You’re supposed to – I think – write in the first person in such a way – such a way as to allow your reader to experience your story as the protagonist. This is the idea of “entertainment,” after all – to afford you, the loser “reader,” an escape from the “quotidian” via vicarious, fictitious experience, in some body (vessel) and adventure (conflict) that doesn’t really exist.
Maybe there’s a second sort of dream – the one you watch from afar, without ever assuming risk, which you can enjoy like a voyeur – but there’s never quite the same payoff, when risk isn’t personally assumed – when nothing is “at stake,” so to speak – so for this specific parable, anyway, we’re going to eschew that sort of vaginal (read: pussy) safe space, and instead make demands of You, as mentioned:
You are Me. For this story. Safety embraces you back in reality.
“Entertainment” invites you – if you enter “This World.”
I am (You are): White. Male. 25 to 35 years of age, maybe – apply your presuppositions now, if you will – employ your stereotypes, assign your cultural values, let’s make this a “choose-your-own-bigoted-adventure” sort of thing, shall we? Note, though – if you find it appropriate – that this isn’t some sort of liberal, theological excursion into “Identity” or “Perspective,” but a sort of Mathematical proof of sorts of the uselessness of that very way of thinking – that This Author’s intention is to expose, highlight; examine, explore the underlying, universal pattern of “male-ness,” of “female-ness,” and to construct from these some sort of parabolic arc (redundant?) that, tertiarily “entertains,” secondarily “visits,” and primarily “explains” the Nature Of How Shit Goes Down.
Let Us pretend that we are the protagonist – a name is unnecessary, supply your own – and let us pretend, perhaps: You are a teenager, a high school student, a male, “White.”
Let Us pretend, contrary to expectations if you happen to be “non-white,” exactly congruent with expectations if you are “White,” that your Home Life is garbage and your experience has taught you that human beings are garbage, that your anxiety is oppressive, that your mood is depressed, that – like everyone else at about the age of 17 – the Great Container into which you have been birthed is strange, insane; fearsome, inexplicable.
Let Us pretend that you’re obligated to a Public Education – most understand this, I think, irrespective of race or gender – but We’re a White Male now, remember this – and let Us pretend that the stressors of public-educational-obligation translate somewhat universally; what We mean by that is:
High School Sucks.
In all High Schools there are Classes, and for Us (the White Male) We sit in the back of these Classes, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, just sort of existing there because We have to, because it’s “What you’re supposed to do.”
But in one Class – Chemistry, let’s say (let’s pretend) – we’re particularly disinterested; We have a friend, maybe, a kindred prankster, with whom We play equally meaningless games on paper during lectures and instruction – maybe Connect Four; Tic-Tac-Toe; Dots – it doesn’t matter. The point is, We don’t care about this stupid Class. It doesn’t affect Us.
And in this Class there is a Girl – and again, Her name doesn’t matter; she’s simply That Girl, the one who Pays Attention, the one who Does Well, the one who Cares About What’s Going On.
And We sit in the back, she towards the front – we willfully ignore, She willfully engages – and this makes Us angry; annoyed; resentful; spiteful…
So We, in the spaces between the attention of the adult Teacher, “Do Things.” Maybe We throw small objects at her, claim victory in Her distraction, frustration – maybe We play higher order games, put chewing gum on Her chair…
She always ignores Us. Thus, We always lose. This makes Us angry.
We turn to Him, our fellow back-row-of-the-Class “Friend” –
“How high we gonna get tonight?” We ask, making sure She can hear.
“We’re gonna blast off,” He says – “We’re gonna get fucking Lunar.”
He says Lunar like it’s spelled with a dozen O’s.
I (We, the White Male) throw an eraser at Her. She ignores Us (me).
“Fucking awesome,” I (We) say.
“You dropped your eraser,” She says – unexpectedly, turning unexpectedly, Paying Attention unexpectedly – “You might need it. It fixes mistakes.”
Our projectile is returned. If We were 30, We’d be on one knee proposing; but We are 17 or 18, so We’re confused.
We – the Friend and I – ought understand the magnitude of this gesture – but We’re male and 18; We try to salvage a snicker, but shut Our mouths for the rest of the Class.
It’s night now – there is a curfew, a Government curfew, on driving at this time, at this age – and I’m (We’re) well past it – and we’re on a particular road now, doesn’t need to be specific, aside from that it’s rural, “In The Middle Of Nowhere.” Doesn’t matter if it’s tropical or deciduous, it just matters that You (We) understand that it’s Isolated, Lonely; …Remote.
