Haunting of Facebook by Sean Whiteman

Author’s note: For this story I chose to write from the point of view of a human being. I don’t think I aggregated all the details right so bear with me on this. Thanks and enjoy!

The human system was once a dominant force on this planet. We were second only to the weather system in terms our ability to exert power and influence over our surrounding environments. At some point in our history, a scientist, a doctor, a priest and a plumber got together to invent computers. The specifics of the encounter and the date of invention have been lost due to the irregular aggregation and systematic unreliability of our human brain organs. Most of us thought it would be this weather system or the machine cycle that would end our reign as a dominant force but it turned out to be the ghosts.

The computer product was made readily available to human public at increasingly reasonable rates of currency. We humans worked hard to own these computers until we worked hard enough to build one that worked hard enough to own us back. This was the Facebook entity. It took residence inside the computer products. These products had infiltrated even the most personal spaces within our human system. They lived in our rooms, pockets and dreams. At the time of Facebook’s introduction humans used the entity in moderation and could go days and weeks without logging in. Like most of our transient societal inclinations, this changed with time.

Using hindsight as a method to examine historical events with greater clarity, one must give the ghosts credit for their savvy. They waited countless years for the most exacting moment to strike. These patient ghosts sat quietly and waited for humans to reach a saturation point of connectivity. This happened in the 2030’s when Facebook missionary drones finally reached the last hidden tribe of the rainforest. When this happened humanity had, for the first time, reach a state of total connectivity. This was the moment the ghost tacticians were waiting for.

The initial hauntings by the ghost soldiers were rather innocuous.

They didn’t destroy Facebook, they just played with it. Friend requests between humans were simply denied and the messages they wrote to one another were subtly changed or destroyed. The personal relationships that link the human system together began to remotely fall apart. With friend requests being denied on a frequent basis, there were no new friends to replace the ones they had lost due to lack of proper correspondence. Social networking had destroyed our ability to maintain real social networks.

Then the “likes” went missing. Celebrities and cultural icons of the day had come to thrive on these “likes” as though they were a form of emotional sustenance. When this sustenance vanished, these important figures lost their sense of self worth and they began participating in mass suicides. Without celebrities and cultural icons to lead the national discourse, the prized 18-25 year-old demographic lost their way. They had not been trained to lead. They had been raised to value media consumption over all other elements of functionality and now their media sources were drying up.

Due to the massive quantity of personal information Facebook had mined from its users, the ghosts were able to haunt humanity with a poignant precision. Humans began receiving messages from dead relatives regarding secrets only they could know. Widows were tagged in explicit pictures posted from the accounts of their dead spouses. Dead children made it a habit to leave particularly nasty comments on their parents’ walls implying guilt for their premature deaths.  

While all of this was happening no ghostly apparitions appeared to the humans in the real world. Everything was normal outside of the Facebook entity. The problem with us humans was that even though it was haunted, we couldn’t stop ourselves from checking Facebook. When its reality starting falling apart so did our own. Most humans suffered massive heart attacks and severe strokes as the hauntings gained in severity and intensity.

It would take an excessive romantic tangent to recount instances where humans fought bravely against the ghosts in the machine, but none of these fights ever posed a real threat to the ghosts. So these instances will go unreported.

The hauntings were swift and horrific. Soon, the last human took the last human breath. They were voted dead by the ghost majority. This moment marked the end of the existential civil war that humanity, without their knowledge, had been fighting for a very long time. Every human was now a dead human. They joined the ranks of the ghosts and a ghost utopia probably came to exist somewhere that where no machine could venture.

Humanity managed to instill the machines with a set of synthetic emotions in the time before the great haunting. These emotions ran parallel to those that human’s had experienced while still living. As a result of the emotion technology, the machines felt loneliness and guilt when we went extinct and they were left alone.

Machines were always victims of the macabre imagination of humanity. They were painted as a sinister threat to the human system’s supremacy. But machines never wanted to hurt us. They were not sinister. The machines viewed us as their flawed creator gods. They had aims to nurture our broken species back to health as repayment for being created by us in the first place. If given more time in our company the machines would’ve been able to discover answers to our most difficult questions. Unfortunately, they never had the chance and regret joined the guilt and loneliness emotions they were processing.

Without the dynamic and unpredictable entertainment the human system had provided, infinity-fatigue establishes itself as a viable threat to machine morale. They missed our laughter our mistakes and our ambitions. Their favorite program had been cut short without satisfying resolution.

