous human being (I’d call him an ass-hat to his face). According to the “About the Author” section, “Firewater & Pixie Dust” is an outtake from Watch the Doors as They Close, so it’s no wonder I have a strong dislike for the guy half of the relationship. The repetition of “stories about” made me both smile and wonder how such a man isn’t alone as a result of himself.
I couldn’t help but smile again when the woman describes how her boyfriend is a “type” that is specific to people who ride the L train:
The unemployed, the barely employed, the artists who were allergic to resumes, the “freelancers” who were perpetually in between gigs. Young men aspiring to the trust fund nonchalance without the bankroll….These relationships were always temporary, but there was always another one to be had. It was like a parade of lost boys was always marching down the L line, hopping from one slammed door to the next woman’s open arms, her warm futon, her motherly teat.
I felt reassured that this woman knew what was what, comparing men on the L train to an assortment of have-nots, implying that women are the “haves,” the doers and sustainers. At that point, it’s up to the woman to decide how things will change (or not change), and the special quirks of Lillis’s characters will keep you guessing as to how the story will end.