Caroline Lemak Brickman

softer than a soft sign


ISSUE 86 | SELF-MODIFICATION | MAY 2018

The husband loves the chair.

The American is a professor.

A brother is not an animal.

A name is a burden.

A city is often a friend.

Your son is not a person?

***

God exists.
There is no God.
I love God.

The oak tree over there is tall.
There is no tall oak over there.
You don’t see the tall oak?
I don’t see it.

Do you want a black cat?
Yes, I want it.
We actually have six black cats.
I want them all. I love black cats.

That man has five wives.
Do they love him?
No. They love each other.

***

I don’t like school. I will tear down the school.

The dog sat down on the pizza? She behaves badly.

Ilya, are you translating Dostoevsky? Do you know that he went crazy?

She’s standing on the bed. She got married and now she doesn’t lie down.

She’s lying on the couch. She moved to Paris and now she doesn’t get up.

You’re just going to walk away from me? Ok, let’s get divorced.

Stand up, Larry. You’re driving me crazy!

You will enter the building. You will walk up to the wall. A chair will be standing there. You will sit down.

She takes young Henry to work every day. Henry loves riding in cars.

The ducks all flew away. The fish all swam away. The boys took all the beer away. I’m gonna sit down.

That isn’t related to our project, Pasha. Your dog ran through the garden.

Where were you all day? You went to Santa Cruz?

***

It’s not his fault she left. He’s louder, taller, and more beautiful than the other man.

They’re mad at their parents.

It’s a lot worse than you think. She doesn’t look like her father at all.

He agrees with me. We’re ready to leave.

He’s smart. He’s a smart man. He’s a smarter man than you think. He’s smarter than you. He’s the smartest man in the world.

Speak much louder! Have you lost your mind?

Is he free Thursday? He’s busy?? He’s the busiest person in the world.

Alice? Come home as quickly as possible, please. Your father is sick.

Lucy! That skirt is too short on you. No, that one is even shorter! It’s the shortest skirt in the closet!

Russian vodka is a lot stronger than American vodka. Russians want stronger vodka. The stronger, the better.

Russian dogs are a little softer than American dogs. Russians want softer dogs. The softer, the better.

The American alphabet is simpler than the Russian alphabet. Americans want simpler letters. The simpler, the better.

He’s more profound than you are. He’s the most profound person in my life.

***

Mom and Dad love each other.
They often talk about each other.
They give each other presents all day.
But they don’t love to sleep with each other.

Mom says she just doesn’t feel like it.
She says there’s no time.
Dad calls her lazy.
But Mom seems to me to be a white raven.

She was born a goalkeeper.
Dad says you can’t be born a goalkeeper; you have to become a goalkeeper.
He doesn’t understand anything about my mother.

Dad has a dark blue nose.
I often think about his dark blue nose.
Mom loves the little fish who live in his dark blue nose.
But they’re afraid of my father.

***

The cat is sitting on the bed.
Are you putting the cat on the bed?
The cat was sitting on the bed, and now she’s sitting herself down on the floor.

My brother is lying on the floor, too.
Papa always lays him on the floor.
Now Misha lies down on the floor by himself.
But I will never lie down on the floor.

Misha and the cat are lying on the floor, and maybe they will never get up.
“We’re getting up! We’re getting up!” they cry.
Yesterday Misha stood the cat up on the table, but she didn’t like it.

She didn’t feel like standing on the table.
She sat down on the bed again.
I will never sit on the bed.
I will plant cucumbers tomorrow.

***

Where is Masha taking that old cow?? They’re walking so slowly!

Where is Masha taking those old cows? Her truck is so dirty!

Where is Masha taking that hamburger?? She’s a vegetarian!

Where’s Masha? Did she already leave with the old cow for grandmother’s house?

Where’s Masha? Did she already drive off with the old cows to Santa Cruz?

Where’s Masha? Did she already leave to take the burger to dad?

Where was Masha this morning? Was she bringing the cow around to see grandmother again?

Where was Masha all day? She took the cows on a trip to Santa Cruz?

Where was Masha this afternoon?
She was really proud of the hamburger she made. She took it to her dad to show him. Now she’s sitting in her room, eating her hamburger.

***

I’m driving the kids to a party, I’ll call you back.
Okay, I dropped them off at the party, what’s up?
What? No, I didn’t bring them inside the apartment, I just drove them up to the building and they got out.

Well, yes, I think they went inside the building.
I really think they went in. They wanted to bring a present to Sasha.
I don’t know what kind of present! Misha was saying something about a boat. Sasha loves to sail.

Well, they were also bringing vodka, if I remember.
Yes, Sasha has ten dogs. But they’re afraid of going in cars.

I don’t know if Sasha drives a car.
Driving a car after vodka is a bad idea.
Well, I really hope they went up to Sasha’s.
I told you! We got to the building and they just took off.

