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Coney Island Knock Off

Tablet Original Fiction: Broken lives collide in the shadow of the Cyclone

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Dina had played the oboe, worked in a music store which went online, then when it went out of business altogether, she posted ads offering to teach private oboe lessons. The small number of responses yielded only one or two actual paying students. She had offered to teach the oboe to Mrs. Katan’s eldest son, aged ten, in exchange for part of the rent, but the landlady made a face as if Dina offered to teach him the triangle, in other words, what’s to teach? She owned a violin that had belonged to her father, and this instrument which she called the prince of instruments, was meant for the boy. That he showed no interest in either violin or oboe was no deterrent to Mrs. Katan or to Dina. What are you waiting for? She dared to ask. Ten is already too late to begin the violin in any serious way, but with the oboe you have a chance. Dina thought she was offering a good deal. She had played in the Cleveland Children’s Orchestra at one time, auditioning in a concert hall the size of Astroland. Mrs. K. was not impressed. The violin had traveled from Odessa to Berlin to its present home. She was not about to buy an oboe.

Dina asked if she could see it, such an old instrument must really be something, but it was never produced, nor did she ever hear anyone playing it. She wondered if it even existed, or had it been one of those things left behind, imagined and regretted back into life on the third floor of an apartment building with a view of Steeplechase Park. Dina herself hadn’t practiced in months, because no sooner did she begin to play when it signaled that she was home, and so Mrs. K. who lived only one floor below them would knock on the door.


The word Calligraphy comes from two Greek words meaning beautiful writing.

Two words approached one another like sparring partners. What do I want with you? Screams Writing. I do OK solo. I’m legible. I get the job done. You’re one big unnecessary draytsi. This was a word Dina’s mother used to indicate frills, excess, curlicues on top of fillips. Though this wasn’t strictly the correct usage, in Dina’s mind, it stuck. Don’t you wish you could find out? Beautiful taunts, circling Writing. Dina asked herself, why assume Writing was masculine and Beautiful was feminine, then erased the whole dialogue even though it jacked up the word count.

The encyclopedia job she had gotten online from a freelance website. It was, she told Zenia, only temporary until she got more pupils. Five hundred more words to go on pictograph. Three hundred for calligraphy. She pushed herself away from the desk and walked to the bathroom. Zenia’s perfumes and scents lingered in the air. An open lipstick rolled into the sink leaving a spiraling tail of red wax trailing to the drain. Dina put the bindi on her own forehead. It looked ridiculous. She stuck it back on the mirror then returned to her desk.


Reddish in color and good at conducting heat, copper is the oldest metal known to humans. It is an element, one of the building blocks out of which everything on earth is made. The name copper comes from a Latin word for the island of Cyprus.

Like Zeno saying each cigarette was going to be his last, and in this way the end would never quite be reached, it was as if fractions of words always stood between her and the end of the definitions. Where does pictograph end and animation begin? The company kept asking for revisions, the definitions were never finished. The company, location unknown and never reachable by phone, had been contracted by the encyclopedia publisher, and took its time sending checks. Dina had figured she needed to produce a certain number of words per week, but she was continually behind schedule.


Animation is the art and science of making drawings or cartoons appear to move.

When the last breath is drawn, then exhaled, animation ceases, Dina typed. What would happen if, in a few months, her students stopped their lessons, and the encyclopedia contractor folded up shop, emailing her only to say: everything is defined. You’re done. Sorry. She had visions of living under the boardwalk where murder victims turned up from time to time, and no one said a word about who these people had been, or who their families were. At night she would stare at the abandoned playground equipment perched so high on the beach the swings and slides were unreachable due to sand erosion. Even if the world’s tallest man strolled over from Coney Island he would be unable to go for a swing without assistance.

Dina pulled a pair of Zenia’s pants out of the closet. They were way too small, just as she knew they would be. Returning to the closest she flipped through hangers, finally pulling out a long dress, also Zenia’s, also from a second hand store. It was silvery and had no straps. Dina squeezed into it, and pulled a sweater out of her laundry. The air from the boardwalk would be chilly. Listening at the door to be sure she could hear no sound of Mrs. Katan or any of her children, Dina, silver dress swishing against the jamb, stepped into the hall and locked the door behind her.


It shouldn’t have worked, but Nachmann didn’t know that, and for him the turquoise and platinum card with a hologram of a buffalo (Midwestern bank), produced magic. He presented it at a sliver of a check-cashing operation on Stillwell Avenue. The woman behind the bullet proof partition was so angry at her boss who called her a ho once too many times that she was going to quit that night, and before she did she was going to screw up his business but good.

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Coney Island Knock Off

Tablet Original Fiction: Broken lives collide in the shadow of the Cyclone