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tomato house
flash fiction fantasia
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

She winds the strand again and again, intricate loops that only she can untangle. And she does this like a mantra. Do. Undo. Do. Undo. The hair has a shimmer like river-washed onyx and standing behind her, he is mesmerized, lost in the fluidity of it as it swirls over him. He braces himself against the force of the flow but rolls face down, choked, free yet bound. He hits the rocks and lands, spent, on the gnarled shore, pieces of mussel, sand, and weed layered on his skin.

All this from a $3.95 order of double-mocha latte with extra cream.

Coins clink in the tip jar as she turns toward a place by the window. As sunshine dances across a mosaic tabletop, it adds a wink and a skip to the routine to get her attention. She sits, loosens the buttons of her overcoat, and the radiant light swells and crackles with new energy. Seared by the intensity of coupled voltage, he swivels toward it, and inside winter’s night evolves to outside day. Not just any day, but the opposite solstice, one of blue, yellow and orange design.

The calling card of summer is persuasive and he holds it in both hands, like Japanese custom, then places it in his heart's pocket. The frigidity of the past melts, and he emerges from the puddle confident, even arrogant, that she will belong to him. Not possessively, but wholly, the rapture as much her steed as his, one whose mane he must clasp in a bloodless grip, legs taut for the ride, body hunched in rhythmic parallel form.

Now would be a good time to pick up the demitasse cup ringed in lemon.

Fogged by want, he meanders through nubile aspen trees, their bleached curves supported by girdles of wire and dowels. A meadow rolls up to a tomato house, and its door, bent and hanging off the aluminum frame, allows the bitter pungency of greens and peat moss to spill out. So does a mystery, exotica that does not belong in a glass garden on a hill. Davana, labdanum, clary sage, pomouwood: scents a poet would know well but he is not a poet.

He blinks once, twice, and slips into lushness of Miracle Sweets and Prairie Fires, their decorated globes lording over the minute golden buds of the Cabernet. Arms flailing, he machetes his way through the enchantment until he finds her, cloaked in spindly stems and fronds, crowned by the ruby fruit, glazed in a prism of sunlight. She is the poet. The scents are hers and she washes him with them, liberal with her application until he inhales only her.

Under the direction of his chimera, her hair spreads across the glass to receive him, scattered soil and root tendrils intertwining with bruised leaves leaking an acidic base. He is buried alive and knows it, knows as the earth caresses his pores and enters him. The fruit, crushed beyond repair, releases its juice and he drinks of it in measured gulps, trying to save the sweetness for when he is truly in need, truly without.

"Excuse me, sir? Your order is ready."

The cup rattles on the saucer as he slides it off the counter and settles at an unbalanced table near the magazine rack. His scarf is moist as he uncoils it, releasing a dog-wool-mothball smell.

He twists the band on his finger.

"I need you," he mouths in her direction.

"I know," is all he hears.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


portrait of an artist: gayle lynds
spying on the world
by tracey l. kelley
topic: writing
published: 3.29.10

portrait of an artist: bret anthony johnston
sharing the contents of his writing toolbox
by tracey l. kelley
topic: writing
published: 1.28.08


adam kraemer
3.20.02 @ 10:36a

I actually had a $3.95 double-mocha last night, and nothing like this happened to me. Oh, except someone spread her hair under the direction of my chimera. A complete surprise, as I hadn't been aware of having one of those.

mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 10:47a


tracey kelley
3.20.02 @ 10:55a

Oh, just what was my life like before you two entered it? More dull and more gray, I'm sure.

Took you both long enough, though, didn't it?

mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 11:12a

Tracey, is this story about me? Be honest.

adam kraemer
3.20.02 @ 11:19a

No, Mike. It's about a man.

mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 11:57a

Not your best work, Adam. I'm disappointed in you.

tracey kelley
3.20.02 @ 12:26p

Mike, why are you inquiring? (Genuine question)

matt morin
3.20.02 @ 1:23p

Uh oh. A genuine question was asked. Did you expect to get a genuine response, Tracey?

tracey kelley
3.20.02 @ 2:14p

As much as Mike can give, yes.

mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 3:18p

Well, Tracey, I'm not to good at genuine, especially since my comment was largely facetious. Okay, not largely. Totally. To be honest, I've read the thing like four times, and I can't figure it out. I think I'm dumb.

adam kraemer
3.20.02 @ 4:08p

Not necessarily. I'm struggling with it myself.

sarah ficke
3.20.02 @ 4:19p

Well, I've only read it three times, but I'll give it a try. It seems to be about the way small incidents in everyday life touch off daydreams or fantasies. And it seems to make a pretty big distinction between the man's life and his fantasies. Every time I read it I come up with something different, though.

Good for you, Tracey.

russ carr
3.20.02 @ 4:20p

I smell sex and catsup.

mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 4:23p

Intrepid Media: I don't get it.

jack bradley
3.20.02 @ 4:27p

I'm in love with the "dog-wool-mothball" image.

(And we only just met.)

adam kraemer
3.20.02 @ 4:34p

Okay. New rule - if you want the majority of the Intrepid Media staff to love something, just make sure it's got the word "dog" in it. Cool?

sarah ficke
3.20.02 @ 4:55p

Does that mean you're going to put the word "dog" in your name?

tracey kelley
3.20.02 @ 5:03p

HAHA! Oh Sarah, you're a quick one.

And also quite intuitive with the piece, thank you very much!

Basically, the guy's life is crap, and he knows it, but doesn't know what to do about it. He sees this woman ahead of him in line doing something that so doesn't involve him, but it sends him off into never-never land because he wants to be anywhere but where he is in his life right now.

So I guess, Mike, in a way, it was about you.


There are a few other nuances, but that's the primary theme. I didn't try to make it confusing. Honest.


russ carr
3.20.02 @ 5:08p

Wow. Okay, so I wasn't too far off, huh, Mike?

tracey kelley
3.20.02 @ 5:21p

heh. Sex and catsup.

Another thing we can thank China for.

russ carr
3.20.02 @ 5:26p

Ketchup? Catsup?
Ketchup? Catsup?


mike julianelle
3.20.02 @ 5:36p

No you weren't, Russ. Although you're html-coding leaves something to be desired.

Great Simpsons gag though.

I knew it was about me!

matt morin
3.20.02 @ 8:08p

Tracey, I got it on the first read.

russ carr
3.20.02 @ 8:58p

As does your use of apostrophes.

And Matt's a lying dog, but a dog nonetheless and so must be loved.

matt morin
3.20.02 @ 9:55p

No, I'm serious. I didn't get it right off the bat, but by the half-way point, I knew what was going on.

Swear on the grave of a dead Louisiana turtle.

sloan bayles
3.20.02 @ 10:54p

I must admit, I didn't get it either. I had to call Matt last night for the explanation. I do feel better knowing I wasn't the only one feeling like I not only missed the boat, but the entire fleet. I do love your writing style Trace, but this time I think you went a little overboard in the 'visually descriptive' dept. Just my 2cents, and hey, I'm not a writer so what do I know. As a reader, it took too much effort to "get".

matt morin
3.21.02 @ 12:28a

Sloan, feel free to call anytime you don't get it. I'm happy to function as Tracey's interpreter.

sloan bayles
3.21.02 @ 6:36a

Thanks Matt!! I should've clarified, I called her Matt. Good to know I've got two interpreters to call on :) And they're both named Matt, how cute is that. Okay, sophomoric prose, what do you want at 6:30 in the morning? :) ;)

tracey kelley
3.21.02 @ 8:48a

You know, Matt, it's funny. I ran it by the most literal person I know - my Matt - and he got it right away, too. I think it really depends on the mood of the reader at the time.

Of course, being the weird newsman he is, my Matt automatically thought the guy was a psycho and had something nefarious planned.

swear on the grave of a dead Louisiana turtle...heh heh heh... You will be missed in June, my friend.


mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 9:04a

That's funny, that he thought it was a psycho thing. There are weird instances where I have taken ambiguous lyrics or something and made strange interpretations of them. Like in the Beatles song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), when Lennon sings, "I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian Wood..." for some reason, I always think he's burning the chick's house down. But I'm nuts.

adam kraemer
3.21.02 @ 9:19a

Actually, Mike, I'm with you on that one. It always seemed to me that he got pissed upon waking up to find that she was gone.

