Feature the Feature
Catherine Carberry

It's past midnight when Kim takes me to see the rhinoceros statue in the lot behind the dollar store. The statue is set apart from the back entrance, standing on an elevated concrete platform between parking spaces.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Kim says, and she straddles the rhinoceros as though it's a bronco. She grips its tusk and throws an arm in the air. The wine bottle she's holding crashes to the pavement, explodes in glass.

Shit, Kim says, and she licks wine or blood off her finger. We're both drunk.

Kim is my new neighbor and she's throwing me a one-woman housewarming party. Nick and I used to live in an apartment. Now that I'm alone, I've moved into a house big enough for a family of four. I'm doing things backwards.

Are you coming up? Kim says. I shake my head.

Our neighborhood has streets named after prestigious universities, as though Dartmouth Court or Cornell Avenue would inspire us to brush ourselves off, to leave the house before noon. We both live on Stanford Street, but Kim is the one riding the rhinoceros. I'm the one dragged out to see it because I need to stop watching the news. I need to stop harassing the embassy's receptionist.

Sometimes sinkholes swallow entire city streets, entire hotels. Sometimes there are three American journalists in those hotels.

Kim leaps off the rhinoceros and swaggers to me.

Your turn, cowgirl.

Sinkholes are otherwise known as swallow holes. Widows are otherwise known as circumstantial alcoholics. If we'd had children, they would be called orphans. I read this somewhere, that if a child loses just one parent, that child can be rounded up to orphan. As though the surviving parent is already a ghost.

The rhinoceros's back is worn brass. High school kids must come here to ride it. They must sit on its back and think about when they were children, when they used to drop a quarter into a fiberglass airplane outside the grocery store and feel the clumsy mechanics beneath them. Nothing like a real plane. Nothing like actual flight.

I climb on. Kim cheers for me, says atta girl.  

Nick used to tell me I'd never be a good journalist.

You have to feature the feature, he'd say when he read my early attempts. It sounded like a riddle.

What you need to understand, Nick would say, is that the most important information goes first. You have to know what's important.

There is a streetlight glowing orange, and I can feel a train coming. What is more important, the train or the rhinoceros? There's got to be a story behind the rhinoceros, a whimsical city planner, a forgotten park. There are people who investigate such stories. These people read microfilms, conduct interviews, swear to die before revealing a source. These people aren't me.

Catherine Carberry has stories in or coming from North American Review, Juked, Tin House, Necessary Fiction and others. She is an Assistant Editor at Mid-American Review.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of pangalactic gargleblaster.

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