“Once a Star”

A French fry becomes a metaphor. Something about salt and distance. She wants to find hidden meaning in every story, every object, even in the pulse of this conversation that she feels but does not hear.

It’s her fault the arts editor has to crowd in on a borrowed chair, that there are seven in a space for six. Aaron didn’t get his buffalo burger; who took it? But what does she know about campus politics? She only reports the facts as presented, what the teachers and admins tell her. She believes there is hidden meaning in their words, too.

Another pitcher to down. A toast to the edition just put to bed. Their table is perched at the end of the pier, a panorama of summer haze. The threads of young philosophies unravel around her, but before she can take hold of one, someone else has snatched it, pulled to a tangent, and the topic shifts, stranding her. They have this banter choreographed; what can she add to the conversation? They already know everything.

There was a time of friends diving from rocks, swimming in the ocean and sharing dreams fingered in sand. Here, no one looks past the pylons.

She hates her shyness. She hates herself for being shy. When Aaron asked her to come, she said, yes, sounds great, and thought of what she might wear to please him. He is still talking to the waitress, so obviously staring at her bare midriff.

The warmth of the sun is on her face, its sympathy interrupted by an elbow and a question: What do you think? But words have abandoned her; intellect has come unplugged.

Maybe she will quit the staff on Monday. But she so loves the writing. Like the words she will implode, succumb to gravity and collapse like a spent star.

She forces an answer: Well, what he said sounds good. A nervous laugh to acknowledge her stupidity, and opportunity glides away like a seagull to a buoy. The rest go back to praising their stories and headlines. How pertinent they are!

How long does it take to eat a French fry? Swallow it now, and taste the salt. Be careful not to drop anything. Pretend to laugh when the others do.

When a breeze infiltrates the group, she feels it as a push against her shoulder.
She remembers that a black hole was once a star.

They are laughing again as she climbs upon her chair. She can see all the way out to the bay, where in the distance a lighthouse stands ready to beam its story, to reveal its hidden meaning. The pulse she feels now is within. The chair is a rock as she tenses into a diver’s perfect form. From here it’s a simple leap. It’s not too far down to the water, to stardom.

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Joe Ponepinto

About Joe Ponepinto

Back to Directory of Writers Apply to Be Listed View the Criteria for Listing share Author's Bio Joe Ponepinto is the Co-Publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review, a professional pay literary journal. He is author of the short story collection The Face Maker and other stories of obsession, available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. Joe is the former Book Review Editor for The Los Angeles Review. His work has been published in dozens of literary journals. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, where he studied under award-winning authors including David Wagoner, Bruce Holland Rogers, Kathleen Alcalá and Carolyne Wright. Joe was a journalist, political speechwriter and business owner before turning to writing full time. He’s looking forward to moving to the northwest in 2014.