Excerpts from Rachel Levy’s A Book So Red, winner of the 2014 Caketrain Competition and finalist for the TS Book Prize.
if it falls over
He said, “It wasn’t good.”
He curled my hair with tongs.
He told me to climb up and sit on the bed.
It wasn’t erotic. I wasn’t erotic.
I was sitting on the bed, and then I fell off the bed.
Nothing sexual about that!
And I was after something else.
It goes like this: if it falls over then it should be put back.
i went along
It’s called a penis.
It was hard. I had no idea it was there.
“I’m coming,” he said, and it had nothing to do with me.
I didn’t understand a thing.
It’s like a blow, but I didn’t understand.
I didn’t want to fall the wrong way. I was wearing a tight dress.
Naturally that intrigued him.
He curled my hair.
I went along. It wasn’t erotic.
We had a talk.
“I’m coming,” he said.
I said, “Well, alright. If you want to.”
At first, I called him “Horse.”
“What does it mean?”
“It’s German. Horst. With a T.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Don’t say that.”
a real berliner
And then there was a woman.
Once I spoke German to her, but it led to excess. For instance, in Berlin, I simply said, “One cannot say that.”
She was Mitzi, a real Berliner. She took me in.
She behaved like a lover. She behaved just like a lover.
Naturally she did.
People always were going to faint, but Mitzi calmly replied, standing stiff, “I’m listening.”
“Does that seem strange?”
At a certain point, Mitzi had no idea. “I saw a gang,” she said.
“Were they soldiers?”
“They were flowers. It was summer. I love you.”
I told Mitzi she was sick, like a person with lice or a demon.
“I love you,” I said, but that was a lie, a demon or a word that conceals another.
patient hands like pillows
We lived in the apartment of Mitzi’s dead parents.
For how long? It was temporary.
The things inside were wooden, and outside they were trees. Their arms were full of snow. It was difficult to see if we were really alone.
There was a valley full of snow.
There were streets. There was a lake of snow.
But where were they? The people!
They could’ve been advancing, approaching or simply biding their time in the yard several feet beneath the white surface. Face up and ankles crossed, using their patient hands for pillows—why?
“Why would anybody do that?”
“Lust,” said Mitzi.
camouflage in a forest fire
I talked about what I hardly knew myself.
I once said, “The seas shouldn’t be servile, the hills standing stiff.”
I spoke my mind. Superficially. This led to—I forget now—a mask or a code?
One cannot say that light is camouflage in a forest fire, so I said, “Marshes can be useful.”
Mitzi said she wanted an island. She couldn’t say any more.
I immediately got dressed. It was obvious that I needed to preserve our dignity.
“I could be useful,” I said.
So I made up a story. It was a game. I looked at Mitzi and I said, “Would you rather live in a room, a well, or the night?”
She threw me out.
I slept in the stairwell.
I was woken in the dark. It was Mitzi. Next we were laying on her dead parents’ bed, as close as Eurydice and Orpheus, obliged to stay.
as far as the torso
This was Christmas tree country, and Mitzi wanted to topple over all of them in other people’s living rooms.
I was sad.
By sad, I mean sad.
I’d become allergic to foods—too many of them—and I wasn’t even old yet.
What I’m saying is, I had days to live but nothing to eat.
“What do I do now, Mitzi?”
In the beginning I tried to eat a human-shaped cookie left out on a plate. There were three circles of icing between the face and the groin. I started at the bottom, so I could eat the head last. That way it could experience everything.
“It knows what’s happening,” I said to Mitzi.
I ate up the feet.
I ate up the thighs. By that point the tree had been toppled, the presents smashed. Mitzi stood over the wreckage, peeing.
“Don’t get your dress wet, Mitzi!”
I screamed “Mitzi!” when someone large, in pajamas, came crashing down the stairs with a long gun or a bat.
I ate up as far as the torso, then I practically died.
one door open
Mitzi behaved just like a lover.
And I resisted.
No, that’s not what I mean.
I said, “It’s okay. You don’t have to show me.”
I couldn’t see a thing.
At that point, there was only one door open. It led to—I forget. Forgive me. I had already obliterated my freedom.
The petting zoo? The park?
We tried to explore.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Levy’s A Book So Red was the winning manuscript in the 2014 Caketrain Competition, as judged by Peter Markus. Her fiction has been published in journals such as The Collagist, Drunken Boat, Everyday Genius, Fence, Gigantic, Pank and Similar Peaks. She lives in Salt Lake City where she is a PhD student at the University of Utah and an administrative fellow for Fiction Collective Two. She was born eight weeks premature.