Tag: creative writing

On Fire

I am two people.

I am now. I am then.

I am a disheveled man riding in the back seat of a van. A church van. Wilmore First Baptist. I watch the trees go by. The road bends this way and that. I grew up here in this small community. I avoid thinking about why I have come home. Why I am being carted off to First Baptist Psychiatric, an old elementary school turned mental ward. I am in a daze from the drugs they’ve given me. Anti this’s and anti thats. Anti me. But I do not blame them for this chemically induced detachment. This suppression of an ego that believed getting drunk on cheap whiskey and slitting my left arm from wrist to elbow bend was a sensible thing to do. I am suicidal. I am a danger to myself and possibly others.

I am a younger man driving a 1997 Buick LeSabre. White. I am tapping my fingers on the steering wheel of this land yacht and singing along to classic rock blasting from a stereo that still takes cassette tapes. I am speeding up I75 with the Atlanta skyline on the horizon. My suit jacket is hanging from the passenger seat, and my tie is loose. I am happy. I am ready for my life to begin.

I am a man in a church van stopping at the gates of a loony bin. I am listening to the driver and guard discuss the upcoming football season. They’re praying for a championship. They refer to one another as brothers. They’re confident that God will grant them their wish. They drop their voices to just above a whisper, and I’m sure they’re speaking of me. The guard peers through the window, a pitying looking wiping across his face. A nod. Better get him inside, they’re saying. Better get him some help. My arm itches beneath the cast. Sixty stitches to close the wound, and they feel like fire ants gnawing at my skin.

I am a younger man parking my old Buick among new BMWs, Mercedes, and Volvos. Most of them are sleek, black or grey, and I stick out like sore thumb. I’m straightening my tie, and I’m putting on my ill-fitting jacket. I’m a hick come to the city. I am Jefferson Smith and this is my Washington. I cannot believe that I was ever considered for this job. That my dream of becoming an architect is coming true. I cannot believe that those old adages about hard work paying off have apparent roots in reality. I cannot believe that I am the proof. I make my way into a building, trying not to look up for fear of vertigo. I’m in a forest made of steel and glass, and I am nervous. I am excited. I am nervous. I am excited.

I am numb. I am a man being directed to exit the van and enter through the doors of a building once meant to mold the minds of the future leaders of America. A building that is now dedicated to piecing together those minds which have fallen apart. I am ushered to the principal’s office. To the door upon which the name Dr. Morris Lahey, M.D., P.C., ETC is stenciled. I am made to sit in an uncomfortable chair and stair at an uncomfortable wall full of motivational posters: “Healing Begins with Jesus,” over an image of open hands. “Wholeness, empowerment, and freedom with the body of Christ,” under an image of a distraught woman with her beseeching arms in the air. When the door opens, a man with respectably grey hair asks, “Are you Ryan Oliver Dolan?” He does not await my reply, leaving his door open.

I am walking through the lobby of an impressive building. I take the elevator to the eleventh floor. “Mr. Dolan?” the pretty receptionist confirms as I approach the desk in my borrowed suit. “You’re right on time. Mr. Traeger is in the conference room.” The offices are full of bright-looking people. Some of them notice me. Some of them ignore me. The conference room is easy to find behind the wall of glass. A man stands over a set of blueprints, black marker making notes with confident slashes and hash marks I think I could decipher if they were right-side-up. His sleeves are rolled onto his forearms. It’s early yet, but this is the sort of man who doesn’t sleep unless it’s prescribed by a doctor. His name is Harold Traeger. He is a legend in his field, and he is the man who hired me. Plucked me out of the ether from my small state school upon my graduation. His letter said that I have potential. His letter said that I deserve a spot on his team.  I am very glad / nervous / glad / nervous / glad to meet him.

Am I Ryan Oliver Dolan? It’s hard to say now. It isn’t the drugs that muddy the question. The drugs are fine. The drugs are perfect for the occasion. But the question itself: Who am I? I am who I am now. I will never be who I was again.

I am two people.

I am then. I am now.

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Zombeh 1.1

Tom Stovel and Amy Blithe (35, both) lived in a treehouse on a corner of Hickory Street in Savannah, Georgia. The walls of their top-floor two-bedroom apartment were paper thin, and there were too many windows. It felt just short of camping. Glamping, maybe.

The house was built well before lead paint had been banned. The ceiling fans were installed before bulb sizes had been standardized. The kitchen had been remodeled to include a clothes washer and dryer with a dishwasher in between – about six full paces away from the sink. They could not use more than two appliances in the same room without tripping a fuse, the box for which was hidden behind the refrigerator.

The apartment was a pain in the ass, for sure, but it was oddly comfortable. It was home.

Drew and Foster Effingham (39 and 32 respectively) lived in the apartment below. Instead of glamping, the Effinghams dwelled in the equivalent of a Hobbit’s den – the ceilings were only seven feet high – and the concrete floors of what was once a prototype garage sloped in all directions beneath thin carpet. Their washer and dryer was an afterthought, stowed in the storage space around the side of the house near the trashcans in the alley.

The neighborhood was a grid, as were all neighborhoods in the city. The four of them would sit in their driveway smoking cigarettes and waving to the pedestrians walking their dogs. Savannah, after all, was a dog kind of town. The couples would drink beer and tell stories, getting downright rowdy when the boys had had one too many – when shouting over one another became the only way to be heard.

They never really saw their neighbors doing the same.

The neighbors all owned their land. They built fences around eighth-acre lots for their kids and dogs to play in. They stayed inside and did things that real adults do, venturing out only for the aforementioned walks and bit of light gardening.

“Fucking grown-ups, the bunch of them,” Drew would say. His compatriots would toast in agreement.

*

They knew something was wrong when the power went out. Of course, the power went out regularly in a house built before electricity was a sure thing, but it only ever stayed out for a few hours at a time, usually in the middle of the night when they’d all fallen asleep with all of the switches on. This time, however, it didn’t come back on and blind everyone. They woke up to warming fridges and no internet.

Their cellphones were all dead.

It was going to be a rough day.

Echo: Charlie 1.1

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ANNOUNCER (VO)

…introducing the Grubber 3 by Grub-o-Matic, America’s number one name in food printing!

We see white and the camera pans, bringing into view a machine the size of a refrigerator with a deli counter window built into the front. The box is black. It’s sexy. So’s the MODEL waving an elegant hand toward the machine.

ANNOUNCER (VO CONT’D)

With our new 360 design, you’ll get all the features you’ve been waiting for!

Hamburgers? Check!

(a hamburger appears in the model’s hand)

Pizza? Check!

(the hamburger morphs into a pizza slice)

Chinese food? Check!

(a bowl of noodles takes the slice’s place)

The food disappears as the Model shoves the bowl toward her face. A satisfied smile crosses her lips as she mouths the announcer’s words.

ANNOUNCER (VO CONT’D)

Yum!

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