fiction, Uncategorized

Contemplating Gender Roles while Following my Wife around Marshalls

There is a man standing at the door, I don’t know whether he is lost or left, he is staring at a table of FAB-YULE-OUS LAST-MINUTE GIFT ITEMS; a bottle cap dart board, an essential oils reed diffuser, a bundle of three cheeky-Christmas T-shirts, an array of Yankee Candle Holiday collections, and so on. He is still wearing his jacket, bundled to the neck.

I follow my wife passed him, he smells cold as we pass.

My wife stops in the ceramics and begins perusing. A large man passes me, a child holding the end of his jacket, his wife speeding ahead with the cart, he is playing something on his phone. His hat is on and his beard is unkempt.

“Should we get this for my parents?”

I turn, my wife is holding a ceramic jar with a plaque on it that says “MILK.”

“Sure,” I tell her.

She picks up something else, I wonder about the last time I saw a milk carton and what must have happened to all of the runaways.

“Or this one?” my wife asks.

“Sure,” I tell her.

She frowns, “which one?”

“That one.”

“You’re not pointing at either of them.”

“The milk one.”

“They are both milk ones.”

I refocus. “Oh, that one.” I point.

“That one is for tea,” she cries.

I shrug, and she waves her hand at me, annoyed. “You’re annoying, go away.”

“Okay.”

I head back for the door. I pass a younger man in a display chair. He has a patriot’s jacket on and is staring into an aisle of discount lotions. I head for the exit. Someone has collected the man who’d been by the door. Good for him.

I stand outside the door looking out on the parking lot. I notice a spot three rows from the exit. We parked about ten rows back. I go and get the car, move it to the empty spot and sit in the heat. I notice in the rear-view that someone has moved from a spot in the first row. I reverse out and straight into it, cutting off a PT Cruiser.

Who the hell still owns a PT cruiser, I think, as the man behind the wheel flips me off.

I sit in the car another twenty minutes before slowly making my way back inside. As I pass the shoe department, I see an old man sitting on one of the stools, he isn’t trying shoes on. He is just sitting, two hands on his cane as an older woman bustles around him with an armful of sandals.

“Eight dollars, dude!” I hear someone cry out. I turn, two teenage boys are looking at a pair of sneakers.

“Eight dollars! Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas, eight dollars, dude!”

“Dude, ZOLA.”

“Merry Christmas, ZOOOOLLA!”

They run off with the sneakers.

I find my wife in pet accessories.

“We should get the cats something.”

I nod, watching a Hispanic man help his wife pick from a giant pile of Buy three get one free Christmas socks. Another man walks by on the phone, “WHICH ONE!—That one? You have one of those!—because you’re always THROWING IT TO MY SIDE OF THE BED!”

My wife has a Santa cat outfit held up to her own body, she is looking down at it.

“Should we get this?” she asks.

I smile and nod.

It isn’t enough.

I give her a thumbs up.

She rolls her eyes. An old lady, digging through a table of hand-creamers, laughs.

“Men are so useless, huh?” she tells my wife.

My wife laughs.

Ha-ha

The woman laughs.

Ha-ha

I laugh.

Ha-ha

Am I living in a sexist narrative, I wonder? Do I only not want to shop because I have grown up in a patriarchy? Would helping pick out a cat outfit make me a better, more gender inclusive? Is that what that means? It doesn’t seem to have impacted that guy over there.

I glare at the Hispanic man who has just made his wife laugh after hanging a pair of socks off each of his ears.

I look back at my wife. She is fingering through a rack of cat treats. I walk over and grab one off the rack.

Christmas Turkey Dressing

I open it and take one out.

“Hey babe, watch.”

She looks up at me.

I pop the treat in my mouth.

She stares at me as I chew the treat. Her face goes very quickly from curiosity to disgust, and by the time I swallow, concern.

“Why the fuck did you do that?” She asks.

I look down at the bag of treats, then to my other empty, then back up at her.

“I thought it would be funny?”

She looks at me, then to the old lady who’d also stopped, arms deep in the pillow-pile, to watch me eat a treat. They share a look. The old lady smiles sympathetically.

My wife hands me her armful of goodies and pats me on the arm.

“Go find somewhere to sit by the registers sweetie, I won’t be long.”

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fiction, Uncategorized

There were Four Russians Outside of my Door This Morning

photo_2018-12-10_16-42-40My mother grew up in the 70s. This means that all of her favorite spy movies had eerily similar bad guys with names like Boris, Ivan, Ivan, and Boris. When my mother visited me in Russia, she stepped out of the arrival gates and said,

“Holy-fucking-shit, I’m here.