And I try never to trust anyone who plays the sitar.

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 9:25a

Nice! I agree, he was pissed. Also, in Paint it Black, I understand it's about a painful break-up or the death of a girlfriend (can't remember which), but there's a line where Mick sings about watching schoolgirls go by, and he says, "I have to turn my head until my darkness goes," and I've always interpreted that as the tormented restraint of a psycho killer. Qu'est-ce que sais?

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 9:32a

Always figured he burned down the house, too. She keeps him up half the night, no sex, he's stuck sleeping in the bathtub, he's unemployed. And yet, according to the song, she wanted him. Of course, I wonder what kind of furniture she did have, since "there wasn't a chair." But yeah, I figured in a fit of pique, he broke it into kindling and burned it.

I also agree on Paint it Black: I watch the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes is the line immediately preceding the one you quoted, Mike. Like he's a barely-able-to-keep-it-in-check predator. Whatever his beauty was has been taken from him, so he wants to destroy all other beauty.

adam kraemer
3.21.02 @ 9:37a

Well, I always sort of got a slight suicidal vibe from Paint It Black. I agree, though, to quote Jethro Tull - "Eyeing little schoolgirls with bad intent."

Either that, or it's more of an "As Tears Go By" thing, and seeing children play or girls in their summer clothes just depresses him.

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 9:38a

And while the protagonist in Tracey's story certainly isn't at that level (I prefer to think of him as a coffeehouse Lester Burnham), I could see his fantasy, if allowed to build, consuming him. Already he is "confident, even arrogant" in his dream that she wants him as wholly as he does her. And yet when he does take her, she is compliant and yielding. She becomes the crushed fruit. And then when his reverie is interrupted and he sits down, even then he's imagining he acquiescence, or at least complicity.

I think maybe he should stick to decaf for awhile.

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 9:40a

I think it's the latter, Adam. But the Tull lyrics came to me unbidden as I wrote it. Aqualung is just a dirty old man, "watching as the pretty panties run." (And Pearl Jam's Evenflow is a cheap rip-off of Jethro Tull.

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 9:58a

I agree with you guys about Norwegian Wood. I figure he broke whatever furniture she had and then burned the house down.

And speaking of schoolgirls and pop songs...
"Pale, pubescent beasts, roam through the streets
And coffee-shops, their prey gather in herds
Of stiff knee-length skirts, and white ankle-socks
But while they search for a mate, my type hibernate
In bedrooms above, composing their songs of love", The Divine Comedy

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:06a

Tracey, how's THIS for some good discussion? I didn't know everyone else was as messed as me. Good show!

Russ, I'mn a big PJ fan, do you mean Evenflow rips Tull in content or sound?

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 10:08a

We're being like the guy in the story and letting random associations take over our minds...not that that's anything new. See Mike, it is about you!

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 10:14a

Content, Mike. They're both songs about deranged homeless men.

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:20a

Yes, just making sure. The PJ song "Once" is about a serial killer, and is part of a three song trilogy, fyi. "Alive", "Once", and the B-side "Footsteps," they chronicle the dysfunction (Alive) that gives birth to the violence (Once) and then the consequences (Footsteps). Quote from Vedder: "It's about incest; and it's about murder; and you know all those good things. And if you can picture it in your mind, the third song takes place in a jail cell. So this is our own little mini-opera here."


russ carr
3.21.02 @ 10:22a


mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:25a

Oooh, sorry to bore you!

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 10:41a

If I was Eddie Vedder, would you like me any better?

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:43a

Is that Local H? Anyway, that's funny, cuz I sometimes substitute "eddie vedder" for "any better" to see if anyone notices. Also kind of works with "maximillian" for "thanks a million." Try it, see if you get called on it. Or don't. I'm high.

russ carr
3.21.02 @ 10:52a

Yes. Yes it is. And yes. Yes you are.

michelle von euw
3.21.02 @ 11:40a

I've got scratches/all over my arm/one for each day/that I fell apart.

