Finality

by Desmond Fuller


    The light was almost used up. What remained fell in pale stripes over the basketball courts like a ghost tiger biting the chainlink that bled shadows into the pooling dark.
   
Bryce spun the basketball, the taut rubber rolling under his fingers as he took a shot; the gasp of the net as it spit the ball back to him. He put new fractures in the quiet with each percussive dribble. He liked when the courts were empty. The passed day lingered in the stillness, recorded in spilled soda, cigarette butts in the fallen elm leaves and lazy hornets circling a discarded Happy-Meal bag.
   
When the courts were too crowded, he sometimes met up with Pete at the bridge. They would jump the guardrail and skid their way down the incline, grasping at protruding roots and rocks, their shoes pushing up dust. Sometimes they grasped at the loose dirt crumbling between their fingers. They walked the floor of the shady gorge along the  train tracks to the school and then home, making dirty jokes and trying to forecast which of them would get laid first. As it was, that was no longer up for debate, and Bryce wasn’t up for fielding Pete’s questions about Michelle.
   
Blood was hot in his palms. The ball bounced off the backboard and stuttered to a halt near where his jacket lay by the gate. As he stooped to recover the ball, he heard his phone beep in the jacket pocket. He didn’t need to check to know that it was Michelle. They hadn't spoken since she told him about New York.
   
He took a shot. The ball bounced.
    The evening felt indefinite. One could stay out till dawn moving in that darkness. It was hard to convey its impermanence to the blood in his chest and the sweat in his hair as he ran the ball again and again. Tomorrow was vague, out of mind, or maybe was too easily ignored.
    He would graduate soon. But it felt abstract, like the paintings they had seen in art class the other day, with the giant animal skulls that loomed over tiny deserts and mountain peaks. Mrs. Sphensen had said the paintings were supposed to convey a sense wonder. Also, that the lady who painted them had suffered a nervous breakdown.
    His brother Kris had left for college two years ago and received a three year prison term instead of a diploma. Somewhere in those tiny desert mountains Kris borrowed a stranger’s car and drove it over a fire hydrant. In his letters to Bryce he sometimes worried about getting beat on, but mostly  worried that he wouldn’t have a chance against Bryce at one-on-one when he got out. He hoped Bryce was excited about being done with high school.
    Bryce hadn't written back.

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Day of the Toomsicle

by Joseph Musters
   
      The small group of Earthling tourists followed their Toomsian
tour guideon a wide, enclosed catwalk several dozen boolts (close enough to metres) above the Toomsicle factory floor. They were the kind of tourists that just want to have an easy, moderately good time, facilitated by the tried and tested routine that isa guided tour. Only a small perimeter of sunlight seeped in from the top of the circular room the group filed into. Down below, a spectacular mess of gadgets and
machinery assembled what vaguely appeared to be a series of varying styles of mobile toilets. A frail, ancient-looking human father and his short but stout little monster of a boy were front and center. The Toomsian Toomsicle factory tour guide, sitting in his mobile Toomsicle, began:
     “Life on planet Tooms is just about perfect this afternoon. Aside from world peace, everlasting clean energy and enough farmland to perpetuate the Toomsian species, we have perfected the art of convenience. It is the reason nobody ever wants to leave the planet; an addiction to luxury. Instead of enduring bad weather, we constructed a series of domes over their major population centres. To dispensewith the need to do laundry, nobody wears clothing anymore; this made possible in part due to the domes. Need to do the shopping? No you don’t! Just order whatever you need from your armrest interface at any time, and it’ll arrive the next quarter cycle at your door (about 3-5 Earth business days). Perhaps the Toomsians’ greatest achievement is the invention of the Toomsicle.”
     At that point, the fat little human boy took his fist out of his mouth long enough to pull on his father’s pant leg and whine.
     “This is stupid. I wanna go to Disneyland!”
     His father, a meek, elderly man with an aluminum hip replacement and thick bifocals (who was just then silently berating all those who opposed the metric system) responded, “Oh, well you know we don’t have the money for that, Tim. Space flights all the way to here from Earth are cheaper, plus the tours are free. Let’s just enjoy the tour, shall we?” Fat Tim’s mother thought of him as a “happy” little accident, but even she wouldn’t take this kind of guff from her son. Too bad hers was an even sadder misfortune, leaving him alone. Well, NEARLY alone. When she was alive, all the best of Old Tim’s pleading amounted to nothing – rather, he WISHED it had. Instead, it had amounted to this insatiable troglodyte he now had in tow.

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The Cloth Nixon

by Robert Leeming

I was on one of those sightseeing trips out to the caves in Arizona with the Native American paintings on the walls, with Alison Gordon, a friend from LA. Well, I think we got on the wrong bus, because it was full of Second World War veterans each offering hurried salutes, as they filed past us in their garish yellow zoot suits.

We could have made it right there and then, in the semi-darkness of the cave, but I found myself pulling away and making my excuses.

"Something about this cave seems to creep me out," I said, gazing around open mouthed and I held out my bare arm so she could feel my goose pimples.

Of course we missed the bus back, the veterans waving their sarcastic goodbyes, rubbing mock tears out of their eyes and wah-wah-ing through the open windows as the bus disappeared into a cloud of dust.

