Monthly Archives: January 2016

To Be Afraid

By John Michael

 

Every Wednesday I watch a game show called To Be Afraid. Contestants admit their deepest fear while hypnotized and they wake up the next day confronted with that fear for 24 hours. If they guess it by sunrise, they get to spin the prize wheel.

My favorite episode is with this middle-aged guy named Dennis. Dennis wakes up and his wife is vacuous and frumpy. Before saying good morning, his Ivy-educated children ask for money. At work, the guy Dennis trained five years ago is now his boss. He informs the whole office that the C-suite drained the pensions and ran to the Caymans.

Dennis goes home to decompress. He flips through a thousand channels but everything is asinine. On the news, they report that the leaders of all faiths have called a press conference to admit that God is a scam. The President interrupts to announce that the evil cabal puppeteering all governments has become powerful enough to rule openly. Under talking heads debating if this will affect the price of gas reads the caption: “NEW TYRANNY ONTOLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT? Sixth Extinction Already Under Way, Majority of Biologists Agree Too Late to Stop.”

Dennis drives to a bridge and steps over the railing. He stares at the water and feels the velocity of his tears dragging him down with them. “There’s no point!” he screams into the void and lets go of the railing. Several spotlights punch on and the key grip grabs Dennis by the collar. Dennis guessed correctly.

Back at the studio, Dennis spins the wheel with little more than gravity. He wins a rider mower worth an economy sedan. The skin on his cheeks is transparent and he doesn’t appear to be looking at anything when he says, “We live in a condo.”

 

John Michael doesn’t have a Boston accent. His work is published or forthcoming in Really Short Stories, The Finger, and NANO Fiction, among others. He is currently working on a novella. Read more at www.johnmichaeltxt.com.

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None of This is Your Fault

By Rebecca Fishow

 

Last Sunday, I nearly ran over your dog. I couldnt have done it without you. Why wasnt he secured in the yard? Why wasnt he tethered by some kind of leash, to some kind of tree?

I admit I had been looking down at the time, rummaging for something below the passenger seat, for a map, a lost love letter, my own severed hand. It seems I am always looking down. On the good days, I am rummaging too.

Last Sunday was not a good day, despite the rummaging. I do not know if life is precious. I do not know who gets to choose what lives and what dies.

Your dog lived, another dog died. Later that day I came out of my apartment, and because I had been looking down, I saw it lying on the empty patio of a French restaurant. He was still, save for the slightest tide of his fleeting breath. His eyes were open. They had become two landing strips for flies. Underneath his tail, a small brown splotch. A wet spot on the concrete around his body widened. I called my lover, who rushed home to help. But he could not help the dog, and he could not help me. I could not help him. Funny, how we felt like help was what we needed.

I am not doing a lot of living these days. Living requires a name. Ive misplaced mine somewhere. Im still searching though, beneath the passenger seat, where I could not find my severed hand. None of this is your fault. Nonetheless, I implore you, please be more careful.

 

Rebecca Fishow is a writer and artist living in Montreal. Her fiction and illustrations have appeared or are forthcoming in Joyland, Necessary Fiction,The Believer Logger, Mud Season Review and other publications. She is a contributing editor at Cosmonauts Avenue and holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she received the Joyce Carol Oates Award in Nonfiction and the Cornelia Carhart Ward Fellowship.

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Save Your Soul

By Kenny Torrella

 

I drove with my hand on Mia’s thigh as we passed by bonfires in the night, and joked about how anything goes in these small towns. I took country roads unknown to us both, the car’s headlights beaming into the trees and lighting up signs for farm stands and churches. Again, she asked me where I was taking her.

“I told you, it’s a surprise,” I said.

It’s already 11:30… Are we going to Detroit?” she asked.

I laughed to myself.

What? What’s funny?”

No, nothing. It’s stupid.”

Tell me!” she said, squeezing my hand.

OK, well, I was going to say, ‘I’m going to kill you and bury you.’”

“What? Why would you say that?”

“It was a joke. It was stupid.”

“But why would you joke about that?”

You know I make stupid jokes like that with friends sometimes. But I shouldn’t have said it. Just forget I said it. I’m sorry.”

We continued in silence. She knew I was incapable of doing that. I’ve never even been in a fist fight. I’m vegetarian. I take spiders outside. In our months together the furthest I had gone was raising my voice to match hers. But I think the sudden awareness of her vulnerability—out in the pitch black night, no phone, no sense of place—had struck her mute. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going; she didn’t know herself.

I rerouted the directions to take 96 and after I merged onto the interstate she sighed. Civilization.

We arrived in downtown Detroit. I parked the car and we stood on the sidewalk next to the dancehall.

“Again, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Don’t worry. So, what is this surprise?” she asked, trying to smile.

We entered, I paid for the tickets, and we walked down the spiral staircase as Motown blared from the speakers. A poster taped on the door read “Souled Out: Detroit’s Premiere Soul and R&B Dance Party!”

It’s really white in here,” she said, looking around the room.

Yeah.”

My parents and their generation left Detroit in the white flight during the ‘60s and ‘70s. They drove their American-made Cadillacs and Chryslers out to Redford, Dearborn, and Wyandotte, listening to Wilson Pickett and The Supremes all the way there. Now our generation—our friends—had made their way back in, into foreclosed homes and lofts in neighborhoods on the Courier Times’ up-and-coming list. “The venue was in a black neighborhood, in a black city, playing black music—it’s a violation of space,” Mia later said.

But there we were, a part of it. She swayed left to right with her arms by her sides, out of step with the music. This wasn’t like my Mia, who could attract crowds of men and women, at night clubs, weddings, and dive bars—and sometimes in the street—to watch her go at it to whatever was playing.

Before the first song ended I shouted into her ear: “Let’s go home.”

She nodded. “But don’t feel bad, OK? This was a great surprise. I love the music, I’ve wanted to dance, I needed a night out, but—”

I took I-96 back home. We pulled into the driveway and I turned off the car. The crickets droned. “You know I’m a survivor. You know as a woman I already feel scared all the time,” she said.

She rattled off examples: “Men holler at me in the city, at school, in the elevator. They ask me my sign, what country I’m from, where I live. Sometimes they stare, sometimes they follow, sometimes they get really close to me.”

I’m sorry.”

Listen, I know you’re sorry. I know what you said was a joke, and you know I trust you. But when you said it, there was something visceral about it. Like, if you wanted to, you could kill me. I’ve been in these situations before with men capable of hurting me. With men who did hurt me. You know that and you still said it.”

The next morning I woke up early and tiptoed out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to start on breakfast. Between bites Mia circled back to the night before. “There’s power in every moment,” she said.

***

Sometimes, in the dead, silent space of an argument, after each point has been exhausted and apologies have been proffered, I repeat this sentence in my head. The five words echo like some kind of mantra, written by a character on the losing end of it.

Can unearned power ever grasp its inverse? There’s another one. We struggle with these declarations and questions in an effort to make sense of inequity.

There’s power in every moment.” She must’ve written the mantra herself. She didn’t read poetry or stories, only textbooks.

 

Kenny Torrella is new to fiction writing but has been ghostwriting throughout his career to improve conditions for farmed animals. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. with his girlfriend and a wonderful dog named Rihana. His work can also be found in NAILED Magazine.

 

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