10,000 on “Foreign Film” by Kathy Fish

the hum of spiders: an anthology
of works & words

 

Kathy Fish

Foreign Film
 
They are watching a movie about a man who cheats on his wife, whom he loves, and is so disconsolate that his wife eventually loses all patience and leaves him. They are at the point in the film where the man considers his many blunders as he walks along a rocky shoreline carrying what looks to be a large vase. The director of the film is Yugoslavian.
 
They have argued through dinner and through the night and now it’s nearly dawn. They have no eyes for subtitles. The musical score unnerves them. It is exactly the sound of an accordion squeezing the life out of a kitten.
 
The woman rolls off the couch and lies on the floor. The light in the room changes. Through the window, the clouds resemble dove’s feathers. The man stretches his legs out. He mutes the television and chuckles. She thinks he muted the television to make sure she would hear him chuckle.
 
“I’m going out there,” she says, pointing. “I’m going to put my boots on and go for a walk.”
 
The disconsolate man’s face fills the screen but the couple is no longer watching. The subtitles flash in quick succession.
 
“And when I get back, I’m taking a shower,” she continues. “And you, Laughing Man, you can do whatever you want.”
 
The man in the film stares. The screen is clear of words. His gaze is urgent and equable.
 
“Are you listening to me?” she asks. She has not gotten up. She has not put on her boots.
 
“It’s all here,” he says, tapping his forehead. “It’s been archived.” He chuckles again, eyes closed.
 
The room brightens. She stands and hovers over him. He is sleeping. She splays the fingers of one hand and lowers them to his face. The click and whoosh of the furnace makes her jump. She turns to the television. The disconsolate man has waded into the surf. He cocks the vase back in his palm and heaves it in a wide arc into the sea.
 
[“Foreign Film” is a flash included in Together We Can Bury It, a collection by Kathy Fish (Lit Pub Books, 2012).]
 
~
 
A great piece of writing is one I carry in my head – voice, setting, tone, imagery – long after reading it. It’s a piece I directly connect with in such strong fashion that my everyday life is impacted. On a cold, snowy day on a drive by an empty field, Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man” begins to tug at me. That’s great writing. “Foreign Film” by Kathy Fish is such a work. Using only 337 words in a compressed and Carver-like style, complete with sharp dialogue, Fish creates a multilayered piece that is staggering in its directness.

When I first read Fish’s story, I couldn’t get the scene – this one powerful moment in the lives of no names – out of my head. It’s there still. In the structure of the piece, there’s a real-life couple fictionalized, arguing the night while watching a foreign film on television – a film whose characters are fictionalized but made real in the story. Life resembles art resembles life. The two worlds meet, as it were, and it’s Fish’s writing ability that makes this work. The final paragraph – a story in itself – is haunting. Two physical acts, though separated by time, language, and levels of reality, move as though locked in parallel motion. Great writing indeed. This story is a gift.
 
 
My piece about “Foreign Film” originally appeared in Fictionaut Faves, 8 March 2010…

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~ by samofthetenthousandthings on March 21, 2012.

2 Responses to “10,000 on “Foreign Film” by Kathy Fish”

  1. Thanks so much for this, Sam.

  2. Lots of layers to this story. I keep coming back.

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