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Avital Gad-Cykman


Mountain and Sky by Arthur Dove


When the airplane flies into the clouds, I am six years old and my mother is royal. The oval window is fixed within a frame, so I cannot open it and pull a cloud in to see if it’s soft like cotton wool or wet like rain or bath water. I put aside my notebook with the butterfly drawing, but air hostesses block the corridor with trolleys, and my plan to unlock an emergency door is forgotten at the promise of food.

“There isn’t enough oxygen here,” the wiry woman sitting on my mother’s other side says. She’s breathing so rapidly, her tailored brown suit moves up and down, up and down. “Carbon dioxide is dangerous,” she says. My mother glances at me with a hint of a smile. In a heartbeat the woman will feel silly. Mother does it so well, I stopped calling her when a monster hides under my bed.

The air hostess smiles at me. “Hello gain, pretty girl,” she says. “Mom bought me this jacket,” I inform her. I’m very elegant, wearing my mother’s choice. “You have pretty eyes,” the hostess says, handing me another plastic toy. “Blue,” I volunteer. She’s fond of me, I’m sure. She’s brought me stuff since we took off. She passes my tray to my mother, and my mother places it where it should be.

The woman in the brown suit observes me devouring my pasta and my mother picking one ravioli at a time. Mother asks her with a kind smile if she’s fine. The woman says she’s drowsy, so Mother advises her to eat at least a little from her untouched food. I copy my mother’s smile. I eat one ravioli, but the pasta is too good to eat it slowly. I finish and pick my notebook to draw a caterpillar that grows into a butterfly with magnificent wings.


The beauty of flying a kite is in the connection between the kite’s free dance in the sky and her fiddling hand. The kite needs her. As much as it enjoys the drumbeat of the wind, any gush of wind or other sudden change throws the kite onto the ground, causing it terrible injuries. Only her wise fingertips holding on to the string, let the kite rise, float and fly fearlessly.

She stands on the roof, flying the kite. Under her, spider cobwebs hang from the roof to curtain the windows with small tunnels and layers of stretched lacework, laced with beads made of insects or their tiny parts. She observes a busy black and yellow spider and its hairy legs, and the spider observes her from the shining web that swerves like a worm, and expects guests for dinner.

She used to launder the regular curtains hanging on the inner side of her windows, remembering from childhood how her mother cared for them. But since the spiders settled down under her roof, and she confirmed they weren’t poisonous, she has let the curtains run themselves to slow extinction. She leaves the spiderwebs, though she could rip them. The spiders trust her, like the kite.

She would have liked to have friends and family who trust her as well. If you trust anyone who could potentially abandon or hurt you, the trust grows into love as surely as a growing good bread dough. In the late afternoon light, the beads on the spider web take strange forms. She never weaved her own webs and never hurt anyone. Nobody’s ever given her the chance to do so.

By evening, the kite’s string is already rolled and the kite, the shape and colors of a monarch butterfly, rests safely. She cannot see the spiderwebs now, only feel their delicate movement interrupted by violent landings, late dinner. She looks out for the kite and the spiders, but will have dinner on her own. She turns her eyes away from the beads on the webs that hang like tiny people.


Thunder splits their night, itching the skin of their sleep, swinging them toward the membrane that separates dreams from reality.

She still hears voices resounding gaily, a family gathering in her current living room with its Mexican colors and wooden floor and ceiling, at a long dinner table. Yet, she remembers now that these voices have fallen silent, absorbed by the soil like snowdrops. Her power to hear them depends on her deep sleep.

He is still wrapped with the melancholic impression of a dream he cannot remember. He hears her mumble dream words to someone he’ll get to know in the morning. Sometimes he imagines he and she dream the same dreams, because those she tells him, when they snuggle, are familiar, and the dreamed people have long become his family as well.

In the morning, the sky is clear and the mountain rises in the horizon. She longs to get out of the web the small town wraps around them, lulling her to stay at the comfort of a warm room and a hot drink. She predicts the mountaintop’s glory, as sharp as the power to revive the dead in her dreams. It must be so high, the pointed granite mountain. She, too, will tower over glacial waters.

He surveys the mountain, a glorious opponent, and he’s eager to rise up to the challenge of distance and heights. They are not alone on the path, nor surrounded with people, until reaching the crowded outlook of a lagoon and snowy mountains. From then on, many agile people in colorful coats follow the trail. In the distance, they form a line like tiny ants. Most of them are young, but he notices the silver-haired.

The earth is cold and the water streams are chilling, yet her body is warm and alive, as her feet claim a place on gravel roads and rocks, her legs strain against slippery stones and her cheeks are flushed from effort. Her night dream leaps against a mind empty from anything but the next step. She doesn’t take a break, but turns to two young women near her in a language of the outside world.

He joins her in the light exchange, happy for the distraction words offer from the long way. When they reach the steepest part, however, a rocky path still wet from yesterday’s rain, he doesn’t hurry up with her. Stragglers see more, absorb better and are safer. He prefers the mirthful way to the stubborn climbing, and his joints agree. She reaches a curve, then vanishes like dreams.

The mountains, rivers and lakes spread along the way have thrilled her. She can hardly wait for the intensity of the wonder awaiting at the top. Her muscles stress so much, she reaches the last rock with trembling legs, looks around and cries out loud with the grand release from effort to beauty. He arrives in his slower stride. They take in the high, angled mountains and the turquoise lagoon, the snow and the sun, the growing cold and the impregnated sky. They embrace, say joyful words of nothing and split a chocolate. The mountain is here and theirs, though not really.

Tonight, they’ll share a dream.

About the writer:
Avital Gad-Cykman is the author of the flash collection Life In, Life Out (Matter Press) and the flash and story collection Light Reflection Over Blues (Ravenna Press). Her work has appeared in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Ambit (UK), The Literary Review, CALYX Journal, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Prism International, Michigan Quarterly Review and elsewhere. Other stories have been featured in anthologies such as W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Best Small Fictions 2020&2023, Politically Inspired Fiction, and have been twice listed in Best of the WEB, Wigleaf. Her work won The Margaret Atwood Studies Magazine Prize, was first placed in The Hawthorne Citation Short Story Contest, and was twice a finalist for the Iowa Fiction Award.

Image: Mountain and Sky by Arthur Dove (1880-1946). Oil on wood panel. 15.6 x 11.8 inches. Circa 1925. Public domain.

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