Projection

Projection

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          I met the devil at the Crossroads of America.

          I was fourteen. The last week of October that year, my father rounded up me and Mom and one carryon bag, stuffed with only a change of clothes for each of us and some toothpaste. We were confused, to say the least, at Dad’s sudden gusto for an impromptu road trip, and my mother balked at first: how could she explain this to the others at work?

          “You’ve got sick days, don’tcha?” Dad had said. “Use ‘em or lose ‘em?”
          I knew she was in the hole, as far as leave time went. She’d used up all her own (and a bunch more the other girls at work had donated to her) the year before.
          But I kept my mouth shut. Being gone on Halloween meant I wouldn’t have to explain to my friends that I didn’t want to go trick-or-treating. I wouldn’t have to turn down any invitations to costume parties. All Hallows’ Eve had lost its luster for me.
          After David.
          We were aimless. Stopping at greasy-spoons for lukewarm meals, taking sulky photos at hokey tourist traps and bathroom breaks at rest stops – sleeping in pest-ridden motels or, some nights, in the car. Mom and Dad had both taken up talking in their sleep in recent months. Their uncensored consciousness spewing up restless laments, angers, melancholies. In the mornings I’d swear to them, bleary-eyed and hoarse, that I’d slept just fine while I took big chugs of Dad’s dark roast.
          They barely spoke all this time. But that wasn’t new.
          On the thirty-first of October we crossed the state line into Indiana. Dad shook me awake to announce our arrival, almost giddy.
          “Here we are, Gert,” he said. “Crossroads of America.” Continue reading “Projection”

An Alan Smithee Joint

An Alan Smithee Joint
Ryan Everett Felton

                As press junkets go, this one was just anemic, Val thought. She’d been to smart phone video game tournaments, e-zine release parties, hell – even a Brad Garrett book signing with higher attendances. Judging by the other half-dozen reporters’ attire and appearance, she figured she could’ve gotten into the lobby without her freshly-minted Press Badge.

                It hung prominently around her neck all the same, dangling lamely, its cheap laminate never really catching the light.

                “Val Harris?”

                A PA or agent or somesuch – more glasses than face – leaned out of the door to the conference room. “Ms. Harris, we’re ready for you.”
Val nodded and stood, tucking a pencil behind her ear and smiling at the cluster of sad-sack bloggers who didn’t even have Press Badges.

                At the door, Val squeezed past the PA or whatever, who stood unmoving with her mouth open just long enough for it to get weird before snapping out of it and saying, “Very good!” She showed Val to her seat and hugged a clipboard to her chest. “He’ll be right along,” she said. “Just snuck away for a little fresh air.” And she pantomimed puffing a cigarette.

                “That’s fine,” Val said. “I won’t need long.” Continue reading “An Alan Smithee Joint”

Facebook Apology to William Fuller, ca. 2012

Facebook Apology to William Fuller, ca. 2012
Ryan Everett Felton

          Billy,

          It’s nearly twenty years overdue, but my therapist and I feel that I owe you an apology, and it’s all to do with the monkey I brought into Mrs. Stockholm’s class, back in fourth grade.
          You’ll remember, of course, Gipper the capuchin monkey. I’d imagine nobody from the Crestwood Elementary class of ’96 could forget me strolling down the hall that morning, a chittering primate hanging off my neck. I felt like the king of the school that day. Suddenly the kid nobody ever noticed was a rock star. Gipper was the most exciting thing to happen to the class in, well, probably ever, and I was his ambassador.
          It only occurs to me now that the other kids didn’t like me, didn’t think I was cool. It was all Gipper. Continue reading “Facebook Apology to William Fuller, ca. 2012”

A Routine

A Routine
Ryan Everett Felton

          One.
          Two.
          Three.

          I shift the car from park to drive the requisite number of times. I count along in my head, as the ritual demands.
          Four.
          Five.
          Six.
          Seven.

          Then I lick my lips seven times and back out of the driveway. It is 7:00 in the morning when I leave for another day at the office, and I will time my arrival so that the digits on the other side of the o’clock colon can be divided by the magic number. I do this every day.
          I do this to protect the world from certain catastrophe, and you’re welcome. Continue reading “A Routine”

Her Perplexed Words

Her Perplexed Words
Ryan Everett Felton

            After a long day at the library, sweet old Ms. Goodson was somewhat dismayed to find her front door obstructed by a stray sphinx, curled up and napping on her welcome mat.
            “Oh, wonderful,” she said. Hitching her purse up her shoulder, she lifted a dainty foot and prodded at the creature’s feline torso. “Go on, now,” she said. “Shoo, shoo!”
            The sleeping beast purred and rolled over, using one feathered wing to cover its humanoid face. With a wide padded paw it batted at Ms. Goodson’s loafer half-heartedly.
            “Go on, get,” said the librarian. There was a bottle of wine and a Frasier DVD box set waiting for her inside. Continue reading “Her Perplexed Words”