Company

“I’ve always hated the phrase ‘meteoric rise.’ What the hell kind of meteor rises? Only meteors I’ve ever heard of come crashing to the ground. I wouldn’t want that kind of rise.” She exhaled slowly. I watched the wisps of smoke trail from her pale lips until they caught in her long eyelashes.

“You ever gonna pass me that?”

“I’m just saying.” She took one more long drag on the joint and moved her arm about a half of a foot towards me, which is as close as she ever got to actually giving anyone anything. I scooted towards her on the couch, taking the opportunity to lazily wrap a stray lock of her hair around my finger, and took the joint.

“The phrase I always hated.” I took a short pause for a drag. “The phrase I always hated was, ‘it is what it is.’ I mean, what else would it be? Of course it is what it is. Sportscasters and idiots always say that when they have nothing else to say.” I blew some abortive rings and took another hit.

“When I used to work with recovering addicts, they always used to say ‘it is what it is’ about their past, or booze, or whatever was the problem. Which makes sense, in a way, since they meant that they couldn’t do anything about it, but why not just say ‘I guess I can’t do anything about it?’”

She grabbed the joint out of my hand, stood up, twirled, and headed into the kitchen.

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A Man Travels Briefly Through Time

That morning he’d woken up and regretted it. A haze immune to Advil and sunlight had settled on his mind. Just like every morning, he told himself he should go for a jog. But most days he at least got out of bed, put on shorts and sneakers, went through the motions until he paused at his front door and said fuck it. Today he couldn’t even get up. Every time he tried he was seized by an overwhelming and inexplicable feeling that once he had his feet on the ground, it was all over. That was the ballgame. He made several abortive attempts, but the closer his feet got to the carpet the more urgent the feeling became, until he leapt back into bed wondering just what the hell was going on.

He contented himself with television, although getting the remote had been rather dicey since he’d carelessly thrown it on his desk the night before. Standing on the foot of his bed, he steadied himself on a chair with one hand as the other hand inched its way towards the remote. Twice he lost his balance and nearly fell, and both times the horror of touching the ground closed in on him, black and cold, forcing him into absurd acrobatic postures. Finally he caught the edge of the remote with his thumb and began the long, achingly slow journey back to the safety of his bed, nursing his fragile balance. Only when he was back on top of his covers did he realize he was drenched with sweat.

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Courage

“God,” the old woman said, and the word echoed in the high-ceilinged sanctuary.

“God,” the others joined, and then there was a collective breath.

“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Keri’s small, tight mouth was immobile, the only person in the whole room who didn’t know the words.

“I will now read the definition of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

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Incompatible

Like all insomniacs, Simon Samuels knew that the quickest way to fall asleep was to avoid thinking about it at all costs. If it were as easy as just saying it makes it sound, of course, there’d be no insomniacs.

Simon rolled over, his aching eyes searching for the clock and finding 3:17 staring unblinkingly back at him. He tossed back the covers and sighed. His feet hit the floor, the dull thud stamping out any hope of sleep, and his legs straightened creakily, carrying an unwilling torso. Michelle groaned and readjusted the covers, having given up waking up with Simon over a decade ago.

Simon took a deep breath and blinked away the blackness at the edges of his vision that haunted him despite all the god damned blood pressure pills his quack doctor prescribed.

To be fair, it wasn’t the doctor’s fault. No, Simon had been destined to a lifetime of maladies since the doctor who’d brought him into this blasted world marked down ANPR on his charts- Augmentations Not Properly Received. Simon smiled bitterly. No, it’d been nobody’s fault- God knows the literature on the subject stressed that enough. Roughly 3% of the population rejected the Von Schwimmer Augmentations either partially or, as in Simon’s case, completely. But, as brightly colored pamphlets with names like Living as an Incompatible and ANPR and You had been telling him for the last 47 miserable years, his incompatibility was nothing to be ashamed of! As long as he took “sensible precautions,” he could live a long, healthy, normal life.

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