Priiston Preston.

Preston by Sam Sutlive

Inattentive and preoccupied with repeatedly rubbing her index finger on her neck she sat automatically curling her hand away every few minutes. Passiveness came with the occasion. She shifted yet again thinking that her chair really was uncomfortable. The hard wood seat commanded a person to sit up straight but gave (one) an urge to slide down into a slouch. Her face had been serene for the whole event and yet she continued to rub her neck softly and then harder as if the only way of expressing her exasperation was in the pressure pulsing through her hand.

That was four hours ago. She was now trying to get some rest on the couch in what used to be the dining room. They had taken the past year to convert the dining room into a second living room. Preston wanted sleep to come but her eyes would not stay closed. They felt heavy, it had been worse that morning. A dull pounding below the eyes. It usually was worse in the morning after the long restless nights.

Preston had actually slept well the night before. No nightmares, no tossing and turning. Her sister, Jasmine the rocker, from her extended family next door called it REM. That just made Preston think of the band, R.E.M. Preston had actually seen them play a few times. She remembered one of their performances was in April or may of 85 at the Meredith College Amphitheater in Raleigh. It was a warm day and by the end of the performance the musicians were worn out. The singer, Michal Stipe had been walking around in a little circle on the stage and kept talking to the drummer in between lyrics. Preston had always wandered what went through musician’s heads when they were performing but never had the nerve to go up to one and ask.

Preston’s thoughts lingered on the performance as she finished getting dressed and started the coffee. She enjoyed walking barefoot in the mornings before she started the day. She always put her scarf, hat, and shoes on after she made the coffee. She used one brand of coffee called 1000 faces. She liked it because it reminder her of the book The Boy of a Thousand Faces by Brian Selznick. Every morning Preston self-consciously counted the coffee beans she put into the grinder. She always had a row of three small spoons for mixing condiments.

She never talked about her interest in organizing her nick knacks, magazines, and coffee mugs in her house because she presumed everyone did the same. It sounded weird to Preston the few times she tried imagining talking to someone about organizing everything into categories. (But that was how it was for her). Preston hung her cooking pots, baking pans, and double burner grills on their own row of hooks. She made a point of never hanging a cooking pot or pan in the wrong place. (Even though Jasmine mixed all her pots and pans on her kitchen wall Preston still thought that no one would be interested in actually talking about organizing kitchen equipment and household items.) Preston liked cleaning the house, it was a methodical task for her. She would clean the counters or wash the stovetop while she was getting ready for the day. Preston especially liked cleaning the counter. She had two toaster ovens, a set of knives, and a steam table pan she used as a compost container. Preston had gotten a Cuisinart toaster oven that was stainless steel, durable, and easy to clean. It had small numbers next to the dials and no timer but had always worked great. Now that one of the burner rods was failing Preston had bought a Waring toaster oven, which had a timer and was easy to use. The counter collected a lot of crumbs around the toaster ovens, which gave Preston something to always clean. Preston knew that her methodical task of cleaning was an intense internal habit that had gone beyond “just being neat”. It was automatic and it happened every day. In the evening she would slowly transition into a trance, where she would clean for three or four hours. A zone between being supper neat and feeling forced by a voice to clean up. Forced by the voice to clean up again and again. The tapping voice, she called it.

Preston felt the tapping in her head every time she left any thing in the house disorganized or messy. The last time she tried to leave the magazines and newspapers haphazardly laying around she almost passed out from the constant pinching feeling she felt, (which came from the tapping voice). It would only leave her alone after she pestered over the house, organizing and reorganizing and double-checking the different magazine stacks on the coffee table and the dressers. Moving the mugs around by size and then by color and then finding all the ones with cracks and organizing them into their own places on the shelf. When she felt like everything was perfectly arranged and everything looked like it would sit in its place without falling over Preston would go to the wall of the red and white squares. The fixation with the wall of squares was usually in the morning but she still stared at it for a few hours in the afternoon at a couple of times a week.