And one of the cool things about that trilogy is that Eddie wrote is based on demo tapes from Jeff, Mike and Stone before they were a band.

I can't believe that you like Pearl Jam, Mike. I know I've gotten into Intrepid battles in the past and I've felt like the only one worshipping at the altar of Eddie Vedder.


mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 11:54a

Oh my God I LOVE Pearl Jam. Yes, that is one of the cool things about the trilogy. Though it's scratches/all over my arm.

Hate Creed. Love Pearl Jam. Worship Vedder.

adam kraemer
3.21.02 @ 12:16p

Turning off italics now.

Pearl Jam rocks. I think the original name of the demo that was turned into "Alive" is "Dollar Short." Correct me if I'm wrong.

michelle von euw
3.21.02 @ 12:24p

Thanks, Adam. I was wondering why we were all in italics-hell. And you are correct about "Dollar Short."

Mike I ditto your post 100%. How many 2000 tour albums did you end up buying?

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 12:37p

Um, I have 9 or 10. I've seen them 4 times now I think. Wish I'd seen them back in the day tho, circa Versus.

michelle von euw
3.21.02 @ 2:32p

I have 6 Europe and I think 5 US. Manchester is my favorite, and Leatherman was my happiest previously-unknown track from that tour. I have an Atlanta '94 show which is in pretty good shape, but the other live CDs of theirs I bought off ebay and they are just awful. So they rock more than any other band in the history of the world just for releasing that whole tour.

I think I've seen them four times, too -- twice by themselves, and twice at festivals. And I agree -- I feel bad missing out on the '94 tour.

adam kraemer
3.21.02 @ 2:44p

I once heard a girl call in a radio station request for "Yellow Bedwetter." When the DJ corrected her, she said something like, "Don't confuse me," and hung up.

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 3:10p

What a moron! That Atlanta show rules, early Betterman and other Vitalogy tracks. I have a bunch of really good boots, from before No Code, and a bunch of Europe and U.S. ones from the last tour. Changing setlists rule. Random covers rule. The ukelele stuff I could do without, but his voice makes everything listenable.

adam kraemer
3.21.02 @ 3:31p

I have a great MP3 at work of them doing "Let My Love Open The Door."

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 3:40p

That is a GREAT cover. Vedder has done a couple Cat Stevens covers that are really good too. "Don't Be Shy" and something else...

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 6:05p

Yeah, and he's done some really crappy covers like that "Last Kiss" song (or whatever it's called. My memory is abandoning me here).

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 6:12p

Last Kiss, yeah. That's alright, and they do a good job with it, it just got way overplayed and is cheesy by nature.

Catching up late, Sarah?


tracey kelley
3.21.02 @ 10:14p

Last Kiss was bad. Bad all around. Bad both times it was released. Anyone remember why PJ had that song on whatever soundtrack it was?

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:44p

It wasn't a soundtrack, it was like a Bosnian refugee fundrasier album. And it's their highest charting single ever. #2 I think. They also covered a similar old song, Soldier of Love, which is much better.

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 10:47p

Very late, apparently. I wouldn't have joined the lovefest anyway since I have mixed feelings on Pearl Jam. I would like to hear those Cat Stevens covers, though.

mike julianelle
3.21.02 @ 10:47p

They are great. If you shoot me your email address, I can try to send them to you, at some point over the weekend. My address is julesy9@hotmail.com


russ carr
3.21.02 @ 10:50p

Don't you mean Yusuf Islam?

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 11:08p

I like the music he made as Cat Stevens better. Islamic pop is an interesting genre, but not really my thing.

sarah ficke
3.21.02 @ 11:09p

I like the music he made as Cat Stevens better. Islamic pop is an interesting genre, but not really my thing.