What are you saying? You think the kids are driving to the lake right now?
You think they’re bringing Sasha, ten sad dogs, a bottle of vodka, and a boat to the lake?

You think they’re all going to sail across the lake?
Well, I know they’ll sail home in the morning.
So the kids drank some vodka at Sasha’s, took ten dogs to the other side of the lake for the night. They’re normal kids.

***

The ducks are bored. They want a more interesting pond today.
My ducks are smarter than yours.
I don’t want smarter ducks, I want fatter ducks.
I’m a vegetarian. My stomach is weaker than yours.
Tolstoy was a vegetarian too. But he’s more interesting than you are.
I don’t like Tolstoy. I like fatter writers.

My father is rich, but my mother is richer.
You have a loud voice. Speak more quietly.
You have a quiet voice. Speak more loudly.
This cat is softer than a soft sign!
Leftovers are sweet, but beer is sweeter.
He’s a strict professor, but she’s stricter.

I like old men. I hate younger men.
She wants a better wedding.
I like young men. I hate older men.
That was a worse wedding than usual.
I have a big cat, but a bigger dog.
The wedding was just too big. She wanted a smaller wedding.

***

We were talking about the garden.
We were in the garden.

He’s the main character in Gogol’s “The Nose.”
What’s that on your nose?

I don’t know anything about heaven.
God lives in heaven.

I often think about that mouth of hers.
There’s milk in my mouth.

***

I don’t know if he wants beer.

If you want, I can drink your beer.

You want a beer?

I’ll give you a beer if you want.

If I knew if he wanted beer, I wouldn’t be asking you.

Wine??! You want wine???

***

He crossed the street quickly.

The cats went crazy! It was a fiasco.

Yes, I’m leaving right now.

***

Liza usually leaves for work at 8:00.
She usually comes home at 6:00.
Today she left for work at 9:00.
She’ll come home at 7:00.

Liza had already left for work when Misha dropped by.
He often comes by at 10.
Today he ran into the kitchen.
He almost flew in.

I was standing at the window and Misha ran past me.
He sat on the table, then stood again suddenly.

***

I think she’s going crazy.

We moved to France.

A good idea occurred to me!

She married Misha??

It got to the point where I had to talk with her.

Yep, she went crazy.

Now we’re moving to California.

Enough! You’ve crossed all boundaries.

Ohh, she’s marrying John!

***

Mom is slower than Dad.

But Mom is more stylish than Dad!

I know, but she has a slower mind.

It’s not Dad’s fault that he’s smarter.

Greg sleeps in a warmer room than Steve.

Yeah, Steve is colder than Greg.

You mean he’s a colder person?

Yes, but he is more beautiful.

The kids are bringing the stronger vodka to the party.

The kids are bringing the sadder dogs to the lake.

***

I usually lie down on the bed, but today I lay down on the couch.

Don’t put Sasha in the stroller. She doesn’t like that. She usually sits in it herself.

Am I sitting on a wet towel?
No… you just sat on a frog, bro.

***

I always cry when I eat pizza.

He’ll say “I don’t drink,” but he drinks.

***

Where’s Sasha?

He’s not here.

Sasha is a girl.

She’s not here.

Sasha’s not here?

Well, I don’t see Sasha.

Maybe she’s in the snow. Or on the floor.

Maybe she’s in the dictionary.

In the big dictionary?

Maybe she’s in hell.

Maybe she’s in your nose.

Don’t talk about my nose!

It’s not important. I don’t love Sasha. I love other girls.

What else do you love?

I love Chekhov, and books, and little fish.

***

Masha, I just love your brother. I want to marry him. But I don’t want his little house.

Do you know Pasha?
Pasha? Hm. Maybe Pavel?
Yes. Do you know Pavel?
No, I don’t know him. I know Lara.

Tomorrow I’m going to buy lamps, rugs, dogs, and books. Six little books.

I see the cat. The cat sees me. I love cats. Cats love me.

You see the boy? The boy sees you? You love boys?? Boys love you?!

***

Misha, why are you standing on the bed? Sit down on the chair or lie down on the bed.

Pictures were hanging on the walls. The man hung a new picture, then lay down.

We laid the forks down on the table. They lay there a long time.

A bird flew in and sat down on the table. She sat there a long time.

Stand up, Liza! You’re sitting on my daughter!

***

I don’t know if I can come to the party tonight.

I’ll come to the party if it’s not raining.

She asked me if I had read Chekhov. I really hate her.

Have you read Chekhov?

***

Your husband is taller than mine, but my husband has a bigger nose.

You’re right. I don’t like short husbands. I really love taller husbands.

Noses are more important than height. Noses are more important than money, too.

No. Money is the most important thing in the world.

Okay, Stella. My husband is richer than your husband.

***

This song is sad.

This car is beautiful.

The night is quiet.

The bar is crowded.

The suitcase is too heavy for me.



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