I flagged down a fleet side half ton 1973 Chevrolet pick-up truck and asked the driver, Chardeene, a long haired fellow wearing a West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band t-shirt, if he'd be able to take us back to Phoenix. He accepted and told us, as we clambered in, to mind the electric jug that
was deposited in the passenger side footwell.

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REJOICE!

By Charles Pinch

For Frances

  You are troubled. I see it in your face. Do not despair. Perhaps the laws as we understand them are not straight lines but spinning circles. Perhaps a law is a whirling dervish. In time, when our certainties have pulled back when our profundities have backed down and cease to prove, the watercolor you admire above the mantelpiece is not what you covet after all and the candlesticks are objects of great mystery because we do not know what purpose for which they were intended. Brownie appeared on the rag rug with her fat tummy at nine seventeen this morning just as I was about to take the first sip of my second cup of coffee. Oh, she makes me laugh. Look at her roll about. Isn’t she a funny old girl? Now you just loosen up and laugh. The heavens are lightweight. Even if they fall on us we won’t feel it.

  You ask me why I am sitting here. Well, it is a place that is a good place to sit and wait. There are things in this room that might interest you, a person like you. Take that English watercolor over the mantelpiece. It was painted likely near two hundred years ago. Do you like it? Thought so. And those brass candlesticks? All the way from India. Yes, I thought you’d like them. And that cat with its fat belly on the rag rug. She looks to be five, six years old, doesn’t she? She died when she was fourteen. Oh, I’m puzzled too. Why did she choose to return at five or six? Perhaps that is the prime of life for a cat and therefore the best age as she sees it. No, I’m not drunk. Never touch the stuff. No, I haven’t double dosed on my prescriptive sedative. Look, it stares you right in the face. All you have to do is accept it. All you have to do is look the fragmentation of Salinger’s ‘intact f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s’ and the dissolution of Planck’s ‘organised chaos’ in the face and say ‘I do’. I said it as soon as I saw Brownie again. What does it all mean, you ask? How can it be real? How can a cat have nine lives and all we see is one? A seed isn’t a flower but without the seed there is no flower and without the flower there is no tautology. Oh, my. Please forgive me. I shouldn’t laugh. I laugh. I do laugh. I am pleased Brownie has returned from the dead because it means Time is pulling back on itself. Like pulling down a sheet on the bed before you climb in for the night. We live by laws but laws change. And it isn’t a great thing? I know Brownie is seven some years younger as you see her there on the rag rug than the Brownie who died last spring. Why do I know this? She has not lost the patch of fur near her tail that will happen when she is eight.

  Before I lost my cat I lost my husband. I say husband but he was not just my legal spouse. The man I was married to. He was so much more. Yes, my eyes are misting now, I am aware. Do not be embarrassed. Love, dear, is a wet emotion. Well, he was my heartthrob, you could say. Heartthrob, heartbeat. He was the blood that sang in my veins. But he died. Then my cat died. Now she has returned. You see her there, plainly do you see. How’s that? No mistake. No. No mistake. Because she has come back and I know now he is set to come back but I don’t know when. I guess with all the laws we so trusted to mind collapsing in on us and Time pulling back on itself his time has not come round yet.

You ask me why I sit here? Well, I am waiting. My cat came back and my husband will come back. All I have to do is wait.
Oh, I know.
Light. Light is such glory, such glory.
My eyes dazzle.
Do yours?

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Aggregate of Qualities

by Travis Oltmann

There was a gang of cockroaches in my apartment. I put on thick soled boots and stomped on them. I didn’t like how they threw a party without asking me first.

They made these mini circles of bug juice on the carpet.

I sat on the couch and thought about licking them. Cutting around them with a razor and bringing them to work and sitting in a lunch room, licking them, and not saying anything about it – like it was just another minute of the day.

Most people wouldn’t know it was bug juice. I wanted them to know but I wouldn’t tell them because it would ruin the tone of what I was trying to do. Comedy was situational.



I didn’t work in a place that had a lunch room. I was an apprentice for a drywaller, which, according to my daily tasks, meant I was apprenticing to become someone that picked up heavy objects and got dust in their eyes. Most of my fellow employees didn’t last very long because they huffed things that could set them on fire and hated white people. At jobsites I blended in with the background. Like those painted movie sets. Sometimes I struck a pose and didn’t move for a long time and waited until someone noticed. It was rare if they did. I kind of hoped I was part of a movie background so when the tradesmen came over to give me something to do, they would walk straight into the painted plywood and grab their bloody noses and I wouldn’t react on the outside because I was made of plywood and paint but inside I would be laughing and laughing.

My boss was this thick haired Italian that ate sliced meat like potato chips. His nose didn’t look like it wanted to be a nose. It had different aspirations. It wanted to be a growth that doctors had to google.

One time I watched him as he cut holes in a big piece of drywall with a rotary tool.

“You could make a human with that,” I said.

“What?” He asked, stopping.

“You could make a human with that.”

If he had a six foot piece of square human material he could’ve cut arms and legs and whatever genitals he preferred.

“Are you high?”

I wanted to tell him about the genitals. “You could give it a vagina and marry it,” I said.

By then I was imagining the human cut from a rotary tool having an alright life and searching for its birth parents but never finding them. No one deserved to figure out they were made with power tools.

“Get the fuck away from me,” he said.

I heard him tell another worker about our conversation later and then he said: “I would fire him but he comes to work every day.”

It paid to be dependable.

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