Four Stories by
Longing for that which has Gone
One of the largest deer species to ever exist, the Irish Elk used to inhabit the grassy fields of Europe. These noble beasts were often represented in early human cave paintings, before going extinct some 8,000 years ago, most likely due to loss of habitat.
So read the plaque. I gaze at the huge bones of the long dead Irish Elk, which have been arranged by the curators in a strong stance, with its head gazing off into the distance.
I lean over to Faris and whisper, “Imagine seeing it in real life.” He wordlessly agrees.
A kid in a baseball cap walks up to the exhibit, with his beer-bellied, sighing father in tow. The kid aims a pretend shotgun at the Irish Elk’s rib cage, cocking it, and makes accompanying sounds with his mouth. “CHKK, CHKK… BOOOOOOOM!” The recoil from the non-existent gun is strong.
The father’s cheeks, clearly stiff from disuse, break into a small smile as he chuckles. The kid glances up in amazement. But after a few seconds the smile has gone and the kid is left shooting at every long dead bone in the hall, pausing only to sneak glances at his father.
On the Bus
On the bus, the boy asked his father, “Do you know everything?”.
“Yes,” said Father. “I do. I knew, for example, that you would ask that question, and I know what question you will ask next.”
The boy began, “What q—” but Father finished, “—uestion will I ask next?”
The boy’s eyes widened with wonder.
I’ve spent my whole life in a box… inside the box is inscribed, This box is made of brick. I was born in this box, I grew in this box. At some time, I grew so tall that I could see outside the box. But I was scared, as the box was all I knew, and so I shut my eyes and laid down and pretended there was no outside. Then, I grew no more, but my beard grew…and grew, and then went gray. I was starting to grow smaller. And I was in the box. One day, I awoke, and my box was gone and I cried. When my eyes cleared I saw billions of boxes all around. And I crawled to one, though my joints were swollen and my bones were weak. I could step into this box, for it was smaller than mine and made of thin paper, and inside I saw a man with a long beard, just like me.
“Can you touch me?” I ask.
The man glances up. Beneath his long gray beard is a chest and beneath this chest, there is a heart that feels so strongly — he has never wanted anything more than to touch another man’s wrinkled skin.
A Day in My Life
It’s 5 AM when I start to hear Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” playing. That’s my roommate Dick’s alarm. Every morning he practices his crash cymbals and smashes a window. Two hours later, he leaves. I stare at the ceiling for a few more hours, before getting out of bed to start my own morning routine. I pick my way through the broken glass and look out the jagged window.
I go to meet my wife. When I meet her, I give her a pat on the back and say “Hey, there.”
We sit in uncomfortable silence for an hour, at which time she has to leave to go meet her boyfriend. I give her another pat on the back to say goodbye.
“I love you.”
At work, my boss tells me that he thinks I am an employee of his. I agree with him. My coworkers also agree that I am an employee and they make sure the boss knows that they agree. Robert even vigorously nods his head. “Right as always, right as always,” he says appreciatively.
At lunch, I pretend that I am working on something so that the others, who are also sitting alone, don’t think I am lonely, even though I am. I don’t think they even notice me though, as they are each working on non-work themselves. The waitress asks me what I want. She can’t give me what I want, so I tell her “The Cordon Bleu.”
After work, I pretend to be sad at the subway station. Even though I know nobody cares, the illusion of other people’s empathy comforts me.
On the walk home, there is a dirty, old man on the sidewalk. He is lying in a pool of blood. A child asks, “Are you okay, mister?” But her mother pulls her back and scolds her.
At home, Dick is mad about the broken window. He screams out the window and asks me why I broke it. “I’m sorry,” I say.
I text my wife “I love you so much” before going to sleep, even though I don’t (not even a little), and she texts back,“I love you more,” even though she loves me much less.
I close my eyes into a dreamless sleep.
Johann Snow was born in the middle of the desert and now lives in Rhode Island.