Three Stories by Chiara Barzini

BOMB 114 Winter 2011
114 20Cover

The Tenants

Things were happening. It was festive and official: everyone in the building was allowed to take the elevator. No more exceptions. To celebrate the new event, the tenants were invited to a dance performance and offered a free ride in an airplane that would drive across the city and maybe even take off. The couples were excited. They left babies at home and kissed. Some even had the courage to look into each other’s eyes. “If you want to go and kiss our neighbor, that’s fine. It’s such a joyous event. Don’t let me keep you.” Men pressed their lips against new women’s necks. Some pulled down their pants playfully. The women saw their partners falter in front of fresh desire. They stayed and watched their performances, feeling jealous, then free.

A few tenants had already boarded the airplane and were rolling across the city, looking onto cars and pedestrians, feeling taller and better than anyone else. It was addictive, this sensation of invincibility. Everyone was having a good time, but when the dancers filled the stage for the performance, one of them lost a boot. The spectacle was interrupted. The tenants shifted in their seats. Maybe they’d taken things too far.


The Light Bulb Man

The light bulb man welcomes guests with a magnificent grin. He opens the doors and invites them to dance. Four women in ballroom gowns and silk wings release themselves from their partners’ embraces and flock over to him instantly. They want to be with him. It’s beyond their control. It’s because of his electricity.

One of them stands forth with a broken laptop and a ringing phone.

“Since I started thinking of you they all stopped working. What should I do?” she asks.

He takes the harmed electronics in his hands and shines them with his beam.

“Confused?” he asks with a deep, gracious tone.

“Yes!” the woman replies, “I am terribly confused.”

Her electronic devices jump and radiate, creating words and sounds they have not in a long time. He kisses her hand and bows forward slightly as he moves to the next woman. This one has a wholly different set of problems.

“My men disappear into thin air. I need your advice!”

The light bulb man adores helping his lady friends. He loves his women, with their petty fears and electronic problems. He knows how to lure them in. The four women crowd around him filled with requests. The one with the broken laptop observes them—the feeble moths—as they fly, reckless. They hit him in the head again and again to get his attention, then fall over.

“God! Won’t you tire of holding so many of them in? Won’t you collapse? What about the electricity bill? How will you cope with that?” the woman with the broken laptop lashes out, taken by a fit of uncontrollable jealousy.

The bulb man snickers, “You think I can’t handle my women?”

“Oh no! Handling is your specialty, it seems!”

“You think I don’t know when and how to shut my light off?”

“I hate that beaming you do!”

“I love your pheromone.”

“You probably tell that to every girl that flaps her wings your way.”

“Did you really think I’d fix your laptop only?”

“Clearly not!” she screams back, noticing the three women with their young faces and tender cleavages hanging in the background, staring back at her with contempt.

“You think I can’t just plunge over and get inside you just because I have light bulbs around my face?”

“Oh no! You are so obviously capable of doing anything you want.”

“If you insist, I’ll drop all bulbs and ladies. I’ll grab you by the hand and take you back to my desk lamp, where it all began. I’ll shove vodka down your throat. I’ll launch your stupid appliances out the window and fuck you till you turn blue.”

The woman is excited and terrified. She waltzes toward him, attracted. Her gown picks up dust from the ballroom’s marble floor. When she reaches his face she stares deep into his eyes. Her legs shake. She gives herself to him.

His eyes turn gloomy. What a pity, they seem to say as she burns up into flames. The combustion is short. The pleasure so deep.

The other three women are waiting for her on the other side. They too have been scorched by the bulb man—their lovely cleavages carbonized, their gowns turned to ashes.

“Look at her blaze!” says the one with the men problems.

“And the quality of those flames!” comments her neighbor.

“She must have really fallen for him,” scowls the other.

“Oh you’re just jealous cause when it was your turn you barely even caught on fire.”


A small tornado builds on the lake. Wind picks up and gives it strength. The thing to do for safety is stare at it and make sure it doesn’t chase you. Daring lake inhabitants cruise up to the twister on motorboats. One of them is addicted to danger. He has a turtle shell tattooed across his abdomen and screams: “You should get your own chest tattooed with a turtle shell!” But I wouldn’t be so crazy. When we approach the tornado the turtle man squeals with excitement, eager to be swept away. His boat flies into the windstorm and his laughter fades.

I jump off and begin to walk on the lake’s horizon line. It’s like being on a tightrope. There’s nothing relaxing about it. The line leads to a shed in the mountains.  “Home!” I think. “Safety at last.” I climb inside and land on a bed. No more storm, no more boat, no more lines to walk on, but now I have to be a hermit.

Chiara Barzini is an Italian screen and fiction writer. Her fiction has appeared in The Coffin Factory, Noon, The NY Tyrant, Salt Hill, Vice, Dazed & Confused, and BOMB. She was a finalist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review’s Gertrude Stein Fiction Award in 2014. Her essays and articles have been published or are forthcoming in The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Magazine, Interview, and Vogue. She is the author of the short story collection Sister Stop Breathing (Calamari Press.) She currently lives in Rome and is working on her first novel for Rizzoli.

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Originally published in

BOMB 114, Winter 2011

Featuring interviews with Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson, Rochelle Feinstein, Rae Armantrout, Tristan Garcia, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Bug, Sarah Michelson, and Adam Pendleton.

Read the issue
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