Dreamsympathy by Logan Ellis

(after Dorothea Tse)

In the dining room of your dream, our families are joined for dinner. Fire sits cross-legged at the table in my sister’s place, arms outstretched, leaning & expectant like a punctured crucifix. It doesn’t even know what to say.

Get your elbows off the table my mom shouts to Fire, and it does, ceasing the flames licking to the butter dish. Fire is always so well-behaved, my dad says to your parents, almost as if to himself, slowly nodding his headful of chimes. Fire’s head begins to lull on its left shoulder, groaning.

Go to your room if you’re going to be like this, Mom chants. Now where were we? Oh right, you should move out as soon as possible.

And leave your key, Dad hums. Not that it matters; we’re changing the locks.

Your parents seem arrested in their own dreams. Your stepdad crayoned to the wall, donning a sterilized white coat and pale-blue surgical mask, breath dampening everything around him. Your mother’s tired, tired expression. You and I are the frequencies leftover. I look to you, you through me, light flooding your glasses. Fire begins to dissolve, spilling over the table and floor, the room suddenly eaten with it. Now everyone is darkened by flame, and I can’t tell who is who.

I cough. Will someone pass the butter?

Fire spreads a path around your stepdad, and he gently blows the butter to me like a paper ship. Inside the dish, languid mucus-like chunks shift back and forth. It takes me a minute to realize the liquid is my sister and the chunks: her baby. I sit the dish in front of me and finish dinner. I glance to you again for assurance that this will end soon, but Fire is eating through your thinness. My parents are collecting bowls of tears they don’t want, holding them out to boil.

Logan Ellis holds an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. He’s the author of Etymologizer (Maudlin House 2017), and his work has appeared in Enizagam, Fog Machine, A Galaxy of Starfish.