short story    
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executrix pullquote

My hands are suddenly ice-cold. To thaw them, I stuff them inside my mouth. The freezing flesh adheres to my tongue, to the tissue of my cheeks. I can't get my hands out. I manage to turn on the oven with my feet, and I kneel and stick my head assemblage into its warmth.

Footsteps come up behind me. My girlfriend's voice announces that killing myself that way is no solution to anything. I try to explain my situation, but my hands gag me. She starts tying my feet up behind me. She learned this in class, she explains, they have more successful deaths than I would believe because the professor is so good, he really knows about these things. I pull my head out finally, to try to get across what I'm really doing before she tries anything irrevocable. I twist around and am confronted by the sight of her in scuba gear and feather headdress. I garble a scream into my hands and throw myself to the floor as a harpoon crashes into the oven, missing me by a hairsbreadth. "You little faker!" she shrieks, flinging down the harpoon gun and stamping off to the doorway. "I can't believe you did that, I can't believe you'd pull a stunt like that! I thought you were serious!"

I cower on the floor, blubbering and shaking my head and pulling helplessly at my hands. She's still hot as hell. "Shit!" she cries, banging her fist against the doorjamb. "Shit!" But then she stops. She squints down at me nearsightedly. "What is that you're doing?" She bends closer. "Oh wow, I didn't notice that! Oh wow! That's really amazing, eating yourself up!"
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on the flood pullquote
  on the flood

I'm very tired, and I find the nearest boarding house and fall asleep in a room in the back. My window overlooks the bullrushes of a river bank. Fed by upstream rains, the river rises, and spills out of its channel, and surges up against the pane of my window. I sleep on in dreamy ignorance, even when the water breaks through and lifts my bed and carries me off, under the cries of the landlady, on the cresting tide.

I float downstream on my mattress raft, snoring. The wreckage of calamities swirls around me. Cows spin ponderously in the water and bellow in slow panic. A clinging family shouts down from the perch of a roof. A great fallen tree trunk, a behemoth, jolts and shudders against the piling of a bridge. I sail under the stone arch, my fist under my pillow clutching wallet and documents, in the night grip of a voyager. A turbulent moon rises in the dark sky and bathes my headway in a lurid gloss. At some point, I awaken in the bedclothes. I blink. I sit bolt upright, eyes wide in disbelief. A chest of drawers from a child's room pirouettes beside me, loosing a dribble of toys into the current. I stare at them. I stare rumple-headed at the cluttered tide all around. I decide I have to be dreaming. Any actions best should wait for the clarities of daylight, I drop back onto my pillow, and wrench the blankets over my head and my thudding heart, and squeeze my eyes tight for sleep.

My bed sweeps along, bearing its willfully unknowing cargo past the destruction of piers and jetties, past the collapsed bulwarks of villages and towns, on toward the distant turmoil of the sea.

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"Executrix" excerpted from The Sadness of Sex, by Barry Yourgrau. Copyright © 1995 Barry Yourgrau. Excerpted by permission of Dell Publishing, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

"On the Flood" copyright © 1997 Barry Yourgrau

Photo of Barry Yourgrau copyright © Michael Grecco..