Can’t wait to read PRISM 52:4? Here’s a sneak peek at “This is How I Remember You” by Cathy Kozak, the winner of PRISM’s 2014 Fiction Contest. This tense, vividly detailed story explores the intersection of a woman’s past and present lives after she receives an unexpected phone call.
PRISM 52:4 launches on July 17. Pick up your copy to read “This is How I Remember You,” along with new work by Julie Paul, Trevor Corkum, Jordan Mounteer, and many more talented writers.
What I remember first about you is this: the birthmark like a bruise across one cheek. White hair. Moody blue eyes. Your earring, a tarnished silver cross, the talisman you never took off. And that you were a fighter, your fate clenched in your fists. Vlad.
I pick up the kitchen phone on the first ring and a queue of coins clanks through the line. Only the kids would call from a payphone, wheedling money, offering up their recycled needs: tithes for a beady-eyed guru in Goa, bribes for the Federali, American dollars for the bonesetter when the youngest is tossed off the Great Wall by a rogue wind. But the kids are in town for the summer and for once they all have jobs and apartments, which puts Rich, their father, in a rare, celebratory mood.
I watch him through the kitchen window as he unfolds himself from the hammock strung between the house and the blue spruce at the far end of the deck. From there, the backyard drops steeply to the river, its terraces overgrown with ornamental grass, running bamboo, lavender, mint, and wild white roses. The roots of two plum trees wade ankle deep in water. It’s midsummer but the river is still high, engorged after the dangerous spring runoff. Rotten docks and white plastic lawn chairs churn past as the current surges towards the dam.
Rich sidles into the kitchen from the deck, leaves his empty wine glass on the table and kisses me hard on the mouth. He tastes of currants and black pepper, from the wine, which explains the kiss. When it’s over, the Monopoly game comes out and he moves his chair closer to the counter, where I wait for whoever is on the other end of the phone. I’m ready to hang up, but something stops me.
“Who’s on the phone?” he mouths. Another coin shudders through the line. I shrug.
Fyodor, our parrot, swivels his furious red head in my direction. “Who’s on the phooone Juuune!” He swings back and forth on the chandelier above the kitchen table like he’s revving up for a night of big band.
“Can’t you shut him up?” Rich asks. He lays out the Monopoly board. Distributes cash. Shuffles the Chance cards. Little of his life is left to chance. Cards are counted. Bets hedged. I am the wild card.
I fling a dishcloth at Fyodor. A riff of static buzzes through the phone line and your voice, throaty and low, which I haven’t heard in thirty-five years, says, “I want to talk to June.”