Since American media had already moved on to Arabs by the time I crawled into the world, I never thought of Russia as an enemy. But today there were four Russians outside of my apartment building this morning. They rang up, and I thought,

“oh, they are here to murder me–I am going to be taken to some dark room and tortured until I admit anything, they want me to admit. it won’t take long, I am so squishy and pink! Then I will be hung in the Red Square and I don’t even know any Morse code, so I won’t be able to send any secret messages to anyone and I get stage fright so even if they let me speak, I’ll probably just sweat and mutter until my neck snaps–“

My girlfriend–woken from the ringing–stormed passed, spoke through the receiver, buzzed the men into the building. On her way back to bed she looked into the kitchen. I was still half-hidden behind the cabinets, peering out.

She sighed and went back to bed.

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fiction

Don’t be a Dick

I was in the shower when he first made contact.

“Hello.”

It came right out of my phone.

“Hello, Earth.”

I got out and looked at the phone. A gray faceless blob looked out at me with one foggy blue eye in the middle of it.

“Hello, can you all see me? Can you all understand me? I’m using this thing here, so everyone should be hearing me in their own colloquiality. If not, speak up now please.”

I heard it louder, from outside. I looked through the window and saw the same face-less blob, miles wide, staring down out of the sky.

“Alrighty. Hey–uh, so. I don’t really do this–I’m not supposed to do this. But, well– I was assigned to monitor your planet some hundred thousand or so years back.”

The thing made a goo-ey, gargle sound of delight.

“It was beautiful,” the thing continued. “But then you guys grew out of the muck and you were beautiful too, sometimes. Interesting, innovative; did you know you’re the only race in the whole universe to invent straws? Really! It is incredible, and the bendy-ones, get-outta here. Anyways. Lately you all have been doing a whole lot of fucked up shit. Which is fine, every species has their burdens to bear, but really. The murdering and the rape and the beating each other up all of the time, I mean–well, not the point. Point is, I’ve kinda grown attached to you guys. And uh–hm…sorry, I have never spoken in front of people before. I’ve been watching a buuunch of TEDx talks though, to prepare.”

The blob shifted around a bit on the screen and made another goo-ey sound before continuing; “yeah–so basically I’m gonna start zapping you guys. I have this zapper thing here and basically I can see everything all of you are doing all of the time and so like–if you’re gonna beat your kid, or rape someone, or eat someone else’s lunch out of the office fridge…”

There was a pause, the blob sat there. It gave me time to run out onto my porch to get a real good look at him. On the stairs I heard him mutter a bit and then say, “that–uh, that was a joke. Sorry–oh yeah, it isn’t funny. I got all mixed up, sorry guys. Sorry–so yeah if you do any of those things like that, you-know, I am gonna use my zappy thing here and then, well–yeah, your gone. Poof. Dead.”

“What do you guys think? I mean, I thought it was a pretty good idea. I don’t care about what any of you look like or who you bang, hah. But, you know, like I’m not gonna’ just kill random people. If you’re like…”

He ruminated a moment and then continued with more confidence, “like, a dick–yeah. Don’t be a dick. Just don’t beat people ’cause they look or think different than you, don’t hurt others or like, do the whole murder thing, you-know, like dick things. K?”

“Yeah–don’t be a dick and–like, everything is cool. You guys just used to be pretty cool and lately you’ve been a bunch of dicks. So, yeah. I think that covers everything, I hope you guys got something out of this, I know I have. Feeling pret-t-t-y good. Yeah. cool. K, peace.

Oh yeah and if you all are worried about me spying on your floppy parts and all of that, I’m not like that. I’m not that guy.

Cool

alright

nice to meet you all

yeah, don’t be a dick.”

He vanished.

I turned and watched my neighbors house, and waited.

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art, fiction

Telephone Pole

We got a dog. Mother called it “Lab Mix” because that sounded better than mutt.

My brother and I wanted to name the dog. It was even more important than when we thought it was our job to name our little brother.

We sat in the living room. The lab-mix sat between us.

I wanted to name it Nathan. He wanted to name it Fred.

We bickered terribly. He was bigger than me. So, I was cautious. We bickered so much that Father became distracted from his work. He came upstairs. He sent us to our rooms. As we climbed the stairs, bleary-eyed, we heard Father.

“Telephone Pole!” he called to the dog. It went running. He let it out in the backyard. I watched Telephone pole from my bedroom window, fuming. And that was his name, till he was hit by the UPS man.

I was the only one to see. I cried when I called the police.

But even the police, the EMTs, the firemen, and the Power Grid workers that came, couldn’t save Telephone Pole.

For more stories and art by Flash 365, click here

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