By Lucian Mattison

Tadeu’s arm sank like a plumb line, taut between the couch cushions, not reaching for anything, but blindly rolling crumb-like grit under his fingers. He touched something like a hay needle. The television swept across a panorama of Pacific Islands. It looked just like the tops of mountains poking out over dense cloud cover, atoll an open top volcano of blue lava.

Jo talked about an ex who he was texting again. He picked up the lighter, flicked the wheel, flame licking on and off. He tapped the cigarette on the glass ashtray balanced on the couch arm. It nodded with him as he fell silent.

Tadeu waited for him to continue. He didn’t.

“We’re leaving soon anyway,” Tadeu said, putting his head on Jo’s thigh.

Jo agreed and turned back to the episode of Blue Planet on coastal waters. A billow of salt steam and laze erupted from a knuckle of lava, its frayed edge like wet dough, baked solid by cold. The ocean hissed back, mineral turned brittle in its newness. Tadeu sunk further, now up to his shoulder in the cushions, unable to pull away. The further he sank into the couch, the more lava cooled somewhere else on a coastline, expanding the reaches of the far islands on TV. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him when I’m back. Obviously, I want to see him again,” Jo said.

“I know. I can’t stop you.”

Jo didn’t mention anything about the people who would fill his place while Tadeu finished up his last year. Jo wanted open endedness or people with expiration dates. 

Tadeu sunk, most of his body disappearing into the couch. He raked at the leather cushions with his remaining hand. Jo went on, tapped his cigarette into the glass block. Lava hit the ocean, more steam, volcanic glass shattering into acid plume. 

The ocean enshrouded Tadeu. 

Jo’s muffled voice murmured above him, as if being pushed through a pile of wet laundry. A list of fish broke formation, caved in as they swam past, evaded the tumble of hot rock settling like toothpaste in a sink basin. The ocean was electric blue, hotly violent. Tadeu watched as words piled atop him, more liquid rock. Waves smoothing it over him like thumbs on cracked clay, until all light was locked out. 

The inside of the rock was silent. The television showered Jo’s sleeping body in swatches of color. He’d wake up while it was still dark outside, gather his keys and wallet, and leave the house for good. For months, the ocean bristled around Tadeu. Algae began to cling to his surface. Then, a nest of bivalves. Later, small crustaceans. Life swelled around him. A force, now farther away, raised the earth below, pushed him up above the water’s surface. Ribbons of wind and waves broke over the top of him, and the crustaceans gripped tighter, laid flush against the exposed pieces.


About the Author:

Lucian Mattison is a US-Argentinian poet and translator and author of two books of poetry, "Reaper's Milonga" (YesYes Books, 2018) and "Peregrine Nation" (Dynamo Verlag, 2017). He is based out of Washington, DC, where he may or may not be living among the ghosts of long-deceased reptiles. His poetry, short fiction, and translations appear in numerous journals including Hayden's Ferry Review, The Offing, Puerto Del Sol, Sixth Finch, and Third Coast. Read more at Lucianmattison.com.
You can also find him on Twitter (@luciannumerouno) and
Instagram (@luciannumberone).

About Weekly Flash Prose and Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.