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"Water Bottle"--short story excerpt

Wednesday 5/26/21

Unreal explosion of form. From Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives.


Measure the time you have left by what you don’t know that you can still learn.

Did you parents say that to you? someone asked me once.

I said it to me, I told them. I say it to me, I could have added.

Any time you tell someone you told yourself something it sounds like a joke.

I had a pen knife at eleven and I’d nick the back of my calves with it. Quick flicks going just under the skin. I tested its sharpness that way.

I think the body makes decisions about what parts will stop bleeding quickest and heal the fastest. The body is oriented around this particular style of design. The heart is not.

Anytime my penis got cut it always healed fast. Less than a day. Within hours it seemed sometimes.

I figured that was because nature wants a species to succeed. To propagate. Nature makes sure as little stands in the way as possible.

Healed foreskin can represent pressure. What are you doing with your time? Why haven’t you met someone? Will you?

You should love coffee so much you want to swim in a lake of it a homeless man told me by the harbor. He pushes a shopping cart filled with a lot of dirt and dead flowers and will give you one of the flowers if he’s not drunk.

When he talks about his coffee lake I wonder what he wants his whiskey to be. An ocean perhaps. Or a sea. He seems like he’d know a lot of trivia and could tell you the difference.

I’ve never understood the idea of the Seven Seas. Whenever I look at a map of the world I count seas. There is a great deal more than seven. I wonder what I am missing, have always missed, and if other people know.

I possess greater familiarity with the Eight Wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal was one. The Houston Astrodome was another, but one senses it was included by someone trying to be funny or edgy at the time.

I hike with my wife’s ashes in my backpack. Our forms rematerialize an old priest told me at our church. I wanted to ask him if I could still use that pronoun.

If it had been the 1800s in Russia and he was there I think people would have called him the church elder. Some would have seen him as a mystic-like figure and thinker. Others wouldn’t have taken him that seriously.

One of the first bootlegs I ever owned was by the Who and it was called Come and Drum. I liked how the title invited you to belong even if you couldn’t play anything.

It gave the lie. But it meant well.

When I was in high school and we decided to come of age, me and some friends went to Times Square. There were places that had these closets you went into with a slot in a door big enough for your arm. On the other side was a woman and you stuck a few bills through the slot and she got up close and lifted her leg so you could finger her.

Not the ass, one of them said to me, just the pussy.

You didn’t really do that, did you? my wife asked when I told her. I guess not I said.

The blood on the back of my calves dried into my tube socks which feel like they don’t exist anymore as a concept or purchasable product.

You wore them to soccer games and they covered your shin pads. Nothing protected the back of your legs. It was the same in hockey. I assumed the calf was just supposed to repair itself quickly. I felt that I was testing it, and testing me.

For later. For my body. For my future.

A crazy friend asked me what I thought the percentage was of people who had an orgasm the same day they died. He said it had to be pretty high. Just think he added, one minute you’re doing that, a few hours later you’re gone. He made a face to make both parts of his point. The expressions were similar.

The crazy friend owned barbells and said the words “raw dog” a lot. He’d use them as a verb. You going to raw dog that pepperoni, would be one example, because the summer we lived together we’d buy these pepperoni sticks and that was his way of telling you he wanted to eat one, too.

The ashes are in my wife’s water bottle. She’d had it since high school. The school’s logo is almost entirely chipped off. It was a cheap product made by the booster club for her track team. I bet she was proud to receive the bottle the day that she did.

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