Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The wind kicks up swirls of dust, making brief spirals of deep red from the iron-enriched earth meeting the light of the sunset. They bleed into the sky before settling back down to cover the beleaguered road out of this desolate town.

This is the kind of place where, if someone claimed to see Elvis in their morning toast, the entire town would stop running for a week for talk of it.  The kind of place where the mailman is invited to your baptism.  The kind of place where, if you aren't baptized by the time you're 13, the town starts to talk.  There really isn't much more one needs to say to describe it.  You hear that and you know the layout of the place, its map somehow etched on your very heart even if you have never once ventured outside of a place like New York, or San Francisco, or hell even Memphis.  And sure, maybe the person next to you has imagined the church on the wrong side of the street and where you've mentally placed the post office there's actually a Waffle House, but really does it even matter?  You know this place, even though you've never been here.  You know it because somehow it's a part of every American's soul.  Its geography and values are mapped onto your genetic code; tiny little white picket fences bridging tiny little nucleotide houses in your DNA.

I knew I had been here for too long by the time I had learned to read.  By the time I had learned how to drive that knowledge had fueled a need far greater than I had ever known for food or sleep.  Those existential needs, the kind that you can't immediately satisfy, are always the kind that sink lowest in the pit of your stomach.  The need to feel accepted, the need to be respected, the need to be far enough away from this place that it only exists to you in memories; those needs aren't easily satisfied.  Some are damn near impossible to fulfill, and so they just gnaw away at you until you break.

I haven't broken yet, mind, but the depression coming from my inability to cut and run has been leading me to this road every night with a bottle of bourbon for the better part of a year.  Imagine, a 20-year-old whiskey-drunk every day before sundown.  I guess I've read that sort of thing was pretty common, especially in the cities and the universities, or maybe even some of the more rural little towns where you didn't really have neighbors within a couple miles, but not here in this condensed little suburbia. This sort of behavior is considered beyond obscene, but I've long grown past the point of caring.  I can't leave the town, so I try to leave my own head however I can.

There was always something holding me back.  Mom got sick from some bad air when the filters in the general store went, and I had to run the shop for her.  Dad broke both his legs falling off the tractor and I had to take over the better part of the farm while my brother ran the store.  Mom died from all the poison in her lungs and I had to make arrangements.  I take one final pull of bourbon.  As that mild fire burns its way down my throat I throw the bottle and watch it shatter into dust against the reinforced polymer glass of the Dome. I can dress it up any way I'd like, say it was the family or the responsibility or even just that I was comfortable here, but the truth of things is that I'd have been gone years ago if this road didn't end sharply in an impenetrable barrier, the other side of which would kill me in minutes.

Most of my sober time is spent reading.  The library here is a big deal, modeled after the one in New York, with the lions and everything, and it's the one delightfully out-of-place bastion in this homogenous little burg.  Naturally it's devoid of people at practically all times, and it's nice to have the run of the place.  There's so much about the way things used to be, what life was like outside of the Dome, what life may still be like somewhere else.  If I could ever offload the farm I would work there, becoming the regent of dusty books, and slipping into that magical uncovered world.

Above me a vision of a plane glides across the Dome, and fizzles out as it passes a bad patch in its visual display.  Out on the edge of town I suppose that doesn't matter so much.  I keep overhearing Shelly from the diner yesterday telling me that I was one of those guys who thinks he knows everything.  I turn around and start to stumble back home.  What good is all the lost world's knowledge if I'm stuck in a damn bubble?  How can I know anything if I've never been anywhere?  Just as I think I'm going to snap, maybe run head first into the Dome until my skull caves. Just as I'm about to give up and slink back to the farm for the rest of my life, the man's wispy, whiny voice from that old record in the library emerges from the sludge of drunken thought and plays in my ear like a hymn.

