White Eagle Coffee Store Press

Oven by Allison Alsup

   Oven, Allison Alsup's unnerving erotic story about nameless illicit lovers will remind some readers of the minimalist, damaged relationship fiction of Raymond Carver. The spare language will make others think of Hemingway. But, Allison goes her in her own direction as she probes the notion of identity. How do we learn about others? What is it that we give and take in relationships? And, how much do we owe others in our lives--children, husbands, fiancés, parents, siblings? Ultimately, the reader is reminded that our times have shown us that all desires, indiscretions, identities can be burned away, reduced to ashes.

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Allison Alsup resides in NOLA where she writes and repairs a historic home. In the last year her stories have won several awards. Oven was a finalist in the 2008 Long Story Contest, International. Proving that she has a sense of humor about her writing, she won the first The Scent of an Ending Contest. She is final judge of the 2010 LSC,I.

     He arrived before she did that first time and every time afterward. A man of routine, he took off his shoes by the front door, padded into the kitchen where he put his wallet and keys into the third drawer from the top. He wanted to remain anonymous--no names. It would be easier that way. He took the glass tumbler from the kitchen sink where he had left it the week before and poured out a measured splash of amber scotch from the bottle. He turned on the radiator; the building was old and it sounded like someone was pounding the pipes with a hammer.

     He waited. He watched from the window facing the park, the swings stilled and lumped with snow. The cold seeped through the glass.  It was late October and winter had come, ousting autumn. The wind had slashed the leaves from the trees and the bare branches looked sharp, almost brutal. A brick sidewalk led to the subway.  He didn't know from which direction she would come. The radiator reluctantly hissed, then kicked in.   

     She knocked at ten after two. He took a sip of his whiskey and waited for her to knock again. He liked the thought of her waiting, unsure, in the hall. When she did sound again, he unlocked the door. She stepped inside, looked at him to say something. She put her hands in the pockets of her coat. The collar and cuffs were lined with fake shearling, the style that year. He closed the door behind her and saw that her coat was too tight around her waist; the fabric strained against her back. Her brown boots were stained black where she had pushed through the slush. 

     "Would you like some scotch?" he asked.

     "No," she said and unbuttoned her coat. The wind had blown little wisps of hair free from the knot at the back of her head.  Her hair was neither blonde nor orange. There was no color to describe it. She unlooped the knit scarf from around her neck, scratched at the pink skin beneath. "So this is it?" she asked.

     He nodded.

     She walked through the apartment--three rooms, a bathroom off to the side of the back and a kitchenette off the front.

     "There a view of the river from the back. You can see the bridge," he told her. He sounded like the realtor who'd rented him the place.

     "It's not what I expected," she said staring into the empty rooms.

Black and White Digital  Photograph

Allison Alsup and Gavin MacArthur