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Flash Fiction
967 words
SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Kiss the Joint

Line-Maria Lång

Translated from Danish by Thomas E. Kennedy

I’ve just come out onto Reventlowsgade when a bald man asks me if I want to share a joint, if I’ll have a hit, where I’m going, if he can have my number. I feel flattered, and I’m tired of the uneasiness in my body. My spine feels stiff as a long broomstick holding together all the soft accessories of arms and legs. My blood bubbles through my body and prickles under the skin like newly poured club soda on the tongue.

He sits easily on a front stoop, smoking, and has a dark brown beard, but I’m certain he’s an addict. It has something to do with the way he moves. Gliding, slowly lurching, perfect movements rounded off with a little upward twitch of one corner of his mouth. And the thinness that has settled in his arms, so the elbows are broad and bony.

It occurs to me his lips are dirty, and sickness almost streams out of him with the smoke that doesn’t flow out into the air. I take the joint when he offers it, and I close my eyes as if we were kissing. That’s a reflex where mechanical movements long ago were overshadowed by sensuality.

A mother with a baby carriage comes bursting out of the central station even if it is so late. The child cries right into my face with an open drooling mouth and shameless eyes. We smoke the joint and walk down Istedgade. He says he wants to walk me home, although he never asks where home is. We see three delicious hookers, standing and laughing. One of them is doubled over. The two others stand behind her in short, dark skirts and bare legs. They giggle with their chins pressed against their chests. My new friend takes my arm, and even if he is shorter than me, it’s okay. The veins in his eyes stand out. The red lines snake through all the white and crawl around like elastic corkscrews, like rats around warm porridge. His pupils are still and dilate a bit when he sucks on the joint and slowly close until they become small pinheads again.

We see a homeless man walking with long steps, his shoulders drawn back. He’s wearing a smart cK sweatshirt.

“Look at him,” I say to my new friend, but he just laughs overbearingly without a glance.

We see a man standing completely still with his two large dogs. The leashes are pulled tight. The dogs just stand there, their tongues hanging down over their small sharp teeth. When they breathe, they bob heavily up and down. Their tongues look like perfect pieces of ham, thin-sliced and pink and fat-free that could easily be laid over a lightly toasted piece of white bread and eaten with pleasure.

“Kiss the joint,” my friend says.

I blush when I take the last drag. Our steps are high until we again walk past a group of voices. In the middle of the pedestrian crossing is nothing but the newly painted white stripes. A blue box plays a signal for the blind. Slow and quick. Easy and excited. I play Für Elise for my friend. I hop from the white paint to the black, flat stripe. He stands leaning against a lamppost with one leg crossed behind the other. I hurry down to the other end of the crossing and close to the blue rhythm box, I find my tone on a white-painted stripe and then back again. He applauds low and slowly but with enthusiasm. Flashes and squints his eyes against the strong light. Behind him on the lamppost hangs a job announcement, and I note that there is someone who wants to be somebody’s arms and legs.

The sun is about to come up, and my friend looks different now. He still looks like an addict but in another way. Like someone who has tried everything and wants to try everything. I think about how he would look with glasses, if he could wear glasses. That’s something you don’t see on addicts but he is one who would look all right in them.

A little old man buzzes around out in the road. Touching his head and mumbling to himself. He looks like someone who is manic. Like someone who runs alongside of cars and thinks he can pass them, thinks he can do anything. And he looks like someone who is depressive. Someone who invites you to dinner when he doesn’t have food and stands without his pants on because he couldn’t pull himself together. And he looks like someone I read about who killed his dog without feeling anything. He strangled it with the leash. It whimpered, and he pulled tighter. It made me sad. Not overwhelmingly, but pretty sad. I cried. Not so much. It wasn’t my dog, and it was a dog, an animal, not a human being.

The little old man still says Negro. He says it because he thinks it sounds friendly and sometimes he switches from Danish to English. He says, “Hey, nigger,” to my friend and “How’s it going, nigger,” and “How are you doing, nigger?” Even though he has grey hair and an ebony pipe and everything. My friend only smiles at him and goes over to English himself when it seems appropriate, saying, “It’s not easy” and “Have a nice day,” and “Later,” and he has taken my arm again. He’s a real gentleman who is constantly attentive, leading me around puddles and steaming newly-dropped dog turds and wet brown yellow leaves. He doesn’t follow me home, and he never gets my number, but his smile is now completely twisted when he stands there and suddenly it’s light, and the other people begin to appear on the street.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Line-Maria Lång

Photos of Line-Maria Lång; montage #2 by Clare MacQueen
LML #1: montage by Clare MacQueen (2013)

was born in 1982, is half Swedish and half Danish, and lives in Copenhagen. Her debut book appeared in 2009, from the prestigious Copenhagen publisher, Rosinante; Rat King (Rottekong) is a collection of short-short stories about a variety of psychologically surreal encounters.

“Doll” has appeared in The Literary Review, and “Kiss the Joint” is published for the first time here. Other translations of her stories have been published in The Southern Review, Serving House Journal, and Absinthe: New European Writing.

A photograph of her lying in the grass on the bank of the lake at Versailles moved Walter Cummins and Thomas E. Kennedy to invite a score of prose writers and poets to write something inspired by the photo, which resulted in the book The Girl with Red Hair: Musings on a Theme (Serving House Books, 2011).

Ms. Lång has just completed a novel.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Thomas E. Kennedy

has published thirty books (novels, story and essay collections, and literary criticism) and translated many Danish writers into American, including Dan Turèll, Henrik Nordbrandt, Pia Tafdrup, Susanne Jorn, Kristian Bang Foss, Martin Glaz Serup, Line-Maria Lång, and others.

More about Kennedy on SHJ’s About page...

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury