Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Issue 1 - September 2010


Welcome to Beguile!

Wow, it feels great to type that.

When I was younger, I believed in fairytales.  I thought that any talented writer would be recognized and published online or in print.  As time went on, I learned that this isn’t always the case.

Ten years ago, disillusioned in New York, I decided to create a literary ezine in which I could feature writers and artists whose work I truly admired. I’d go against convention by never giving in to networking or nepotism.  I would proudly showcase works by new writers and by writers who’d already been published.  These might be people I’d been lucky enough to meet, or total strangers.  The important thing – the only thing that mattered - was that their work dazzled me. 

Our logo, the skull and crossed plumes, came to me at that time, too.  Writers and artists are free, our minds roving over the roiling seas.  We rescue, or even sometimes kidnap readers, and bring them to the places and moods we create.

Freedom would be my literary ezine’s true north.  There’d be no advertising on the site, and it wouldn’t be affiliated with any group, organization, platform, or ideology, except for this: Never stop trying to outwit your jailors.  Never stop creating.  Don’t back down if there are steel bars in front of you.  Dream of inspiration, live and breathe hope.

It’s taken ten years, but Beguile has finally set sail.  I haven’t done it alone.  I’d like to thank the Beguile Team, an anonymous group of readers from around the English-speaking world, for their hard work.  Together, we read and vote on each submission: this is the safest way to be sure publication here is never due to anything but talent.

I’d also like to thank D., my soldier in a shining Napoleonic cuirass, for so patiently and skillfully helping me make the site look the way I wanted.  I love you.

Another enormous outpouring of gratitude goes to the writers and artists you’ll find in this issue.  We’re amazed not only by their talent, but by their enthusiasm, modesty, and encouragement, as well. 

And, of course, thank you, dear visitor, for coming to our ezine.  We hope you’ll leave as beguiled as we are by the writing and artwork you’ll find here.  If you have any questions or comments regarding this issue, please feel free to contact us at:

And so, with great thanks, and a rallying cry for freedom and creativity, I proudly inaugurate this, our first issue of Beguile!

Warm Regards and Happy Reading and Viewing,

Alysa Salzberg
Founder and Editor in Chief



In this issue of Beguile:


Jonathon Trosclair shares a vision in his short story “Good at Dreaming”.

Lauren Wilkinson recounts a night of crowded solitude in Amsterdam in her story “Our Dolorosa”.

RavenϟRespiration hopes for harmony in the poem “Play Me Like a Piano”.

Thanks to Dom Macchiaroli’s humorous essay “For Want of Pudding,” you’ll see this snack in a whole new way.

Thomas Igou’s story “Untitled” ends our anthology with a beginning.



Our first issue features work by two wonderful artists, Marc Legoux and Nadia Volodina. 

Born on the Ile d’Anjouan, near Madagascar, Marc Legoux is a sculptor, painter, and mixed-media artist who lives in southwest France.  His work has been featured in numerous regional expositions.  For more information about Marc and his art, please visit his page on the G21 Artistes Associés website:  For questions or information in English, please send an email to Alice, at:

On what inspires him, Marc tells us: “I am inspired by different forms and the quest for linear purity.  There are many things that have influenced me, including African and Etruscan art.” 

We are proud to be the first site to host his painting, “Untitled” (called “La Liseuse”/ “The Reader”).

Of her life and work, photographer, writer, and all-around creative soul Nadia Volodina writes: I am a wandering spirit at heart, something I hopefully will do with a notepad and a camera in my immensely-filled-with-junk bag. I try to make sense of the world around me with what tools I have but always feel like I have been here many times before just not in the same circumstances.
To see more of my work, please visit my blog:

To read some of my writing, please visit:

Anything and everything inspires me; the mundane world that is seen everyday or more unusual occurrences, a strange play of light or shadows, or through manipulating objects to make them look like something else entirely. 
Beauty is all around us; it can be found in the most unlikely of places but wherever it is, when I see it I stop and try to capture it. 

It is our enormous pleasure and honor to feature three of her photographs: “Two Sides”, “Pillar of Roses”, and “Here i am”.


And now, without further ado, read on, and prepare to be beguiled!


Good At Dreaming

by Jonathon Trosclair

We both, her and I, switched bodies, not with each other, but with some married couple in Vermont. I was the husband and she the wife, and it was all pretty funny to us, sitting there in their big house that was painted all white and light blue on the inside. We didn’t talk much, because what do you say out of someone else’s mouth? My own four letter word.

After a while she left the bedroom and went out taking the car. I paced around, going through the personal effects of the married couple. No kids, financially stable, wide lawns, closed minds, suit wearing, football watching, fucking squares. It was always cool in the house, as if we were right next to the ocean. This did look like a beach house, with all the wicker furniture and light, neutral colors everywhere. The girl finally came back holding two big plastic bags, just as I was uncovering medical bills for the husband’s liver transplant from three years ago. She reached down into one and handed me a paint roller, smiling.

I laughed and her hands clenched up as if she remembered something by it. Yes that old stuff doesn’t ever really go away. Then she shook from it, smiled again with her wet shiny eyes, and pulled out a can of orange paint, and one of green, and looked at me to show that she wanted me to open them. I did and then we ran all through the house, changing it, and ruining it, and making it some of ourselves. We did this for awhile and when after a time, the house became all different colors and hot and serious from so much movement, we found sledge hammers and took out a wall. On our side was a cheap reproduction of an already cheap painting of an Italian village, and it ripped and fell. The girl disappeared in the dust from the dry wall and I didn’t see her anymore, but I did see the huge flat-screen television crack so pretty and crumble on the floor.

I stood staring at it and I was wondering where the girl went, wondering why any of this had happened. Then she emerged from the rubble with just her hair and a flashlight, and standing there, with gray dust on her head, I saw her blush. Red faced, little nose downturned, dirty hands, little courtly girl, frigid, burning up.

We went outside where I could smoke and she began to cry because she must have remembered the old stuff again. I said, “Don’t cry. Don’t be sad. I don’t feel anything.” I told her it would be okay, but she kept crying. The old life rested underneath our fingernails and you can’t ignore anything like that. But this was a second chance, wasn’t it? This body switching that was happening in my dream as I slept. No. No one in the whole world ever really got a second chance, and if they did I would want to kill them probably. They only used it up, when it could have been perfect in my hands. She would have done great things with a second chance too. But that was a bad way to think about things because it was too unrealistic to think about second chances.

I woke up and I was in my own body. I had grown very tired of dreaming by now, and I did not go back over the dream, over her blushing, or over us being nice together, or over her crying, or over living in Vermont, or over wanting to yell at her and tell her everything and get it out. No, I just woke up and took a shower and had lunch with the easy, little, pretty girl I had begun seeing and didn’t think about the dream all day and the day was not so bad, I thought, when I was lying in the bed of the easy girl that night.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathon Trosclair
I live in Louisiana where it’s mostly hot and humid and we only have two pretty seasons in the year, one if it’s a rainy spring. Aside from certain tiny annoyances unique to this place, I like it here and I like creating things here because it’s sort of a strange place. I’m young and still deciding where and what and how I’m going to be, so my writing is a little fractured I suppose, like myself, but I try to make it as real to the driving motivation as possible and show all the angles behind it. I’m really still just getting my feet wet right now. If you'd like to read more of my work, feel free to come check it out at:

This one was written after a succession of very strange and bad dreams I was having night after night. Upon waking from these, I would lie in bed for about twenty minutes, in some sort of paralysis, going over them again and again in mind repeatedly until I was all strange and it would take me about an hour or so to forget about them once I was out and doing something. This kept happening until one morning, after a particularly bad one, I said “to hell with it” and just got out of bed and didn’t think about it at all. I thought that maybe that was how you get good at dreaming, you let them happen and forget about the bad ones and you keep always the good ones. Maybe that’s the closest you can get to controlling your subconscious. Anyway, the basis for this story was taken from a dream I had during that time, written in an attempt to purge myself of it. I rarely dream now and when I do, they aren’t so bad.

Untitled, called "La Liseuse" ("The Reader") by Marc Legoux

Our Dolorosa
by Lauren Wilkinson
The bar is crowded but when the bartender sees us he lines up three beers for Bas and a glass of red wine for me.  Bas leans against the bar with his first beer and says look at these assholes.  He says, look at her, there’s nothing sadder than an ugly blonde.  I look at Bas. His down turned nose and hooded eyes make him look like someone out of a Byzantine painting. He looks good, dressed up for New Year’s Eve in black trousers and a black wool sweater, wearing the motorcycle boots he always wears.
My dress is gold.  Bas bought it for me.  He took me to De Bijenkorf, the expensive department store in Dam Square where everything is white—the floors, the walls, the tables, the mannequins, the people.  But not me and not Bas and not this dress.  He picked it out, held it up against my body and said this is the one for us.
I go to the bathroom and as I’m coming back across the barroom three men appear and box me in.  One of them, the biggest, grabs my forearm and begins to giggle.  He’s 6’4 or 6’5, like Polyphemus but with two good eyes.  His hair is slicked back from his huge forehead and his face is white and fat like a skinned potato.  He’s hurting me and I try to pull away but he squeezes tighter and tells me to stay.  His voice is a surprise: fey and reedy.  He giggles again. 
Bas is watching.  I can see him in the gap between one bulky shoulder and the next, rubbing his finger around the rim of his empty pint glass.  He looks bored.  He pushes himself off the bar and walks up behind Polyphemus, taps him on the shoulder.  The giant turns and Bas smacks him in the face with the glass. 
Everyone goes silent and tense.  We are like animals waiting.  The glass doesn’t shatter but breaks into three parts, the smallest rocking for a while on the barroom floor.  Blood blooms from the slice on the giant’s cheek, falls in red petals, it’s all down the front of his shirt and pale khakis and speckled on my arms and my dress.  The giant wants to put his fingers to his face but one of his friends says something in Dutch that stops him.  The bartender surrenders a white bar rag and the giant presses it against his cheek as Bas tips an invisible hat and walks out the door.           
I follow him out into the cold evening and watch his figure recede as he goes along the canal back to the Dolorosa, the hotel where I live and where we both work.  Across the water the old church looks dark and frightening and on both sides prostitutes wait in red-lit cells.  Somewhere closeby people are setting off fireworks and the explosions make my heart race.  I want peace and I want solace.  I want Bas.
He’s in the hotel lounge.  I see him sitting at the bar with his back to the room, oblivious to the party going on around him.  It’s a big wood-paneled, red-lit room and I see my best friend Antonio in a near corner with his boyfriend Boban.  They’re both wearing latex wings and are arguing but when Antonio sees me he waves me over and Boban kisses me on both cheeks.  Boban’s wings are white and he’s wearing a white t-shirt and jeans.
“Nice,” I say and run my finger along Antonio’s wing.  It quivers.
“We’re going to a costume party after midnight.  It’s on a boat.”  Antonio’s voice is
muffled by fangs. He’s wearing a black shirt, black eyeliner and red lipstick.  He spins on the heels of his boots and his black wings out-flare.
“Bas hit a guy in the face with a glass.”
“He’s awful, don’t talk to him.  Bas is cruel.”  Antonio hates Bas, he says he has too many secrets and is not honest with himself.
When Boban and Antonio start to dance violence still echoes between them.  Boban grabs the back of Antonio’s neck and kisses him hard, smears Antonio’s lipstick.  It makes him look like he’s been punched.
The countdown starts and I chant along with the rest of the crowd.  Chris, the bartender, throws confetti in the air.  Happy New Year! I scream, everyone screams.  Happy New Year!
“Happy New Year,” shouts a boy who’s appeared at my side.  His mouth lurches toward mine.  “I’m Mike,” he says.  “Do you speak English?” 
He sounds like he’s from the Midwest. His cheeks are flushed and his hair is parted on the side and slicked down like he’s about to have a class picture taken.  He is heart-breakingly, painfully white. They only came whiter in picture books.
            “I’m American.”
            “I’m American!”
            “I know.”
            “My friend told me to talk to you.  I said I thought you were beautiful and he dared me.”
“I’m flattered.”
            “Listen, it’s true.  I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”
            “Who’s your friend?”
            “That tall guy over there.”
            It’s not the giant of course, but in the moment before I look I worry that it will be.  I can see Bas staring at us over Mike’s shoulder.  He looks bored.  I look at Mike and tell him that I live here, I tell him little jokes about our Dolorosa and because he’s drunk on free rum and the New Year he mistakes them for being hugely funny and profound.  Bas is coming toward us.  Mike is laughing and saying I’m funny and smart and complicated.  Bas is at his shoulder. Bas laughs.  She’s not, he says.  She’s as empty as a magnolia husk.  She’s as blank as ten thousand miles of tundra.
            “This your friend?”  Mike asks in my ear.  “I hope you don’t listen to that.”
            Bas is holding a glass of beer.  I take a step back, I make it halfway across the room before Mike catches up to me.
            “Where are you going?” he asks.  “Forget that guy, aren’t you having fun with me?”
“I’m going to my room.”
            “Can I come?”
            I want to say no but I say yes.  We leave the lounge for the lobby and as we’re waiting for the elevator two cops come through the sliding glass doors.  I’m sure they’re looking for Bas.  I should go back and warn him but I don’t.
Afterwards in my room, Mike falls asleep but I shake him awake and say that he has to go, here are his boxers and his shirt.  When he opens the door to leave Bas is there, hunched against the wall in the corridor with three bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne at his heel. 
“I saw cops downstairs,” I say and he tells me that he hid in the linen closet until Chris came up and said they were gone.  He comes inside, sits on my bed.  He’s not angry about Mike, he doesn’t care who I sleep with.  Bas and I have never slept together, he’s never even tried.
I sit beside him and he puts his arm around me, I feel lonelier with Bas than I ever have been simply because I was only with myself.  He takes off his shirt and boots and gets in the bed. 
Bas has a long, ropey scar across his torso and I run my finger along it.  I know he got it from fighting but I like to pretend he got it in a past life, that he was once a king and a warrior like Odysseus. 
            I kiss him on the mouth and I wait.  He turns on his back.  He gets up, says he’s going for a smoke and is gone a long time before I go looking for him. There’s a sun deck at the end of the hall and I find him there, lying on his back on the picnic table, his shirt still off and his arms outstretched like he’s mounted on a cross.  Bas’s gospel is about the difference between loneliness and solitude. I stand over him.  His lips are white and the gold chain around his neck flashes in the new sun.
He doesn’t answer. 
He opens his eyes.
“Let’s go back inside.”
There’s a little wine left in one of the bottles and he tips it into his mouth as I get in the bed.  I sit up on my heels with my back against the wall and he gets in and puts his head in my lap.  He’s cold.  I rub the knotty topography of his body with my blanket, kiss his forehead and look down at him in pieta.  I cover him in the blanket and he falls asleep with his mouth half open and his eyes half closed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Wilkinson
Lauren Wilkinson is earning her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University and is hard at work on her first novel.  She once won an oversized novelty check for a short story she wrote.  She lives in the Lower East Side with her cat.  You can email her at

The setting of this story was inspired by a hotel in Amsterdam in which I once lived and worked.  Bas is a character that appears in my novel, he is someone the main character finds both reckless and compelling.  I'm not really sure where he came from, he just sort of appeared fully formed in my mind, but although he's not exactly like anyone I know I do see echoes of men with whom I've had relationship with in him. 

Play Me Like a Piano 

by RavenϟRespiration

Run your fingers
over my keys,
but don't press them.
Be discreet about it

Stop abruptly
and close me.

You never told me
you don't play piano

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: RavenϟRespiration
I'm a 17 year old musician from North Carolina who tends to exude confidence, but I'm actually really shy and insecure.  If you’d like to see more of my work, come visit me on YouTube:

The inspiration for "Play Me Like a Piano" was a boy. He asked me out and I really thought it was going to work. He was my first boyfriend. After he broke up with me, I was really lost and didn't quite remember what my life was about before him. Basically, it's about a broken heart. haha.



by Dom Macchiaroli

You’ve had a long and fruitless day. The boss was unreasonably upset. The copier didn’t work. A piano fell on your car. It’s been tough, but as you head home, there’s only one thing you can think about: what kind of pudding you’re going to have.

Pudding entrances us and arouses us. Pudding carries us aloft on its carbohydrate dreams into the fairyland ether of sugary hopes and disconsolate dentistry. It transports our taste buds to places at once captivating and tooth decaying. But pudding is a dark nymph in a colorful plastic cup. Engage her charms too deeply and your belly will ache. Refuse her and she’ll find another to defile.

Do you find yourself sometimes both irritated and yet spell-bound by pudding? I do. King Louis MI5 of Scotland called it “blancmange”; the most annoying of desserts. There are so many ways to prepare it, with some many different ingredients, yet there are officially only two types of pudding; chocolate and blood.

In Roman Britain, pudding originally was made out of shredded chicken, raw pork entrails, and peace treaties between the masters of Ireland and Wales. Another original pudding recipe was made by combining ingredients like butter, flour, sweat, snails, darts, and early copies of the Magna Carta, resulting in a solid stinking mass of Dark Ages caloric filth.

Anglo-Normans first called pudding the "whitedish.” It is mentioned in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, along with fist fighting teenagers and sporadic bouts of comedic bubonic plague. The basic ingredients of whitedish were milk, sugar, fish, and rosewater. The whitedish recipe could be found in outhouses all over Europe and was one of the few truly medieval dishes that could stop the serfs from throwing mud and sticks at each other for short periods of time.

The War of the Roses was fought over wanted possession of a Spanish Pudding Pop the size of Portugal. When the Armada set out to attack England, the sailors were plied with gigantic casks of boiled rat vanilla custard.

Black pudding or "blood pudding" is made by cooking cow or sheep’s blood until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled, or until the nauseated cook throws up and then passes out, whichever comes first. It is also called blood sausage by the Germans, who are like that. Lastly it is used as a term for other blood-based solid foods around the world, such as Malted Corpse Flakes and Tang.  And so the history of western Europe and pudding are inexplicably intertwined as I have so brilliantly yet pointlessly pointed out here.

In the United States, the word “pudding” means “fattening” and usually refers to a type of custard, although it may also refer to the political courage of congressional Republicans.

Modern pudding is cooked on a stovetop. These puddings are easily scorched. To avoid this problem, microwave ovens are now used, and to reduce stressful stirring.

Many of the infamous Teenager Panic Caused American Pudding Fires of the 1970’s were started by my brother and me on our kitchen stovetop, with some of the bloodier episodes involving the cat.

I once wanted instant pudding as a kid. The box showed a nice cool cup of chocolate pudding. There was an inherent promise on that box that all I had to do was open it, and I would be teleported to a land of chocolate dreams, immersed in fountains of vanillin orgasmic yum. Instead I ripped the box asunder and witnessed a tornado of brown imitation flavored powder scattered across the counter and through the kitchen. I was grounded for the next four years.

(On a side note, a crown did not appear on my head after I ingested a certain kind of margarine, either.)

I’d like to see the boxed ‘instant’ version of blood pudding stocked in my local supermarket. Terrified little kids running screaming out of the store; an axe-wielding Jack Nicholson leering from the box……

More pudding is now produced in North America than concrete. Like many of the facts in this piece, this is also not true.

When I grow up, I intend to operate a chain of drive thru pudding establishments named, “Shut up, Its Pudding.” Just so you know.

So have a nice day, and if you get pudding, get ‘swirly.’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dom Macchiaroli
Dom Macchiaroli writes irritating essays and flash fiction for fun. He has two books on the market; “My Parakeet was an Anarchist” and “Skateboarding on the Appian Way.” Both are available from Amazon, Waterstones, and many other fine Web retailers. Dom can be reached at
His work has appeared in The Short Humour Site, Long Story Short, Leaf Garden Press, Apollo’s Lyre and others.
He has a writing page on Facebook and a blog at
. Dom can be found on the web at:
Dom enjoys making fun of the cat in his spare time.

I’d like to suggest that there is some deeper meaning behind “For Want of Pudding”; some kind of esoteric display of cosmic import rendered in bad prose and worse logic. The truth is: my wife buys pudding for our kids’ school lunches. Since it is summer currently, I’ve been secretly eating what’s left of the stash. The pudding comes in these little cups that constantly leave me wanting more, thus the title. The rest is just fractured history and evil fiction. And that’s how I write everything in my portfolio: take a simple event in everyday life, add some false history and awful grammar, and what results is a piece that’s quick to read and brutal on the senses, not unlike vanilla tapioca. This also explains why my books haven’t sold well.


by Thomas Igou

I put my hand over her flat stomach. It's warm and moist and makes a gurgly noise. Is it hungry? I start caressing her skin with the tip of a finger, mapping the shape of an expanding circle until there is no more space and then it recedes. I repeat the gesture absent-mindedly, mechanically. The rest of her body mirrors her stomach: immobile and fragile, yet underneath it's a steaming, boiling kettle. Next to the bed where we lie is the open window, whose gap is so slim that only an ambitious and determined mouse could force its way through -- or the current breeze, rare on this humid day but welcomed, that carries along with it, faintly, the distorted tune of Radiohead's No Surprises. I take a deep breath and devour the ever growing colony of freckles resting on her subtle nose, that small, untraceable and untouchable smelling equipment that lies with an unworried mind between her eyes and her mouth. And even though her eyes are closed, I know that she's not sleeping, just like I know, wasting my gaze out the window, that the moon hidden by the clouds is still shining bright somewhere in the darkness.

''How did we get to this?''

It doesn't matter whose voice utters this, hers or mine. Maybe it isn't even a voice, deep or high, masculine or feminine, but rather ink on paper, or telepathy. Or a cruising thought in a traffic-less highway of a vast mind.

Silence, in its dominant reign, allows the echo of the last word to be carried by the intruding breeze to the four corners of the room, and even into the chimney, but so weakly that the word gets lost, confused, tangled: this ... iss ... iss ... bliss ... iss ....iss ... kiss. I regret the question and curse the fool that voiced it. Maybe it was me. The question evokes the past when the solution should solve the future; it evokes sins when we're seeking redemption. The question evokes stupidity from the questioner. The question is meaningless because only the answer matters, only the answer dictates our future, only the answer can be split in two and down the middle by a thick fluorescent gray line visible from the abyss of our ephemeral mind all the way to the surface of the ever-expanding and eternal universe. The answer. Only it will torment us for the rest of our lives. It = the decision.

My finger ascends the mount of her breast, earthed mostly by implants, an act committed a decade ago by a naïve 18 year old girl with rich grandparents. The journey to the top begins with a small brown mole that guards the foot of the hill and ends with a long, erect nipple. The whole region is slightly shaken by the steady rise and fall of her chest.

The tiniest of whispers, so close to being thin as air that it is barely audible, escapes from a slit between her delicate and crimson lips: ''Fuck.''

''What's wrong, honey?'' I express my concern in a three-worded sentence, cutting right to the chase.

''Fuck! You fucked me, I got fucked by you, we fucked like rabbits, say it however you want. It was fucking. That's how we got to this. Fucking great, don't you think?''

''Well, personally, I think you're missing a few fucks before you can appear in the Guinness Book of Records.''

It's been a while since the frames on our walls -- filled with pictures of Mick, Madonna, Carla Bruni, Led Zeppelin, our dog Zeppelin, and Johanna and I in Israel -- have witnessed such a lengthy conversation. My jaw could almost ache from the effort. And my mind could almost open-heartedly embrace a cigarette. Almost. Until it remembers that it's one of the few things I don't regret having quit in my life.

Johanna ruffles her feet under our black dots-covered white sheets; the action stirs Zeppelin from his dull, lopsided rest in his wooden basket; our mini-Yorkshire, still in his teething phase, whirls out of his sleeping place, glides across the carpet, and hops onto our low bed. Biting occurs while caressing and boredom continue. Conversation, ephemeral, has ended.

Time to think: I'm too young to be a father but even younger to be a murderer. I'm too young to have regrets and sleepless nights, too young to have quit smoking out of good conscience and even much younger to have picked it up again out of freak nervousness and I can't even explain how far too young I am to consider myself responsible enough to make -- and take -- decisions, let alone life-changing ones, and let even more alone lives-changing ones. Conclusion? I'm too young for this shit. My mother should have kept the notice that came with the product when she gave birth to me; then, I could have gone to page 13 to see when I won't be too young anymore.

''You're cold,'' she states.

I'm surprised by the comment. Maybe she's gone to the other side. Craziness. I'm sure it's happened before, to another couple, in a similar situation. The girl simply couldn't take it anymore, and so told her boyfriend that he was cold when in fact, he wasn't, because it was the middle of summer and the sun scorched during the day and their apartment was an oven that had been turned off but had cooked all day long.

''Nah, actually, I'm a bit warm honey. Are you cold, though? I can get you a sweater if you want?''

My finger is stroking in the proximity of the mole, encircling it toyingly, threateningly, like horse-mounted Indians circling around a group of adrift cavalry men in the desert. The jukebox from the apartment below us, still procuring us tunes, has now gone on to Morcheeba wondering What New York Couples Fight About

''No, you're cold,'' she says, slowly, accentuating the articulation of the last word. Then she adds, in crescendo, ''Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Writer, do you prefer indifferent? Stolid? Impassive? Emotionless? You just don't give a flying fuck, do you?!''

The stars remain calm. Always. They're the ones who are indifferent, stolid, impassive, emotionless. They're the ones who don't give a flying fuck, except maybe for the shooting stars. They're the ones who don't have a mind split down right the middle, with each side filled with undesired doubt and an immense ego who are pulling so hard in the opposite direction from each other that the thin invisible cord that holds our minds together -- Sanity -- is ready to snap at any moment. The stars watch the Earth, enjoy the show with a big stupid grin on their faces, and they mock us.

My eyes are like a dam with a tiny but present crack that is unable to hold the tons of water anymore. Soon, a flood. If only, I think to myself. If only I were cold, if only there was a switch that you could turn on and off, if only I didn't have the recurring image of an austere hospital room in which a Johanna covered in sweat and in a green robe had just given birth and a baby was crying in a meaningless doctor's arm and then suddenly crimson blood trickled down the camera screen that filmed the scene and the crying abruptly stopped as the screen turned all red -- if only I didn't have all that, then what the fuck! I'd be happy! But happy is one of the words that vanished from my dictionary.

''I'm not cold,'' I say, because I must say something, because I must fill the void. But am I cold? Or am I in shock? Am I anything, or just a concrete body empty of emotions? The dam can't hold the water anymore, the crack is spreading, the flood begins, the tears stroll down. As I cry, I amuse myself with one stupid thought that pins one infinitesimal smile across my face: although I'm a righty, the first tears always pour from my left eye.

''I'm sorry honey, I didn't mean to hurt you. I know you're not cold, I'm stupid, it's just that--''

''It's OK,'' I interrupt. Truth be told, it is OK. I understand her. She's a more sensitive person than I am. I don't comprehend yet that in the future I will look back on these few days, this week of reflection, as the most important period in my life. The defining moment of my life, probably. I don't grasp the magnitude of it only because I am still in it, and while I am still in it, the sun still rises in the same place, which is East or West, I don't remember, and it still sets in the opposite direction. In near or distant future, tomorrow or in ten years, when I will look back on today, I will think that time -- that linear, pain-in-the-ass stress machine -- broke down to give me eternal deliberation. But it didn't.

''Are you mad? You don't love me anymore, do you?''

I look at her and grin at the preposterousness of the question; she beguiles me with the same look Zeppelin gives when he knows he's done something bad and has been caught, a look that says: I'm so sorry and so cute you'll forgive me anything. Right?

''If I didn't love you anymore, I wouldn't have knocked you up. I would have told my sperm to hold back.''

She takes my hand, squeezes. ''Let's talk about it, then. What do you want to do?''

I know she's naturally weak, I know also that I'm the man and that she awaits me to make the decision for her. She won't ever admit it, and might not even be aware of it on the surface, but deep down she wants me to make the decision because it will assuage her conscience. Scapegoat. That's what I will become. Unconsciously, I am aware. She will never hate me for this.

Small decisions are hard. Suffice to say, big ones are impossible. You can ponder, you can wonder, but you can't squander doubt. You might as well toss a coin. I look at Johanna's face. Her eyes are greenish, scintillating stars. They're calm, like the ones up there, and they always bring a feeling of light and security within me, like a lighthouse would to a ship stranded in a furious sea in the dead of night. I think to myself that these eyes have allowed me to remain at peace these past few days, that whenever I felt my heart ready to burst out of my ribs, all I had to do was look into those two stars, or think about them, and the wave of anxiety would retreat.

And now, I could allow a baby to come into this world, and breathe our polluted air, and walk (or crawl) our shit-covered sidewalks, but most importantly, bring me another pair of stars.

''I don't know what I want to do,'' I say. ''What I do think, though, is that we're lucky to have the possibility to be scared shitless about making a decision. Some parts of the world, abortions are illegal. That's scary.''

''So you're scared shitless?''

I nod. ''Of course I am. Look, I've always wanted to be a father, just, I never expected to happen so soon. And you know, I don't really believe in destiny and karma and all that shit, but I have to admit, this is an opportunity presenting itself. We thought our lives were plain, boring, empty of something. This could be it.''

''So,'' Johanna answers. ''You wanna keep the baby?''

I think back about what I've just said. Sometimes things roll out of your tongue and parachute into the air, gliding to the other person's ear, without you really meaning for it to happen. Sometimes, you just say things, without thinking. Do I really want to keep the baby? Didn't I want to live a few months by myself in Spain in the very near future? Hadn't we talked and accepted that proposition, only a week ago?

''I'm still not sure, honey. I don't wanna kill it, that's for sure. But I also want to have a bit of freedom in the coming future. Having a dog, that's already being tied down. But a baby, that's like being nailed to the fucking cross. And not everyone gets a resurrection, you know?''

Silence from the two of us. The dog is snoring on the bed. The stars are watching in through the window. My hand is now operating on her neck. Abortion is tormenting my mind, shredding it to pieces. Each second spent contemplating about it is like a dagger in my heart. I run my other hand through my hair, ruffle it, while my stomach growls in anger from the lack of food it's received today.

''Be honest. You don't want it?''

Breathe in. Moment of truth. Kind of like a time-out. I'm on the spot, which I hate, and I have to give a decisive, honest answer. No curving around that one. Straightforward. No strings attached. No buts or ifs. What do I do? I plunge into the real abyss, my heart, my soul, maybe, and search for what I really want the most. I think about the austere hospital room again, then flash forward to my parents and how I imagine them reacting to the news, then I picture myself watching the World Cup with my son in eight or ten years but I also visualize struggling for money and always searching for perfection.

What I fear the most, though, is slavery. Loss of freedom, loss of dreams, even those I know I'm too lazy to accomplish. It ain't over till the fat lady sings, and a pregnant woman who loves humming along to her Madonna or Rolling Stones album is as close as it gets to a fat lady singing.

''It's OK,'' she says, not bothered by my silence, maybe able to see through my eyes and into my troubled mind. An army of tears is assembling itself in the field of her eyes. ''If you don't want it, we won't have it. That way, the baby will become a star and be a guardian angel for our next one, just like my brother is my guardian angel.''

The army is still holding back the attack, but not for long. I try to negotiate for peace and hopefully prevent war from breaking out, even if it seems improbable. ''Don't say that. Maybe it would be better to have it. I'm scared, you know. I'm scared of having it, of spending 8 months with you pregnant, I'm scared of struggling for money so that he or she has a good childhood, and I'm scared shitless of telling my parents. You know, society creates an image about everything, about how normal is perfection, and in a normal life a 23 year old uneducated and job-less guy does not have a child with a 28 year old girl after only one year together. So I'm scared of the image. But deep, deep down, even beyond the scared shitless part, whatever happens, happens, and I know I'll be happy once we have it.''

The army is attacking down the field of her cheeks, but instead of shooting bullets, flowers are coming out of the guns. She is crying tears, not of sadness, but of joy. And to welcome the army beyond the field of cheeks, a smile is in preparation. ''You would? Be happy?''

''Of course I would! I mean, since the choice is ultimately yours, if you decide to keep it then I get to choose the name, so obviously I would be happy. And I'm excited about the idea of arguing with you about what clothes to buy for the baby, of how to raise it, of feeding it, of everything. I love you, and I would love our baby.''

My fingers are now tenderly caressing her face, running up her cheeks and around her forehead, venturing out in the wilderness of her hair and looping around her ear lobe and contouring her lips and slopping down her nose.

My mind is racing through the past, the present and the future; it races through a Spring day, dictated by a scorching sun witnessing a shy boy scared shitless admitting to a beautiful Swede that he really likes her, and when she answers that she likes him, too, he counters in a shaky voice that he means he really likes her, and when he notices the flicker of a smile on her face he draws near her and does the unthinkable: he kisses her; it races through this evening, our conversation, her body and her tears, my mind and my fear, our parents and unasked questions, love and doubt, and eventually, risks; it races through to a father looking proudly and in awe at his son, a blond toddler in diapers with a curious grin on his face, on the floor crawling after a scared mini Yorkshire while the mother is on the couch laughing and Mick Jagger is singing that childhood living is easy to do, the things you wanted I bought them for you. It races and races, eternally and ephemerally, from one thought to the other, from one skull side to the other, from one star to the other.

And then, I put my hand, flat, over her stomach.

Thomas Igou, 25 years old.  I live and work in Stockholm with my girlfriend, my son and my dog.  I'm currently working on a play with a friend, continuing to write on the side and teaching myself guitar.

The inspiration for the story was all the emotions of fears, stress, anxiety and joy going through the head of my 23 year old self when my girlfriend and I found out she was pregnant.