Fiction — July 9, 2014 11:49 — 14 Comments


I wrap a baby’s laugh in a blue box for my gal and say,  “Happy Birthday, Sweetie.  I love you more than real whipped cream.” 

She tears paper in different directions. The laugh fills the room with buds of possibility, with beginnings that smell of baby’s heads.

A scowl beats her smile into a frown.

“No card?” she says.

“I said I love you?”  I say.

“You didn’t take the time to write it down,” she says. “Words in the air are nowhere to be found, ink is permanent like teeth.”  She says this like it’s obvious.

I take out a ballpoint pen and start to write, “I love you” on my face.   I don’t get past “I”.  My gal tightens her slender hand around my wrist, cutting off my circulation, and says, “It’s too late for that.” Her bracelets bang into each other; they bang into me.  She’s in my bones.

I smother the baby’s laugh with a pillow. It doesn’t take long.  There’s little fight in that kid. The laugh cries until it’s silent.

“I will make up for this,” I say as I kiss my love.  Her lips harden. It’s like kissing through a plastic straw.

I look at her.  She looks out the window.

I love her for what she doesn’t say.  There’s a drawer of I love you’s inside this beauty waiting for me.  She’s a combination lock.

I return to the scene of the crime. I climb into the window of the house I stole the baby’s laugh.  I want to return it to its rightful owner.  The crib has been taken apart. Dreams are in nuts and bolts.  I hear a muffled cry from inside a FedEx box addressed to the orphanage.  It weighs 9 pounds 2 ounces.


On my way home, I pass a homeless guy untying a knot in his hair.  Orange burns in the garbage pail.  The sun is hotter than the fire.  I breathe in deep. If you ask me, the smell of urine gets a bad rap.

“Here,” I say.  I give him the dead laugh.

He tries to bite it.  It slips out of his mouth like baby oil and slides down the sewer drain. It echoes hopelessness beneath people and traffic.

“Do you have any relish?” homeless guy asks,  “salt & or pepper?”

I check my pockets.  I find twenty cabbages.

“Have you ever tried to eat cash?” he says with disgust.

I look down with shame and see a newspaper beneath his tan feet. The headline says: President of the President’s club assassinated.

“Have a nice day,” I say to my suede shoes.

“Where are you going?” He asks.


“Go ahead, rub it in,” homeless guy says.  He strums the pimples on his chin and points to the “I” on my face.

“I’m in love,” I say.

“With yourself?” He asks.

“A woman,” I say.

“Does she love you back?”

I sweat. “Someday.”

“Noday,” he says.  He moves up a knot.


I knit a sweater from fire. I use over 800 boxes of matches. Over 800! I write a beautiful card with words of deep affection and run to my gal’s house.  My heart beats a world record.

Hands in flames, knees on ground, I say, “Happy Birthday, Sweetie, I love you more than the center of a raspberry linzer tart.”

She holds up the ashes of my burned card.  “I wanted ink not ash,” she says.  “My father’s urn has all the ash I need.  He was a big man.  Besides, I don’t look good in fire.”

“But I burn for you,” I say, “No pun intended.” I blow out a pinky.

“Love is a chemical thing,” she says “but it can’t be bought OTC. I know,” her chin turns up, “my father was a pharmacist.”

“Can it be prescribed?” I bloat with hope.

Like that, the door closes.

Everywhere I go I set off fire alarms; I give the sweater to a fire station.

“Oy,” the captain says with a mouthful of sweet and sour soup “can’t you see we’re on a break?” He sighs, adjusts his red Yamaka with the embroidered Dalmatian.  “We can’t put a fire out here, people will wonder why a fire station had a fire.  Not good for our rep.  We’ll have to drive to the outskirts, put it out somewhere there. He turns to the four firemen eating Chinese, says, “Sorry Boychiks, back to work.”

The one spinning a dreidel passes and pulls a cookie from my ear. “It’s an unfortunate fortune cookie,” he says.  He delivers the bad news with a smile.  He cracks it over my head and reads: “Warning: love unreturned may cause internal bleeding.”

I sit near the burning firehouse.  My tears put out my heart.


Larry Silberfein lives and works in Manhattan. He is a creative director at an advertising agency. He has one wife, two kids and an infinite amount of olives in his refrigerator. This is his first published story. 


  1. Gwen Deely says:

    How do you “wrap a baby’s laugh” or fill a room with “buds of possibility” or find 20 cabbages in your pocket? Larry Silberfein knows how to tickle the imagination and tell an enchanting story. Love is a chemical thing, with a dash of magic. Great read.

  2. Great Larry! So great!

  3. Matt Sherring says:

    Great story Larry. I loved it. Looking forward to reading many, many more.

  4. Dan Fried says:

    Well written and provocative. Great job Larry.

  5. Ronnie Pearson says:

    Wow! You are amazingly talented!
    Your stories always leave me feeling
    emotional and thoughtful for days.

  6. Jim Peck says:

    Kudos, Larry. And thank you.
    I feel my imagination … and my world … opening up. Wide.

  7. Penelope says:

    Feel the painf of the child in this man who learned about scorn and rejection too well. Great voice and tone. Moving story.

  8. Marge Perry says:

    Beautiful and imaginative. I look forward to reading more.

  9. Bugtai says:

    Love it! More please.

  10. As Bugtai says, “Love it! More please.” This is a wonderful read. What I call “knock your socks off,” in fact. Very exciting to think how far Mr. Silberfein can go with this kind of writing. Awesome promise here.

  11. janet schnol says:

    Wow, Larry. Your writing is so poetic, evocative and transporting. I was truly moved. Thank you!
    And, please keep writing more.

  12. Susan Gail says:

    Once again, I am intrigued by your genius, captivated by your imagination and wondering about the origin of all this. After all, we do share the same blood.

  13. margaret elman says:

    So beautifully written, Larry – congratulations on a great story with fantastic style! I’m very impressed … a while back, I might’ve even been a wee bit jealous ;) xo

  14. Yana Hunt says:

    Addicted. Want more.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney