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Authors: Chris Katsaropoulos

Fragile

BOOK: Fragile
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FRAGILE

FRAGILE

C
HRIS
K
ATSAROPOULOS

LUMINIS BOOKS
Published by Luminis Books
13245 Blacktern Way, Carmel, Indiana, 46033, U.S.A.
Copyright © Chris Katsaropoulos, 2009

PUBLISHER'S NOTICE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product
of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover design and composition for
Fragile
by Joanne Riske.

ISBN-10: 1-935462-27-X

ISBN-13: 978-1-935462-27-9

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

“Katsaropoulos does a wonderful job of developing the characters and intertwining their stories. The tale he creates is intriguing and attention-grabbing. Unlike anything you have read before … !”

—Kam Aures,
Rebeccasreads.com


Fragile
is a beautifully-written novel … the writing is uniquely refreshing. After reading
Fragile,
I found myself feeling very contemplative. Readers will enjoy
Fragile
and will find meaning in it that applies to their own lives … Highly recommended.”

—Paige Lovitt,
Reader Views

“When your own life is shattered, sometimes the pieces needed to repair them like in the broken lives of others.
Fragile
tells the story of three individuals who face their life-long celibacy, their loveless marriages, and their own self-loathing.”

“An elderly virgin yearns for her lost lover, the lost lover faces the passionless life he chose, and a mother bottomed out on her luck wondering what drove her to try to end her own life. Poignant and thought-provoking,
Fragile
is a fine piece of fiction to add to any collection.”

—
Midwest Book Review

“In
Fragile,
his first novel, Katsaropoulos combines elements of his knowledge and experience and has written and experimental book that, like its title, is fragile. This is a book of fragments that, not unlike the encounters we all face in life—moments that seem coincidental and unimportant at the time but which later lead to insights and even behavior changes completely unexpected.”

“There is an element of ‘higher meaning' in this story that makes it fascinating to finish and to contemplate the experience of reading it. For lovers of experimental literature, this book is tasty.”

—Grady Harp,
Amazon Top 10 Reviewer

“Fragile
is a fine first novel by Chris Katsaropoulos. It takes getting used to the “broken story” technique as three people are introduced and then followed about in succeeding fragments. Bit by bit we come to know the main characters, Amelia, Tris, and Holly, and what happens to them through choices they make, and how they affect and are affected by others through a series of relationships that stop-start in present/past with inner monologues and outer dialogues.

“The wonderment is how easily we are able to edge into this disjointed style, and how readily we become part of this shattered and shattering story. At the end it's a “whew” and a “wow” because it was a pleasurably demanding experience.”

“When we're thrust into a different setting mid-sentence or mid-word, it seems natural because of the circumstances. These characters are not whole—pieces of their lives are missing. Why? Perhaps what we learn is the most fragile truth about ourselves—would we, could we be these people?”

—Rita Kohn,
Nuvo Newsweekly

“Fragile
is an experiential novel about what pulls us together and apart… Three very different people who are all struggling to feel love and be loved are all portrayed as vulnerable by Katsaropoulos… The stories are sad, but Katsaropoulos does a wonderful job of keeping the thread of hope alive in each of them, as though a happy ending is just around the corner. It's a small story with a large impact.”

—Christina Lockstein,
Christy's Book Blog

On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round.

Robert Browning

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes, 12:6–12:7

I
NSTEAD OF SKIPPING
out to lunch for half an hour, Holly has to take a walk-in who wants a full cut and color. Holly tries to slip past the front desk and down the stairs, but the insolent girl working the desk calls her over with a smirk and points to the old woman trying to situate herself in one of the sleek, coneshaped plastic chairs in the waiting area.

“I would've given her to Trent,” the girl whispers slyly, “but he has a two o'clock coming.” Then she adds what amounts to a warning. “She wants a special.”

Holly nods and wonders what she's in for this time. Ever since she started running around with Rick Oester, the bartender at the Midtown Grill, Holly's business has taken a nosedive. She leaves the kids with her mother and stays out late, drinking too much, smoking too much, waiting for Rick to close. Then, when it's 2 a.m., maybe 3, they go out—or, more often, they end up at his place. The next morning, she feels like death warmed over, and the customers notice. She's been late to her morning appointments and missed a few altogether. Now she has big one-hour, two-hour gaps in her book, and this is what she gets: Whatever leftovers wander in off the street.

