The gondolier looks like Charlie Chaplin as a girl and Sophia Loren as a boy. When you step into their gondola, you teeter—one leg fawn, the other bird. The gondolier waves their lace-gloved hands, steadying you as if you are connected by invisible marionette strings. Fingertip to fingertip.
You look up and the stars hang low in the sky, flickering light bulbs you could catch between your teeth. Crunch them like sugar-frosted baubles.
You look down and the gondola is made of confectionery putty and dove feathers, swirling pink and granulated white.
You have to think positive thoughts, the gondolier tells you. Only then will we sail smoothly across the canal.
You do, you think rose-tinted thoughts until the Atlas bones that hold up your skull tingle, the sensation traveling down your spine. You think positive thoughts, although the act doesn’t come easy. No, it doesn’t come easy at all.
An ouroboros marks the skin of the gondolier’s chest through their open shirt, the glinting satin. You watch the inked snake swallow itself as they propel your gondola forward. Their fingers flex around the oar and the skin ripples like a mirage, over and over again. You sit transfixed, tracing the sigil through the air, until the gondolier notices and smiles.
You can touch, they tell you, as long as you remember to hold the gondola together with positive thoughts.
But you cannot touch, fearing if you do they’ll dissolve to stardust, and your boat to rosewater.
The gondolier is beautiful, split down the middle like a butterfly, one half moonlit silver, the other rainbowed nacre. They are so handsome you begin to cry. Your fingers come away from your cheeks stained with stage makeup: pancake pale, newsprint smudged. And when you put your fingers in your mouth, you taste pink marzipan spiked with the glass of shattered stars.
Things the Strongman Lifted
By Avra Margariti
The Serial Killer and His Husband
By Avra Margariti
Today the serial killer wakes up with his heart in his throat. His fingers feel for the bulbous organ, a grapefruit under his Adam’s apple. It nestles between the roots of his collarbones, fluttering avian augury under the skin.
The serial killer’s unsuspecting husband finds an axe toy in the cereal box, pours milk from a carton printed with the faces of the missing, spills the first spoonful onto the newspaper inked with the latest body found like roadkill on the side of the highway.
The serial killer is a doting spouse. He buys tulips, and bonbons, and gives the best back rubs. Right there, his husband says, melting underneath his capable hands, not knowing to be grateful that they never linger unduly on his pulse-points, his delicate ribs. His husband doesn’t mind that the serial killer’s heart is rarely in the same place twice. It’s been years since it last lived inside his chest.
During a kill, his heart traverses his fingertips, split in ten chambers instead of four, pulsing exultant. Yet, it’s never been in his throat before. The serial killer comes down the stairs, each step a mile. He nods at the cereal toy, soaks up the spilled milk with the newspaper, kisses his husband on the temple.
They’re still kissing when the police break down the door.
Avra Margariti is a queer author and poet from Greece. Avra’s work haunts publications such as SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).