All Accounts and Mixture: "Small Spaces" by Will Slattery

We are very excited to bring you our second annual All Accounts and Mixture Web Feature! Taken from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, and the poem “Rooms,” our series title appears in the line: “Cadences, real cadences, real cadences and a quiet color. Careful and curved, cake and sober, all accounts and mixture, a guess at anything is righteous, should there be a call there would be a voice.

We received many amazing submissions and will be posting new pieces by different writers every day, so be sure to check this page often. Our first feature is "Small Spaces" by Will Slattery. Enjoy!


Small Spaces

Fred, my landlord, needs my help installing a new alarm system.  I got robbed the week before and he feels just awful about it.  Just awful.  He’s wearing black cargo shorts.  He always does.  That’s what he likes about Tucson.  Always good for shorts.  He owns the house next door too.  His family owns half the block I live on.  Been there for ages.  His granddad founded the first bus line that would go south of the tracks.  So there’s a few bus stations named after him.

I nod, not really listening, even though I like him.  It’s a copper-bright morning, and I’m staring through the open window at a pomegranate that died last fall.  I only get a few each year, and the birds knock most of them down, or they fall and get crushed into the dry sand.  This one’s lingered on the tree since October. The birds split it open, but it never fell.  They plucked and pierced the seeds, beaks stained ruby, and left the exterior to harden itself, to make itself firm, a little jagged near the edge.

I hold the alarm sensors in place and Fred marks where he needs to cut through the dull metal frame to make room.  The sensors are plastic, cheap.  One goes off.  The tinny arrhythmic chirping is less vigorous crime deterrent and more a small-town doctor from ’97 just got a page that he will ignore until he finishes his lunch.

Are you still single?  Yeah, I say.  Guess I just haven’t met the right woman yet.

I don’t tell him about all the guys.  There was Jesus, 40 pounds lighter than me, who asked, half-tears and half-rage, flat on his back, when I was mid-thrust if he was too fat for me.  I shook my head. 

Or Alex, who left his black mid-calf socks and his scapular on.  Our Miniature Lady of Guadalupe decked out in sage green, staring dolefully down, away from me of course, eyes politely averted with her hands pressed together at her chest.  She stuck to his sweaty back as he bucked and buckled in turn.  She had darkened to jade by the time we were done. 

Or Mark, from San Francisco.  He took his socks off.

Or the one who asked if I had any food when we were done and so I warmed a slice of extra cheese extra sauce pepperoni.  He soaked up the orange oil from the blue plate with his chewy crust and ate it all but he still wouldn’t tell me his name.

Fred marks the frame, takes it down, and sets in with his hacksaw.  He cuts a two-inch flap into the frame and bends it back, scattering a thimbleful of cobalt dust on the sill.  It’s a neat, tight hole that the alarm will occupy, barely noticeable from the outside.

I’m out to most people but I still get the occasion to lie about it once every 4 days or so.  A friend from high school wants me to go on a “beer-and-senoritas” trip to Panama.  A coworker asks which customers I think are hot.  A stray cousin wants to know how my dating life is.  My grandmother pulls me aside and wants to know, and she’s not upset, she would never be upset, but she wants to know if she has a chance of great-grandchildren before she dies.  Closets on closets on closets.  That’s what nobody tells you.  It’s closets all the way down.

Around guy number 11 a friend starts to call me the King of Non-monogamy, but that’s a bit off.  A-monogamy is more like it.  Non- means refusal, a choice.  A- means an absence, an inability, an impossibility.  We knew that these were only ever intimacies abridged; 1-3 hours max, please, after supper, but early enough to still leave time for Netflixing alone before bed.  Clean up after yourself and make sure to say thank you when you’re done.

We rounded off our own corners.  We bent ourselves back and made sure our spaces were easy to fit into.

Fred slides the screen frame back into place.  Well, you know, some cute girls are moving into the place next door.  He smiles—impish, well-meaning, and vicarious.  Oh yeah, I say, how old are they?

I’ll make it more than a week someday, maybe.


Will Slattery is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona, an Editor-in-Chief for Sonora Review, a native Texan, and a reformed cheseemonger. He tweets on rare occasion: @wjaslattery.