“How are
you?
” Holly says, trying to perk up her voice and hide the disappointment in her face. She extends her hand to the old woman, who has found herself trapped by the peculiar ergonomics of the tipped-up cone chair, more an offer of assistance than a greeting. The woman places her hand into Holly's and latches on with a surprisingly forceful grip. The appendage Holly holds in her hand has a curious parchment-like feel to it, as if a small sack of bones has suddenly sprung to life and grasped the first thing that passed by. Holly's initial reaction is to let go, but the old woman's hand clutches at her as she tries to pull away. The cool skin of the hand is thin and papery, the round knobs of the knuckles bulging white as the woman yanks on Holly's arm to hoist herself up.

“My foot fell asleep,” she says, gasping from the effort of raising herself. “No circulation. These chairs send all the blood to your … “she gasps again audibly, as Holly gives her one last tug to get her on her feet, “to your backside.”

“I guess they're not built for—” and then she stops short, trying to come up with a kinder way to say
old people
. The only thing she can think of that doesn't sound offensive is “senior citizens,” but the words feel awkward and mean as they come out of her mouth. The woman glances at Holly and lets go of her hand. “I'm Holly, by the way. We're heading over here,” she says, striding towards the row of hair-washing sinks lined up beneath the tall picture windows on the far side of the shop. High above their heads, huge, four-spoked ceiling fans slowly churn the air. The heels of Holly's beige pumps click with a solemn purpose on the hardwood floors, adding a staccato beat to
the undulating whine of Trent's blow drier as he waves it over the head of his one-thirty. The fronds of the large potted plants quiver from the currents of air circulating around the shop. Holly points to an open basin and watches the woman carefully lower her head into it, resting the base of her skull against the dip where the neck goes.

Holly steps to the back of the basin, looking at the woman's tired upside down face from a great height. From this vantage point, the normal geometry of the face is inverted, giving Holly precisely what she wants—the true picture of what she has to work with, the hair separate from the nose, the mouth, the eyes; an entity unto itself. She makes a quick assessment before the wash: faded blond tinged by gray, a respectable cut with layers feathering back over the ears, collar length—maybe a bit too long for a woman this old. How old is she really? Holly wonders. It's not the kind of question she can ask directly, and that's the problem with picking up these strays off the street. With her regulars, she can work with a known quantity, rejoin the conversation in mid-beat from the previous appointment—“How are the kids? Oh, a new dog? What kind? How sweet.” There's more effort with a walk-in, finding out what they like and don't like in their cut, making small talk about the weather. Long periods of silence such as this.

“So,” Holly says, staring into the upside down eyes of the old woman, “what are we doing here today?”

“My name's Amelia,” the old lady says. “I had trouble finding this place, upstairs and all. One of my dear friends said you could help.”

A referral—it's been a while since she's had one of those. As she's been losing her stockpile of regulars, she's also been losing the people they recommend her to. She reaches down and touches the woman's hair lightly, getting a feel for it before she washes.

“Really?” Holly says. “What's your friend's name?”

“Dolores,” the old woman says. “Dolores King.”

Holly sifts through a list of names, faces, customers she has or once had, even friends of customers, and finds that the name means nothing to her. Then she realizes: Dolores King didn't refer Amelia to Holly. The girl at the desk said she would have given her to Trent.

“Dolores told me this place has the best beauticians in town.” Holly nearly laughs to hear her use such an old-fashioned word. “About a year ago, the lady who used to do my hair—did it for more than twenty years—passed away. Since then, I've tried a lot of places, but no one can get it right. The color is off somehow, the length of the bangs is never right. Then I tell them it's wrong and they look at me like I'm some kind of crazy old coot.”

Amelia glances up at Holly with a kind of stern defiance, as if to rebuke all the other haircutters who have given her poor cuts. Holly touches her hair again, gently lifting it away from the compartment of the sink and letting it fall strand by strand. She still has plenty to work with, not thinning like she sees in many women Amelia's age. Lots of hair, but very fine, like the angel hair in the hollow center of the ornament they used to cautiously place on the top bough of the Christmas tree when she
was a child. The light catches each filament as they fall away from her hand: silver, white, gray, gold. No roots, not a trace of auburn or black. Clearly, there's been some coloring, but it's hard to tell how much.

“Oh, you're not crazy,” Holly says. “You just want what you want.”

“Can you help me? I'm looking for something … special. My fiftieth high school reunion is tomorrow night.”

“And you want to look great. Let's wash up here, and you can tell me all about it.”

BOOK: Fragile
11.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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