Mike, check your email.

mike julianelle
3.22.02 @ 9:08a

You're not into Islamic pop? Get with it, Sarah!

sarah ficke
3.22.02 @ 9:39a

I know, I'm soooo behind the times.
Actually, one of my professors played me some last year and it's pretty catchy.

adam kraemer
3.22.02 @ 11:23a

Drums, drums, DRUMS!!!!

The cool thing about PJ's version of Last Kiss, by the way, is that it's one of the only radio hits in history that wasn't promoted at all by a record company. It came out of a sound check they did, a recording of which was included in some fan club mailing. Some DJ started playing it, and people started requesting it. It was never intended to be a single.

mike julianelle
3.22.02 @ 11:26a

Exactly. It was part of their yearly fanclub Xmas single. It's a novelty, and it was nice to hear in concert at first, before it exploded, because it was such a random song and Vedder sings it so well.

michelle von euw
3.22.02 @ 12:45p

Ohh, I am a very big fan of PJ's cover, "Patriot," which some of the radio stations began playing around here after Sept. 11. And then again after the Super Bowl, because how many teams have songs with their name in the title?

Vedder sings pretty much everything so well. Last Kiss is annoying, but still 100 times better than most of the stuff that hits #2.

Incidentally, I've found that if you talk to hardcore fans of most album-oriented bands, you'll find that their least favorite songs are the ones that get radio play.

mike julianelle
3.22.02 @ 12:47p

Of course. That's why it's stupid to buy greatest hits packages of most bands. You don't get the good stuff. "Patriot" is great.

adam kraemer
3.22.02 @ 12:49p

Depends on your definition of "the good stuff." Just because you're a snob (hee hee) doesn't mean that the hits are the bad songs.

You think you can see me, but you can't.

mike julianelle
3.22.02 @ 12:59p

No, I agree, while "popular" doesn't always equal "good" (hardly ever these days), I won't deny that hits are necessarily bad. Just that there's more than the hits when it comes to great bands, and greatest hits albums deprive you of that.

adam kraemer
3.22.02 @ 1:10p

Yeah, I'll agree with that. Some of my favorite songs ever are what would be considered deep cuts on studio albums.

tracey kelley
3.22.02 @ 1:11p

I dunno. I'd rather have 1 greatest hits CD of Duran Duran than 6 of their albums.

michelle von euw
3.22.02 @ 1:20p

Tracey, that's exactly how I can tell if I really like a band: if I'd rather just own their greatest hits album, then they aren't one of my favorites.

mike julianelle
3.22.02 @ 3:01p

It all depends on how you are introduced to a band. I'm all for getting greatest hits albums of artists I am not that into, but if I'm not sure, I think buying the greatest hits CD might limit my enjoyment of the group/artist. But there are definitely bands that I'm glad I didn't buy whole albums of. Greatest Hits are good for that reason.


tracey kelley
3.22.02 @ 6:30p

Oh, you're preachin' to the choir here. I'm very much a "B"-side person with many bands.

roger striffler
3.25.02 @ 5:44p

Lately I've been going out on Morpheus (or AudoGalaxy, etc...choose your own tool) and downloading mp3s of arists and assembling my own little "best of" CDs. Its rare to find a mass-market CD that really is a "best of", or that contains my favorites, many of which are far from being the more popular tracks.

mike julianelle
3.25.02 @ 10:22p

That's what makes all those music download things so great. You can mix and match without buying. Sure, downloading whole albums is cool and all, but it's the single tracks that are the most fun. A couple of years ago when I first got Napster, my friends and I came up with hundreds and hundreds of random one hit wonder/nostalgia songs and downloaded them all. Great stuff.

adam kraemer
3.26.02 @ 9:47a

I have 37 hours of both downloaded and burned music on my computer at work. I got tired of listening to the Web radio and skipping songs I didn't want to hear.

travis broughton
3.26.02 @ 9:50a

It cracks me up how people who are trying to make a living providing content (written, recorded, etc) have no qualms about stealing the creative works of others.

adam kraemer
3.26.02 @ 10:07a

I'm not stealing it. I'm borrowing it without permission. Actually, and this is not really a justification, but for the most part, it's not stuff I'd be likely to buy anyway. Who wants an entire .38 Special album?

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