Oyster Boy Review 05  
  September 1996
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» Levee 67


Still Life with Tilt

C. C. Russell

I guess if my life was a painting, it'd have to be one of a girl with ratty hair playing a pinball game." Her head tilted back as she blew smoke into the air. I was staring at her neck as if I had never seen it before. The floating dock bobbed slightly as the waves from a passing boat finally reached us. "What about you?" She turned towards me and sucked again on her cigarette. I watched the heat as it touched her lips.

"I don't know. I guess maybe a bowl of fruit, except you're looking at it from underneath, like through a glass coffee table and all you can see is a few grapes sticking out over the edge. I guess the grapes would have to look real fake, too. I don't know." I shrugged. I always said 'I don't know' a lot around her. It was how she made me feel.

"I understand," she said. She didn't.

"The only way you could be painted playing that pinball game is if the quarter slot was unlocked and you had unlimited plays."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know." I shrugged. The dock bobbed again and she dropped her cigarette into the water. I strained to hear the way it sizzled when it hit and reached for my own pack. I was trying to quit and she knew it, but she insisted on smoking around me. She liked power and knowing she had things I was trying to forget. I lit my cigarette slowly, watching the lighter's flame flicker in the breeze.

"I thought you were trying to quit."

"I am." I wanted to tell her that I was the fucking ball in her little pinball game and I was sick of pretending that I wasn't, but I didn't. I watched her adjust her swimsuit out of the corner of my eye. She knew I was watching. The dock bobbed. I tilted back my head and blew smoke into the air.

She smiled and ran a wet finger along my neck. "I think you'd be able to see more than just grapes."

"I don't know." I shrugged and inhaled. The dock bobbed. I dropped my cigarette into the water and listened for the sizzle as it hit. I pulled another out of the pack.

"I thought you were trying to quit."

"I was."