"There must be some kind of way out of here…"

Monday, February 3, 2014


Irina Kravchenko by Julia Hetta

The delivery man approached the door slowly, and breathed a heavy sigh.  There was, for a brief moment, hope that this delivery would be different - that the woman on the other end would open her door to greet him, even if she did so with tears in her eyes, and it exasperated him that he was still wishing for something that he knew would never take place. Being a grocery deliverer he was not inexperienced with reclusive behavior; quite the opposite as a substantial percentage of his route were, at least at some level, antisocial.  Still, the complete shut-ins - the ones that wouldn't open the door to him, would only acknowledge his presence with the sliding of money under the door or worse,  through a mail-slot stuffed with unread letters - made him especially sad.  It was with this fatalistic, morose demeanor that he approached the door and performed the agreed-upon announcement of his presence.

Knock (pause) knock-knock-knock (pause) knock.

Sarah had heard the figure approach her door.  She had heard that same sigh again as she had the time prior, and the time prior to that, from the man that delivered her groceries. Her mind raced through myriad possible reasons for his disdain.  Did she not tip him enough? Was there graffiti on her door?  Oh god, she thought, what if he smells something?  Sarah kept the place nearly immaculate, but she remembered being in someone's house once and it had a distinct smell that no one else seemed to notice.  She told her mother, who explained that everyone had a scent, and that after awhile when someplace becomes like a home you don't smell it anymore.  This terrified Sarah, and now she was remembering this event and her mind raced pondering what her scent could be like and what if it smelled just awful? She couldn't bear it, and sprayed a cloud of air freshener in the air, trailing her like jet wash as she tiptoed toward the door.

The cost was $33.42, paid the same way every week: 1 twenty, 2 fives, 1 two, a one, one quarter, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies.  She hoped the delivery man liked the two-dollar bills she left him as much as she did, and wonder what he did with the rare bills as she checked the back of the quarter to make sure that the state imprint was earlier in an alphabetical list than Missouri.  It was Missouri, so she tossed it into the air.  Heads, thus making it acceptable to include.  Missouri was 25th in the alphabetical list, which put it in the first half, but it was also an odd number, which Sarah didn't like, so she had to flip to make sure it was ok. She wondered if the delivery man ever noticed, but what if, she thought, the delivery man was from Wyoming or something and he only liked states from the second half of the alphabetical list?  She got her breath back to its normal rate after a few moments and proceeded to slip the money out of the empty side of the mail slot, which she had stuffed with mail so the delivery man or anyone else for that matter could not peer in.

She counted to eleven twice to make sure that the count was an even number and that the delivery man would be gone before she opened the door to receive her items, glaring through  the peep hole to make absolutely certain no one would see her.  There was no graffiti on the door, Sarah noticed.  It must be the smell, she concluded, and released another nimbus of air freshener on her way to the fridge.

The celery needed to go into the right crisper drawer, first a row of three, then two on top, and capped by another creating a green pyramid.  Four tomatoes would go next to this to keep the cucumbers from rolling away.  In the left crisper drawer she would put the lettuce and the carrots. The milk went in the refrigerator door, and the bread would go on the second shelf, as always.  Sarah hesitated, and began moving the loaf of bread to the top of the fridge next to the butter spread.  The end was just sliding onto the shelf when her hands began to shake. It doesn't belong there, she thought, but it doesn't matter; I can put things where I want. The shaking increased from a tremor to a quake, and her jaw began to hurt from clenching her teeth.  Sarah screamed a word that only she would ever consider a profanity, threw the bread on the floor, masked her face with her hands to hide her tears from no one in particular, then immediately picked up the bread and put it on the second shelf.  She closed the fridge with a timidity that had become all too routine for her, and slumped to the floor, sobbing.

She cried for a few minutes, feeling every second pass
as she lamented the impossibility of her life. Her stomach stopped constricting momentarily enough for her to catch her breath, and in the silence the lives from the apartment below reached through the floor to her.  Shouting. A woman was shouting with venom in her voice; Sarah could tell that the woman was out to hurt feelings from the tone, though she did not recognize the language being screamed.  A man yelled equally loudly, and she knew that he was saying things he will never be able to take back.  The sound of shattered glass, or porcelain called up to her, and the clatter and crash of furniture being thrown sounded like a symphony.  She lay there, hearing the violence and the screams and the emotional pain the two belted at each other and she caressed the floor with her hand, her ear still pressed hard to the burgundy carpet.  Her tears stopped, and as the police broke down the neighbors' door she drifted off into a tranquil, dreamless sleep, a smile stretched across her unmoving face.