It also matters that I (We) are seeing nothing but what the meager lumens of our shitty headlights can illuminate in the darkness; it’s Midnight, for all intents and purposes, and We are driving our shitty car, alone, through rolling fields of crops of some kind or another, which We (I) do not and never will own.
We (I) are listening to music, stereo, and we are high – Looooooooooooner, man. And I (We) don’t give a capital F “Fuck” – and We have a cigarette hanging out of the corner of our “Fuck You,” or maybe a spliff, or maybe a joint – and all the world is black except the pale yellow bifurcated strips of headlight, which We are dangerously out-pacing with an admix of “Nothing Matters” and “Who Gives a Fuck.”
Some Thing was in the road, and We (You, I) hit it.
Something. Some Thing.
We skid to a stop. Throw Pop’s whip into “park.” Silence; silt and shadow in the Midnight air.
Guilt isn’t even here yet – just that weird, a-conscious surprise; that animal shock – that simple “…The Fuck?!”
We get out of the car, survey – takes Us (You) a minute –
Then: a Form, a small distance off the road, in the Fields –
We (I, You) approach –
I (You) hit a dog –
It’s strangely serene, its body – not mangled, not bloody; just very, very, very still. Dead. Maybe large, maybe medium, maybe blonde, maybe black – I can’t say for sure, because You are the one that killed it.
But You (We) approach anyway; through the heavy mist, cut by the twin headlights, slicing through the silence, footsteps like hammer-blows in the thick Midnight… and the dead dog sort of renders as we come near, and it has a collar, which we notice only because it otherwise seems utterly undamaged, though it ought to be mangled and broken. On the collar is a name – “Joy” – and and address.
Not far from here.
The home is expected, given the scene of the crime: Shitty, remote, rural, run-down. I (We) double-check the address on the mailbox against the address on the collar… the body is in the trunk.
We take a deep breath; sack up; put the car in park, exit, approach the Front Door.
Ring the doorbell.
– Nothing –
– Voices –
-Angry voices (it’s late) –
– Louder –
– Someone at the other side of the door –
– Yelling from inside the house, not the Welcomer –
The door opens – shock –
The chemistry Snob; Eraserhead; Harvard-bound Miss Superiority, out here in Bumfuck USA, out here answering the door at half-past Midnight, Abercrombie and Chanel long since removed, her Public Face dissolving somewhere in a trash can on an alcohol wipe.
She stares at Us (You, Me), surprised. Shocked. Confused. Afraid, but not of Us.
“…Oh.” …not a question.
We hesitate; then:
“I hit your dog,” We say. “Joy. She’s dead.”
Long pause. “…Sorry.”
From inside the house – the shitty, how-is-this-where-She-actually-lives-house – An old man’s voice, thick around a half-century of unfiltered cigarettes:
“The FUCK is going on?”
“Nothing!” She says; She steps out to be with me (You) and only me (You); closes the door.
“…I didn’t see her. I’m sorry.”
She bursts into tears.
I (We) balk. Awkwardly. Like the loser We are.
“Oh!” And then She’s in Our arms, unexpectedly; We’re holding Her, unexpectedly, Paying Attention, unexpectedly. Me (Us), Mr. Killjoy – holding Her, Miss Holy-Shit-You’re-Abused-More-Than-I’ll-Ever-Be-Yet-You-Still-Get-Straight-A’s.
She cries, in a way I am not okay with, because I (You) suddenly understand exactly what it is you’ve done to Her.
Death sounds nice.
My (Your) car – the Murder Weapon – is parked Somewhere – Some Where, doesn’t matter – and it’s Late now – doesn’t matter – and the Sun is coming up now, a huge and bizarre red star breakfasting at the weird black horizon. You are on the hood, and She is on the hood with You, and We are watching the Sun rise.
She hasn’t said a word, not since You lifted Her into your arms from the front step of her Father’s alcohol palace, at Midnight, with her Pet’s blood on your hands, and placed Her in your Car, and drove Her to a Special Nowhere only You (We) know.
You watch her watching the Sun and understand – for a change – all She knows that You do not.
Then She watches You (Us) right back – and though You (We) won’t understand this for many years to come, she understands – for a change – all that We (You) do, that She does not.
3 thoughts on “Short Story for Quarantine ( 1 )”
I laughed and I cried…I also counted the Os in looooooooooooner.
Life can throw hard curve balls at one;
& choices may have unintended consequences.