Originally written in Word on Dec. 15, 17, and the 27th, 2013 Reviewed on February 27, 2015.


Time by Sam Sutlive.

Points In Time by Sam Sutlive. 

Three minutes to the dance,

The girl is late and the guy is too early.

He spazzes as he checks his gold leather rimmed pocket watch for the third time.

He doesn’t just check it,


Or calmly.

But eight times consecutively in a row.

He is now looking up because a car passed but it is not the green Rabbit her mom usually drives

It is not the blue sixties Volvo Wagon her dad drives,

And it is definitely not her sisters blue grey nineties Jaguar.

He had been looking down at the gravel for so long he noticed a piece of white porcelain half buried in the rocks.

It had blue and green triangles on it and looked like it was from a bowl.

He had one min. left,

Before he did it,

Was going to go into the dance by himself like he did in middle school.

Before he got a conscious.

Before he cared what people thought.

Before he had to deal with peer pressure

And friends or acquaintance’s opinions.

There was a roar and a screech of tires.

He looked up as a he checked his watch,

It was time,

And if this wasn’t her he was going in.

She jumped out of a shiny grey diesel pickup truck,

A seventies model,

Her dress swept back in the air sweeping behind her, following her projected path to the spot in front of him.

“I am not even going to apologize,” she burst out, like she had been saying those lines in her head for the past half hour.

“But I will apologize and sweetly say I am sorry for making you anxious. I know how you get when you have to wait.”

“It doesn’t help when you get to our meeting rendezvous early!”

And the world stopped,

The city grew still,

The moment stretched on…

A moment within a moment

He jumped towards her,

Hugging as he made contact.

He was never happier to see her.

All he wanted to say and all he could hear in his head is “lets dance”

“Lets just dance.”

That was the real reason he had asked her to go.


In dances,

Not a dance or one dance,

But plural, Dances.

Many Dances in One Big Night.

But for several seconds he did not say anything.

He just lost himself in the moment after the moment, which was the hug.

She saw that, the pause,

Almost timid.

He ended up saying what he had been thinking the whole time.

“Please dance with me”

A Statement with a raised eyebrow,

A hint of a question,

As if he was daring her

Or allowing her, even Giving permission, to say “no thank you. I do not want to dance” the chance,

To pull out one last time.

None of those things happened,

A nod of the head and they went in.

And as you said,

What do you think?

That night as she ate dinner and watched the minutes pass through her family’s idiosyncrasies.

Her mom suddenly redirecting her voice.

What did you think about the wheelchair guy that blew himself up in China as a way of protest because no one that could effect consequences was listening.



No comment, I saw that on the news last year but was not paying attention as I am now not paying attention to your argument about politics and policies.

The ugly dinner* was still going on, her parents were arguing about politics and (internal dialogue until otherwise stated) her brother was making out with his chick, chick, that’s what he called her. UGG. Anyway Tommy was too young to understand anything, so he just ate and made shapes with his food.

“God!” or NO better yet! Jessuss All stretched out like that. The way Aunt Mary said it, with all that melancholy and emotion.

Anyway “Jessuss” “I wished I had a piece of paper and a pen.” My NOTEBOOK! Dam Why Do I always leave it, upstairs, during dinner. Of coarse I never think anything is going to happen AND of coarse something always happens that I want to express with the pen,

with the ink ,

with the paper.

The dance was such a perfect little story but now by the time I go upstairs and write it all out the words are going to be different.

“Maybe it will be better,” Harvey says.

Harvey the guy from next door respectively known as the chick’s father is always heard yelling,                                                                                                                                      “Art is not putting something through a toothpaste tube.”                                                                                   “You can’t just squeeze the toothpaste out and make something great!”


*The words ”Ugly Dinner” were pulled and borrowed from Ciera Durden’s three-minute typewriter poem moderated by a third party in the Poetry Jam at Athica.

Originally written in Word on October 17, 2014 at 12:36AM, Updated in November 2014 in Word, and then posted here on February 27, 2015 at 1:30AM.