By Sarah Priscus.

“The kid next to me on the charter—bearded, but a baby—asks why I’m crying, and I lie and say my parents have died in an oil fire, a donut-frying accident, and he hands me a bottle of orange juice because he knows I’ll need my strength.” 

urban dream in London by Mirja Nuutinen.

The kid next to me on the charter—bearded, but a baby—asks why I’m crying, and I lie and say my parents have died in an oil fire, a donut-frying accident, and he hands me a bottle of orange juice because he knows I’ll need my strength. I make him stand up because I want something to do, and I stumble over a stuffed Garfield in the aisle and make a little girl cry and I say sorry to the toy. Flies in the restroom panic and faint, then dance like the Cottingley fairies (another lie, but not my own) and they know how because they’ve been throwing galas, parties, ragers. After my turn, the kid next to me uses the facilities even though I say there’s no toilet paper, and a minute after he disappears, the bus fills with cigarette smoke. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses blinks and asks if I smell that, and I pretend to be deaf but I only know a few words in sign language (smile, boy, baby, abortion, girl) and I clear my throat and say, I’m sorry, I had an earbud in, what did you say? and no one responds. The kid comes back and coughs and I don’t tell him that we all know. The bus stops at a service station halfway to nowhere. The driver orders us all off and walks across the parking lot, skipping each crack, and he goes into the weeds and the grass and the fallow. He must know of something good and worthwhile to walk to, or at least a Subway, but I don’t follow because I wasn’t listening when he announced how long he’d be gone because I was toying with the idea of pretending again to be deaf. I know this is offensive to do and I feel very bad and decide that my stomach hurts. The driver sinks into the horizon like Virginia Woolf with rocks in her pockets. The service station is pathetic—electric blue roofing tipped over a melting pile of concrete—and the little canteen inside sells stale fries and staler cigarettes, and the kid buys both. When the driver comes back and is alive and I’m done pacing back and forth counting all my steps, I fall asleep and wake up when the kid lights up again because it makes me think I’m back in my grandparents’ living room splayed across a nicotine-yellowed couch. Their house was filled with flies, too—the fat kind that feeds on rot—and then the flies died and my grandparents died and someone bought their house, and when I’d biked past it a few years ago to see the tree I swung on and the parsley bush I’d nibbled from like the baby rabbits who lived under the rhubarb plant, I’d thrown a rock at the window and missed. Everything should be left to crumble and fossilize into surprises uncovered by schoolkids and scientists leaning down into water sifting sand and trying to remember when the gold rush began. The kid asks me if he thinks anyone noticed what he was doing, and I play stupid and say, Huh, what do you mean? and he starts to sleep and we’re all lying. When the driver takes me to where I’ve been going, I stay on the bus and leave my seatbelt on and don’t try to stand until he comes by and asks me if I can hear, and I nod and peel a scab off my leg and the driver is watching all the while and it doesn’t matter to him, or I don’t think it does, because he points at the unopened bottle of juice the kid gave me and asks if he can have it, and I say he can, and I’m thirsty the whole walk home.

The Blood Pudding – November 27, 2023

Sarah Priscus is the author of Groupies (2022, William Morrow and Co.) Her writing has appeared in Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and in her sporadically-updated Substack (https://sarahpriscus.substack.com.) She spends a lot of time on the bus. You can find her at sarahpriscus.com, on Instagram at @sarah.priscus, and on Twitter at @sarahpriscus. She is represented by Mariah Stovall of Trellis Literary.


Artwork: Attracted and curious of communication in all its various forms and its evolution through centuries, Nuutinen is able to capture underlying messages of today’s society, to discern that intrinsic need of the human being of being understood and the need to leave a mark. From graffitis to social media, her reflection is attentive yet heart-lighted. Sensitive to the interpretation of a collective subconscious with the end of leaving a trace for future generation and to current mass media, often chaotic and absurd.
Mirja Nuutinen’s art reflects our time. You can find her work here.