For the beginning of the year, I present to you three existential tales. In one, a stumble creates panic, temporarily allayed. In another, family is pitted against the guaranteed warmth of a bottle of whiskey (no one should have to make that choice!). Finally, a narrator’s angst is portrayed abstractly by the innumerable, bestial quandaries of life.
Keep those stories coming, and thanks to all of you who submitted. Remember that stories must be shorter than 500 words, but that really I’m looking for something closer to 250 (or less). It’s a challenge of brevity. A challenge for the new year. The year is dead: long live the year! The next installment of Short Shorts will appear February 10 — Lyle Rosdahl
Untitled by Esteban Peralta
I fell while we were on a hike once. I thought maybe she would help me up, but she kept walking as if she didn’t see me. Memories of her began seeping out like lava out of a crack in the earth — timestamps on her cell phone for every time he called; the time she lay on a deck in Greece while I eulogized my father; rehearsed, directed, disdainful harangues about her virtue. I looked up. She quietly stood over me with a faint smile. We held hands as we walked away.
The Holiday Conundrum by Philip LeDeau
I’m contemplating inviting people over for my birthday and, if I do, it would be a first. The problem is my birthday occurs in proximity to Thanksgiving every year (and sometimes on it, like it will in 2013) and I still live with my parents, who by the way have a year-old puppy — a black lab-Dalmatian mix — which is essentially like having a 50-pound, four-legged toddler with big teeth. He’s currently standing on the couch, sniffing the music boxes that my mother so carefully extracts from their garish cases. She’ll wind one up saying this is what it does, Tuxedo, as he warily takes in its perfumed scents. And, although I’m just sitting here listening, I feel both their silent demands of me … stability and sobriety, my peaceful solitary presence …
But we should just kill a bottle of whiskey or wine (like that flask of Wild Turkey in the liquor cabinet) over dinner and listen as the dog barks at the various children outside or along with the sadly wound music boxes, chimes progressively delayed, ending nonsensically.
Suburban Geographic by Clint Robertson
I come home to hyenas.
Hyenas giving birth on our marble countertops. Hyenas laughing, sniffing genitals, and fucking under the fake chandeliers. Hyenas galloping, like bears, legs slightly longer in front, through the three-car garage. Scent marking the velvet couch cushions. And crushing her mother’s mahogany table legs in their mandibles.
Hyenas that never leave. Hyenas jumping on trampolines. Hyenas when I would rather read poetry. Hyenas sleeping in the stove-top convection oven. Hyenas pawing at my laundered clothes. Hyenas snarling at basketball goals. Digging latrines in freshly mowed miracle-grow grass. Hyenas laughing at their reflections in the glass of our copper fireplace, because even these damn hyenas know it never snows in Texas.
Hyenas on the hardwood floors. Postmodern-décor abstract hyenas hanging on the white walls. Dolby surround sound hyenas cackling in the halls. Hyenas watching the Betta fish die. Hyenas under halogen lights.
Hyenas every single night digging at the foundations. Where stray termites still gnaw away. Termites chewing tunnels. Tunnels of escape. Termites but hyenas. Feeding on IKEA appliances and gaining strength.
And I can’t take these hyenas any longer. These sexless, urinating, copulating, menstruating hyenas in my living room. Because she loves these hyenas. These lions. Gazelles. These cheetahs. These majestic bald eagles. Wombats. And whales. These moose. And she can’t even see where all the termites have chewed.
She can’t see tupperware hyenas. Hyenas in homeowners associations. Neighborhood watch hyenas. Brick fortified Brinks alarm sidewalk mailbox hyenas. Scavenging hyenas walking into our neighborhood. Into our home. On our television. Stealing my time, my words, my thoughts, my life.
And I’m so sick of these hyenas who seem to have shown up with no other purpose than to ruin a termite’s wife. •