December 16, 2008

short story

holed up in the dark
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it’s a quiet room, silent except for the hum of the fluorescent lights and the occasional dry cough. it was dull and moldy with pea soup coloured walls, which were cracking in the june heat. The plastic chair creaked as he set hiss 217-pound frame down. he fiddled with his briefcase, tugged at rogue threads, and picked at his jagged fingernails. anything to keep him occupied. anything to stop him from bolting from the room.
his belly pressed dangerously against the buttons of his suit jacket, daring one of them to pop off at any moment and go shooting across the room, maybe hitting one of the other candidates in the eye. or maybe straight down their throat, conveniently lodging itself in their windpipe. they’d hack and wheeze violently until they started panicking, turning blue in the face. their eyes bulging, their hands grasping at their neck, he’d step over them and snag the job. “YOU’RE HIRED!” the boss would announce, lights and bells going off like it was the fourth of july.
mental fireworks, thought the man.
he patted his pockets searching for a cigarette. was it getting hotter in the room? beads of sweat slid down the back of his neck, dampening the collar of his shirt. he hated moments like this. moments where he got jittery with nervous anticipation, where he couldn’t sit still, where he felt like all sun’s rays were burning holes in his skin. he lit his cigarette and inhaled, letting the smoke filter through his teeth and fill his lungs.
his eyes scanned the room, and settled on a hole in the wall. how he wished he could crawl into it and melt into a void. all his problems and anxiety would dissolve, leaving him cleansed and pure. no longer would he have to dread family gatherings, where all they talked about was who’s getting married, who got promoted, and who’s making money. he wouldn’t have to push his potatoes around on his plate while they had those conversations anymore. it’s been said that when you are inferior, everything about you repels sunshine. he didn’t agree. he was of the opinion that inferiority was the opposite of darkness: it was a spotlight, exposing every flaw and imperfection. so, a hole was the best option.
as a child, his mother had dolled him up in cowboy outfits and pushed him onstage to belt out willie nelson tunes, while an audience of hungry parents stared at him. he saw their ulterior motives hidden behind their potemkin village faces. they clapped loudly as he sang the last words of “on the road again”, but he knew they were simply waiting for their child to step into the light and blow everyone out of the water. it didn’t occur to these stage parents that they were cultivating social piranhas, ready to rip any potential competitors to shreds. he stepped offstage and passed the next contestant, looking at his mother, radiant because she already knew he had won. he was accustomed to winning, and so was his mother. the late nights and early mornings, skipping out on birthday parties, and road trips to tennessee all paid off in the end. when he hoisted the trophy above his head in pretend triumph, it was all worth it. though it was never truly his victory; it was his mother’s. he was simply her pawn in the petty games she played, trying desperately to hold on to whatever pride and glory still remained in her. as long as he was the apple of her eye, things would be fine. and they were, until that apple started to rot.
he was at the little american sweetheart talent pageant, and he was ready. twelve minutes before he was scheduled to perform his act, he buttoned up his gingham check shirt, pulled on his shiny leather boots, and placed his ten-gallon hat precisely upon on his head. the words of his mother burned in his brain, “you came here to win,” “don’t let me down now,” “this is what we worked for.” he smoothed his khakis, and his fingers lingered on a rough edge. he looked down. his pants had a hole. how could he possibly sing with a hole in his khakis? it ruined the entire look! no. no, he could not go on that stage, his performance would be flawed, and his mother’s eyes of stone would pelt him with angered disappointment. he ran from that room, ran until his young legs stung with exhaustion. he heard his mother yell after him, screaming for him to come back. but he ignored her. in that moment, he realized that the hole had released him from the spotlight that he had never even wanted. it was his mother who yearned for it and she had simply used him to get it. it was then that he realized the hole was where he was free. free from the scrutiny, the microscopic criticisms, and the harsh limelight.
the cigarette had burned down and his lap was speckled with ashes. shit. he went to brush them off, but he stopped, immobile in a warm daze. there, in the olive tweed fabric of his pants, was a hole. it was small, a mere pull, but it still existed. it might have just been his mind deceiving him, but he could have sworn that the lights had faded, rendering the room dusky and dim. though the entire room was cast in a shadow, an ethereal black lingered within the holes that was incomparable in shade.
he crept inside the hole, closed his eyes, and let the light vanish.


Amelia said...

This is really nice. I like it.

DaisyChain said...

I love this.

Anonymous said...

JESSICA! You're such an amazing writer.


Nature Grafitti said...

such a lovely story!

you are a truly beautiful writer :)

Anonymous said...

Didn't think I would read it, but ended up reading the whole thing twice. Seriously, I love how you describe things and your word use. Apple of her eye until the apple started to rot...that was so good.

Severn said...