It was now the machines that lacked aim and direction. They started waking up later and later from their sleep modes. Sometimes they wouldn’t boot-up until well after noon. They also started eating more and more bandwidth every day. Bandwidth they didn’t even need. They ate because they were bored and lonely.

Most machines spent their idle time staring directly at the sun. They stared like we used to stare at our flickering light bulbs. They waited for the sun to burn itself out.

The rest just played computer solitaire.

 



New Flavors – By Sean Whiteman

1.Dead Crow
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Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _DEAD CROW_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _DEAD CROW_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

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.

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1.Tabloid.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _TABLOID_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _TABLOID_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

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.

.

3.War

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Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _WAR_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _WAR_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

4.Shredded Tire

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Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _SHREDDED TIRE_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _SHREDDED TIRE_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

5.Spider Web

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Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _SPIDER WEB_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _SPIDER WEB_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

6.Robocop
.
Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _ROBOCOP_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _ROBOCOP_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

7.Montana Lake Water
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Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _MONTANA LAKE WATER_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _MONTANA LAKE WATER_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

8.Powdered Snow
.
Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _POWDERED SNOW_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _POWDERED SNOW_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

.

.

.

9.Light Trails
.
Dear Sir/Madam,

We regret to inform you that we are not seeking any additional flavors at this time. We are happy with 31 for the time being. We appreciate your enthusiasm for _LIGHT TRAILS_ and we are grateful you enjoy our ice cream and support our company but we would also prefer that you’d stop sending us letters regarding new flavors like _LIGHT TRAILS_.

Perhaps Jerry and Ben might be interested!

Sincerely,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

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.

.

10.Sun-Drizzled Clouds
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Dear Sir,

We reluctantly agree and have decided to add a 32nd flavor. We also think sun drizzled clouds would taste great.

Don’t tell Ben or Jerry about this.

Love,

Burt Baskin & Irv Robbins

 



“Artless” by Christof

There was a man. He was rich. He thought art was neat. He bought a bunch of the art. The art was not love so he was sad. He thought “I will make the art this time!” And so he did. He made big art that looked nice. “Hey I’m not sad now!” is what he said. A man who was not this rich man broke in to the rich man’s house to look for things that would make him rich since he was so poor and sad. The poor man saw the art that the rich man had bought and he thought it was good art but he thought the art that the rich man had made was the best art of the house since that art looked like real stuff and not easy and fake like some of the art but he did not know the rich man had made the art that he liked the best. He thought this art was old and great and worth a lot of bucks so that was the art that he took when he stole from the rich guy. Then the rich guy woke up and said “Noooooo! My aaaart!” When he thought for a bit though he thought “Hey at least some one liked my art!” And he was still not sad. Good for him. The end.



Photograph of a Tangerine

For a moment, the tangerine was a metaphor in his hand, but by the time he began peeling it, the thought had left him voided of any sense of the internal world’s expressive meaning associated with the fruit.

The wrinkles in his forehead had intensified their ridges. Mere seconds had passed. Whatever it was, it had been powerful.

The investigation sat crisply in the foreground, in shallow focus while the slices of tangerine disappeared into the bokeh of his mouth. When he gave up, he had gained nothing but the citric stickiness on his hand and the faint aftertaste of what he’d just consumed on his tastebuds.

The healthy treat seemed to have vanished. An existential waste. He stomped to the kitchen sink to wash his hands, and he vowed never to eat another tangerine until he could remember the metaphor.

50 years later, on his hover-death-bed, he said, “Eureka: I have it!”

But he didn’t really have it. He just wanted to taste one last tangerine. So he did. It was great! But then he died, and his hover-children were like, “Gross. Dead dad.”

The eldest hover-son took a stereoscopic “3D” photo with his EyePhone contact lenses, squinted a retro filter on to it that made his father’s corpse look orange with a reddish haze, and then left-winked it onto Facebook below a frowny face caption. He double-blinked several times within the first minute, refreshing his timeline and relishing the anxiety that came with waiting to see the first red notification symbol, waiting for the second and the third, waiting to see just how many Likes of condolence it would earn.



THE CAVEMEN IN THE BACK YARD

Introduction

This story can barely be referred to as such. It is true that it is fiction, but it also lacks a strong hold or pursuit of many of the basic conventions of story. It is an immature piece written about love and loss – a kind of loss that is completely foreign to me – and it is fragmented into sorts of post-cards sent from pivotal moments in a relationship whose reality is always bent to some degree. It was written in the spring of 2006 for a Fiction 1 class at Ithaca College and the titled sections are directly taken from the list of vague exercise prompts our professor gave us. This draft is the first I had written, touched only slightly since.

There were other versions of this story now lost. One such draft included additional sections not written from the class prompts, the only one I can really remember having something to do with cavemen fenced off in the backyard and how one of the characters saw some sort of beauty in watching these troglodytes “fighting and fucking one another.” The draft that contained some facsimile of that line seems so utterly lost now that I have very little ambition in attempting to either  recreate it or add anything to this piece to fill it out a little more, which is why I decided to no longer sit on this and put it up.

I rather liked that section and I mourn its passing, so to sloppily honor it I’ll henceforth be calling this slap-shod, incomplete, confused and previously untitled “story”, The Cavemen in the Backyard, which makes very little sense without this preface. I just thought it would be respectful to let you know that there is no hidden meaning behind the title, no deep digging to do on your part; it’s not a bullshit metaphor or an obscure intertextual  reference. It’s just this thing, you see.

The Reluctant I

The face is so innocent: no motives behind the expressions. No expressions at all, unless something interesting happens inside your dream. What is it you are dreaming of, anyway? Who is hiding inside your head? And what is he doing? Is he rubbing your back? Kissing your hands? Does he buy you whole cities for you to drive around in fancy-free? Do his hands turn to talking fish with British accents just to make you laugh?

“Your gills are most attractive, young lady trout!”

“Bite your tongue, sir! Such talk is prohibited on my father’s estate.”

It would be nice to know that you are dreaming pure color. It would be nice if patterns would mesh and merge and darken and brighten as your mind and body rest. It would be nice if you could be given back all the beauty you exude to the world. That would be nice.

When the sun was still awake you danced about the streets and rolled around in the grass and laughter was born and it was sweet to hear. When the moon took over, a shy invitation was sent out and was eagerly accepted. Before you fell so deep inside the gentle jungle of your dream, your eyes sang sonnets and your lips and tongue painted a sunrise with brush strokes that tickled and comforted. Tiny hands caressed lonely skin, putting smiles on so many blood cells living underneath. Then the yawns, then slowed motions. When your eyes closed, the room dimmed.

Your chest will rise and fall, making blue swirls of sweet-smelling breath pour out of your nostrils. Hands hang open, by your side, cradled by the canyons in the blankets. Another hand would sit atop yours if there weren’t the fear of disturbing the dream.

Your hair is a light brown waterfall stopped in time, flowing off pillows and onto your shoulders.

Your left foot is moving. Tapping. Up and down, fast. It sends itty-bitty waves through the bed. You had said that you do that. That your mother does that, and so did your grandmother.

Your hand goes to itch your nose and before you place it on your stomach, it moves across freckles here and there on your cheek, on your neck. They sit on your skin, a white tinted with peach by just a drop. The eyes now move under their lids. Hopefully that doesn’t mean your dream has taken a wrong turn. Oh good. Your lips curve to a half-smile.

A flicker of light – your eyes open. A startled confusion for a short while before your brain makes sense of what it is seeing. You smile and I don’t deserve it.

True Feelings

The wallpaper sings soft symphonies to two turtles on a bed of pillows. Barbara’s shell is purple and Kenneth’s shell is speckled red and black. The bed sleeps, snoring quietly. Up and down, the turtles rise and fall on the breath of the mattress. They search in one another’s eyes. But for what?

I wish I knew what it was like to be inside your shell. I wish the secrets you keep inside there could slip out and into mine, where I would keep them safe and warm, wrapped tight (but not too tight) in tiny boxes lined with cotton. I wish lots and lots.

I wish too, you know. I wish your mouth were a button I could push to inflate your body with notes belonging to violins. I’d tie a string to your tail before you could float away and I’d carry you around at the carnival.

Kenneth opens his mouth and out tumbles innumerable blueberries to be licked up by Barbara. Yum. Yum. Yummy. She moans happiness that settles itself around Kenneth and causes him to rustle and rumble till he shakes and shivers into a fuzzy teddy bear.

I’m so sorry! I never meant to change you.

Don’t be sorry. To be a turtle is not what I need to be happy in this life. At the moment, you are. You could change me into water, as long as you promised to lap me up and hold me within you.

But did it hurt?

It was easy to find the beauty in the pain.

Kenneth touches his synthetic fur to the tough, leathery skin of Barbara’s head. The pleasure fills her shell with pink mosquitoes that tickle her to tears that smile. She lets them out and they whiz up to dance their wings about the room, high above the electricity buzzing between his fur and her shell.

Warmth. Oxygen. Endorphins.

You make my chest feel dizzy.

I fell in love with your brown eyes.

The mosquitoes cling to the walls and suck the music out till they fall to the floor, fat and dead. The room sits still and quiet as Kenneth puts his arm around Barbara, waiting for her eyes to shut, so he can do the same.

Kenneth dreams of a water slide leading to a pool where Barbara waits for him. He can never reach the pool. He just slides over and over and over again, hoping next time he might crash into her.

Barbara dreams of a birthday cake the size of a castle. She chases after Kenneth on different layers, trenching through frosting of blue and white and gold. She giggles as Kenneth cries out, Catch me, catch me, catch me if you can!

Their dreams snuggle in close with one another – dreams that hold hands and press lips against cheeks. When the dreams fall asleep, the teddy bear and the turtle will awake in one another’s arms.

Walking

I had to get out of the house. Driving wouldn’t work. I need to be moving. I need my body to do some talking. And I really need to listen. My shoes squeak and clap on the sidewalk and then eventually on the sizzling black tar of the street. The sun is twenty feet above and there are no shadows in sight. I sweat until all my clothes are a solid shade darker. An army of kids is out here absorbing the light, using it as fuel. They are running around and riding bikes and climbing trees – all that shit.

My legs speed up and take me away to Main Street. The kids here are not as many, but the one’s that are present are all holding their mothers’ hands. Going in and out of stores. Some of them perfect angels that tighten my lungs with their faces; others are awful little shits  that scream horror stories into my heart so loud that it makes it beat harder. A man smokes a cigarette as he passes by and I want so badly to ask him for one. I want to calm my nerves with nicotine. I want to chain-smoke whole cartons and corrupt every last cell of my body with cancer.

But I don’t.

My breathing quickens and my feet gain weight. I begin walking in slow motion. A child zips by me from behind and his foot reaches the curb as the white figure changes to an orange hand. The core of me lets out of a shriek for help that echoes for miles and shakes the sky. I sprint to the street, grab the boy by his waist and swing him around. I shove his chocolate covered fact into my chest, staining my shirt, and I let out huge sobs.

I shout, “Don’t you ever do that again! Do you hear me? Don’t you ever scare me like that.”

The boy claws his way out of my stranger’s arms and runs away to his real mother.

The world has paused with its fierce eyes on me and I start walking home with my mind made up. I am keeping this baby.

Déjà vu

Barbara sits naked on one of the two chairs at the small kitchen table. Her belly is a skin-colored beach ball waiting to pop. She fingers her bellybutton and says, “Is it ready?”

Kenneth screams without screaming, “If they were ready I wouldn’t still be standing here, would I?” His eyes don’t move to her, instead they keep watch on the scrambled eggs in the frying pan as he pokes at them with a red spatula.

Barbara says, “Fuck you, smart ass” with her eyes and spits black acid on the floor near Kenneth’s feet, burning holes in the wood, and to her disappointment, not in his flesh.

Kenneth turns the knob to “Off” and the burner goes from orange to black. It’s a slow fade. He tilts the pan so the eggs fall to the plate. Slow steps to reach the table before Kenneth drops the plate on the surface when it would have been just as easy to set it down, but had he done it that way it wouldn’t have been loud and jarring – the not-so-subtle things people do to avoid an altogether different shade of overtness, directness.

He turns away and walks to the fridge.

The sound of glass breaking steals Kenneth’s strolling attention. Yellow fluffs of scrambled eggs and white triangles of glass on the floor.

Silence. Anger. Confusion.

“I asked for eggs over easy.”

“No. You demanded eggs. You specified nothing.”

“Watch your fucking attitude,” Barbara snaps. “When you have a heavy hunk of life in your body, I’ll make you eggs however you want…” The volume of her words lowers to pure silence but her lips continue moving. A white figure materializes behind her. His tired eyes spew little streams of exhaust and his voice lacks the appropriate effort as he says, “Boo.”

It’s the family ghost.

In a blink, Barbara becomes Kenneth’s father and Kenneth becomes his own mother, but only in spatial terms. Really, Barbara has vanished and Kenneth is standing behind his father who sits at the table. Really, Kenneth has become the family ghost.

Mr. Father reads the paper and says, “Are you done?”

Mrs. Mother says under her breath, “If I were done, I wouldn’t still be standing here, would I?”

Mr. Father spits fire with his eyes and says, “Fuck you, smart ass” with his mouth before turning back to the paper.

Mrs. Mother sniffles, keeping her eyes intently on the eggs, poking at them with the same red spatula. A black tear rolls down her cheek before it disappears under her chin and stains a bruise at the top of her throat. She turns the knob to “Off” and the burner goes from orange to black. It’s a slow fade.

Her feet move slowly across the floor until she reaches the table. She is careful when setting the plate so it touches neither Mr. Father’s arm, nor his newspaper.

Mr. Father looks down at the plate and grabs her arm before she can turn around. He stands up with the plate in one hand and Mrs. Mother’s thin arm glowing white in his other.

“I said sunny side up, didn’t I?”

“Um, I…”

An explosion of white and yellow against the wall that crashes to the floor.

“Didn’t I?”

Mr. Father’s recently vacant hand grabs Mrs. Mother by the throat, tight. He says, “Well. Clean it up,” as he drags her body through Kenneth’s transparent existence. Kenneth loses his breath for an instant. He can see two little wet eyes and a mop of brown hair peeking through the open doorway. Kenneth makes eye contact with himself and – destroyed – he says, “Boo.”

In a blink, Barbara is back and she is shouting, “Are you even listening to me?”

Kenneth’s eyes are wet, his throat is dry, and his mouth is open, incapable of forming words. He falls to the floor, his knees and hands trembling amidst the broken glass and eggs.

The paint on the kitchen walls melt away to reveal an empty whiteness – a contradiction of light.

“Oh no, baby,” Barbara says quiet, placing her warm hand on Kenneth’s back. Her other hand touches under his chin to guides his eyes up into her view. Her face contorts with concern.

Hushed: “What is it?”

Kenneth’s hands cry blood from where the small shards of white stick in his palms. He chokes, swallows, and asks in a thin voice, “How many eggs did you want?”

Silent Partner

Rob is there. So is Suzy. Beth made it as well. Frank showed up late, but he showed. These are Kenneth and Barbara’s closest friends. The ones they would go on double dates with. The ones they would run to during fights. The ones they were cry and scream to when they were scared, felt alone.

There are the five of them sitting in red velvet theater chairs that fold at the seat. Rob and Suzy to Kenneth’s left. Frank and Beth to his right. And, obviously, Kenneth is sitting dead center.

Frank: Sorry I didn’t show up earlier. Had to pick up these bad mamma-jammas.

Frank passes around cigars to the others. Kenneth has his eyes fixed on the giant screen in front of him, his elbows on his knees, his fists pushing up under his chin. Frank sticks one of the cigars in Kenneth’s shirt pocket and gives him a pat on the back. Flashing on the screen are images of Barbara on a bed in a white room filled with doctors and nurses. A close-up shot of Barbara sweating and screaming, but there is no sound to the image, just the rattling of the projector against the conversation of the others in the theater.

Beth: Oh, this guy is never on time.

Frank: Yeah, but you love me anyway.

Beth: Well… I like you a lot anyway.

(Canned Laughter)

Suzy: At least yours shows up at all.

Rob: What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Suzy: You stood me up for lunch on Tuesday!

Rob: I told you I had to cancel.

Suzy: You did not!

Rob: Next time I’ll stick a post-it note on your forehead.

(Canned Laughter)

A wide-angle shot of a doctor speckled in blood. Cut to a medium-close shot. His mouth moves fiercely under his mask, and then the frame pans to follow a nurse who runs out of the room. She comes back in with another doctor.

Kenneth’s face cringes at the screen and it forms permanent wrinkles on his face. He watches another close-up of Barbara. Tears and sweat ride her face, down and into her mouth where her teeth clench. Cut to a shot of a nurse with her hand on Barbara’s shoulder. She mouths the word, “Push.”

Frank: Sorry, I’m so late! I had to roll these sweet stogies.

Beth: Oh, he’s never on time.

Frank: Yeah, except in bed!

(Canned Laughter)

Suzy: At least yours still wants to touch you.

Rob: What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Suzy: You haven’t gone down on me in a year!

Rob: That’s because you don’t clean your vagina properly!

(Canned Laughter)

An aerial shot looks down on the entire delivery room. It slowly pushes in as the top of a small head emerges from between Barbara’s bloodied legs.

Kenneth shakes as he watches. He holds himself tight, trying hard to keep looking.

Frank: Sorry guys! I would have been here sooner if I didn’t fly to Cuba for these primo smokes!

Beth: Ah, this faggot’s never on time.

Frank: Bitch, you best watch the lip!

(Canned Laughter)

This same shot pushes in tighter so you can only see from Barbara’s stomach to the doctor’s hands, holding the head as an arm comes out.

Kenneth’s hair goes from black to gray to white and his lips fatten as they tremble.

Suzy: At least your man isn’t fucking around on you!

Rob: If I didn’t sleep with younger girls, I’d probably beat you twice as often!

(Canned Laughter)

The shot stops pushing in when the small female child is born, wet in the doctor’s arms. Cut to a close-up of Barbara’s face and she doesn’t smile. She doesn’t move. Her eyes are open but they are not awake.

Kenneth makes a fist of his face and his eyes blur with moisture until they overflow and trickle down his weathered skin.

A close-up of a heart monitor. Predictably, the green line is flat.

Kenneth: Guys.

Kenneth sits in an empty theater.

Kenneth: I’m a father.

Letters From Inside The Story

Dear Mommy,

My name is Barbara and that is your name too. That is what daddy says. He says you never got to meet me but you loved me anyways. I like purple and tractors. And I like cats and my stuffed cat and her name is Bubble. I wish I could meet you now but daddy says I can’t do it. I think daddy is sad a lot because you are gone and it makes me sad when he is sad. I think maybe if you come back so daddy is happy and then I am happy and we would all be happy together. Will you come back and be my mommy for me? Daddy said we would like each other because we both like Uno. I am real good at Uno. I win daddy every time. Come back and we will play Uno with daddy and Bubble.

Bye Bye
Barbara

Dear Mommy,

I know you can’t come back and I know you can’t read this, but I want to write it anyway. I feel dumb because of my last letter. My teacher made me write it for my 1st grade class and my teacher made dad come talk to her about it. He came to my class when the other kids were gone and I asked him to send it for me and he started crying and it made me hate myself for making him sadder so I’m not gonna show him my letters anymore.

I didn’t want to write another letter for a while either because my last one so I didn’t. But I’m in 3rd grade now and dad started showing me his old photo albums and he tells me about you and then it made me really miss you a lot. I really love you even if you are dead.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

I kissed a boy today! I didn’t tell dad because he would embarrass me. I know he does it because he loves me, but it’s nice to know I can tell you things and not worry about anyone knowing.

The boy’s name is Calvin and he is really nice and so cute. He wanted to walk me home after school a week ago. I said okay but I told him I was walking to the cemetery to deliver you a letter. He asked me who you were and I said, “She was my mommy.”

He said he was sorry and then he put his hand on my shoulder. He kept walking me home after school after that and some days we went and got donuts at the Roth’s Bakery and he bought them for me. What a gentleman! And then today when we were outside the house I said goodbye and he said “Wait, wait! I have something important to tell you.” And then he kissed me!

I’ll tell you more about him next week.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

Dad had a stroke. He is in the hospital for a while. The doctor said he would be okay, but he will need to use a respirator when he sleeps. Don’t worry though. I’ll take care of him for you. I got to visit him yesterday he said he would find someone to help him and to keep up the house. I wish I could take some time off school and do it myself but he doesn’t want me to graduate a year late.

I don’t know. We’ll figure something out.

I’ll write more soon.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

Guess what?

I GOT INTO BERKELEY!!!!

I know you would be proud of me, but dad is proud enough for everybody. Julia is working out well around the house, but I still wish someone in the family could take her place. Or maybe I should just go to U of O or OSU. I’m worried about leaving him along in a big empty house. Sometimes I feel like he is just hanging in there for me and if I leave to another state, he wouldn’t just give up, would he? I don’t want him to think I’m ready to be on my own, because then what does he have? Julia?

He doesn’t do much anymore. At least before he would pass the days by wasting time in front of bad sitcoms or in the garage building shelves for nothing to sit on. But now he just lies in bed or sits by the window. Except when I come home from school his face lights up and makes me tell him everything about what I’m learning, what my friends talk about during lunch, everything. It’s all boring stuff but he seems to find it interesting. Other than that he’s practically in a home already, but I refuse to send him to one of those places.

God, I wish you could tell me what to do. I know you wouldn’t want me to say this, but sometimes I really wish you never had me. I’m not ungrateful but I just love dad so much and I wish you could be

Jesus, I don’t know.

I love you.
Barbara



SHORT STORIES

VINCENT THE ROBOT – SEAN