In honor of my short story Brontosaurus getting selected for a print anthology, here is a photo of my dog dressed as a dinosaur. Happy Halloween!
Read Brontosaurus in Jersey Devil Press.
Read Brontosaurus in Jersey Devil Press.
My father was so damned specific about where and how he wanted his ashes spread, but it wasn’t just one location. As he wrote in his will: “allow equal measure of my ashes released to the winds, at ten of my most favored spots in the universe.” This included a list of ten places, most of which he had never even visited himself. I’m not sure why I felt so compelled to complete this ridiculous list of wishes he left for me in his will. That was literally all he left me–his bucket list. And, not to mention, he was dead. Who would complain if I skimped a little or missed a few? Who would even notice? My father, that’s who.
Even though he was dead, I felt certain that somehow my father would know. He was such a perfectionist I didn’t for a second doubt that he could somehow return from the precipice of death to haunt and criticize me for eternity should I not follow through on these last wishes. Even now his voice still clouds my head. I was never good enough. I will fail. That’s what the voice is telling me now.
I divided up his ashes into ten equal and easily carried packets, and transported these to the various locations he requested, whenever I found myself in position to visit them. Some were less involved than others. One portion of his ashes was poured into the wind from the center of the Golden Gate Bridge, and another dumped into the headwaters of the Truckee River, each of which was a day trip. The portion of ashes released at Bad Water Basin in Death Valley was also a day trip, but a little more involved since it included chartering a private plane, and a near death landing experience at the sad little patch of dust known as the Furnace Springs Airport. But past these spots located in state, it got more complicated.
His list almost read like a list of the world’s wonders. There was Table Mountain in South Africa, the Kilauea crater in Hawaii, and the summit of Mount Everest. There was Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio.
I hiked the Machu Picchu, the Great Wall, and the Christo Redentor trails. A giraffe stole my sandwich in South Africa, my shoes caught on fire from lava in Hawaii, and I paid a sherpa a whole lot of money to take my father’s ashes to the summit of Everest. Please don’t ask how much it cost. Over all it had been a series of expensive, exhausting adventures, and now all that remained was number ten.
Number ten was the one I at first disregarded as impossible and absurd. Impossibly impossible and absurd. But still I carry the equal and evenly divided packet number ten, still I wait for one last chance to finally deliver this last packet. Just to prove I am not a failure and I am good enough. Just to get my father’s voice out of my head once and for all.
And on a night like this when the moon shines off the water so clearly, it almost seems like number ten might be closer than I realize, like maybe I could walk there on a trail of light. Then I hear my father’s voice in my head, and I realize number ten is actually much further away than I think.
It is further away than I can even imagine.
Mångata – Swedish (noun) – the road like reflection of the moon in the water
Number 4 of the Lost in Translation series
Check out my latest published story in the January issue of Jersey Devil Press.
Brontosaurus, by J.D. Hager
“Jacob found purpose in those eggs. He took them to his sandbox and buried them with exaggerated care. He constructed a small protective structure out of twigs and acorns, and guarded and doted over them like he himself had laid them.”
Scientists had first observed the asteroid months ago, but most people didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the consequences. For the first few months after the discovery people suspected some sort of impossible scientific conspiracy, like the big bang, the Higgs Boson, or global warming. Many researchers and pundits were accused of conspiratorial motivations involving a far left or far right agenda. Christian theologians began preaching the coming of the Apocalypse, as if Jesus were somehow riding into town on the asteroid like a holy space cowboy, which in turn led to a dramatic increase in prayer and salacious requests of salvation. Most assumed that between the United Nations, the global industrial military think tank, and brainy scientific literati, some sort of solution would be proposed and executed before the impending strike. Blow it up with nuclear warheads, use rockets to alter its path, blast it to smithereens by lasering into its icy core, construct some sort of giant space blockade out of plastic bags and styrofoam. Human kinds brightest minds would undoubtedly surmise some sort of solution to this impending disaster. For most life went on in a predictable and routine manner, unfazed, despite the fact that asteroid P-52637 was hurtling toward Earth at 280,000 miles per hour, and though there was a level of unpredictability in its trajectory, most models and calculations seemed to indicate it would make a direct impact somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere on December the thirtieth.
After the brainiest engineers’ plans and calculations had proven inadequate in abating the large chunk of space dust’s path, the impending impact grew closer and more unavoidable. Some people became frantic, attempting to live an entire life in the course of a couple days. Others rioted in the streets trying to seize control of their destinies while they still had destinies to seize, looting things like high end liquor, big screen TVs, and surround sound systems, so they could watch the doom and gloom footage in 1080p while they got drunk and tried to forget about it. Not that the shop owners or police cared. Some of them were looting too.
Some people tried to frantically build catastrophe shelters or spaceships in hopes of avoiding the carnage altogether. Others grew despondent and fell depressed into a sort of paralysis, a state prevalent enough to be termed the comet coma. The whole of humanity seemed to be reaching a sort of emotional apex covering the spectrum of possible responses. Anger, sadness, denial, elation, regret, apathy, forgiveness. Most, it seemed, suffered from a strange combination of all these, inducing even more instances of comet coma as the impending impact approached with its promise of blasting life as we knew into the the nether regions of space.
While some became agitated and lashed out at the cruel absurdity of it, more and more fell into their comet comas, still alive on the outside, but lifeless and empty on the inside as if they were already dead. It was an inescapable and vacuous feeling of having everything we had worked for and dreamt of and aspired to accomplish in our lives suddenly taken. Sure we all die, but this felt so much more permanent than death. Most of us hoped that even though our time on Earth was limited to this one life, some small piece of us—a memory, a child, a resume of accomplishments, an obituary in the local paper—would live on past our temporal existence.
Knowing that there would be no tomorrow for any of us somehow made today so much more valuable. I lamented the fact that it had to take this impending catastrophe to trigger this realization. I did my best to avoid the coma and the comatose pacing the streets in despair like zombies. I tried to embrace the sanctity of this moment—of every moment—before these moments spiraled to their cataclysmic end. And as that fiery ball filled the sky and reminded us all of our impending mortality, I climbed onto my roof, popped my best bottle of wine, and lifted a glass to the heavens. It had been a good run.
Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Countdown
I had tried to grow a mustache many times, but my attempts had never proven successful. I could muster no more than a sparse collection of fuzz that resembled a teenager’s sad attempts at cultivating a crumb catcher. I had grown lambchops, soul patches, chin straps, and amish beards, but for some reason the skin between my mouth and nose was a barren wasteland when it came to facial hair. At some point I had relinquished hope, and all my sad attempts were forgotten and my future prospects abandoned. It was years later that I finally tried again, despite the vehement protests of my wife. She claimed she was allergic to mustaches, but I had already resigned myself to conquer this mustache barrier. I wanted to cross this off my list of lifely accomplishments, and scratch one more item off my bucket list.
I let the little patch of skin above my upper lip go unshaven for a week, and to my surprise a mustache began to form, regal, full, bushier than a wombat doused in rogaine. No more would I be labeled a failure of testosterone or male maturity. No more would I be mistaken for a grey haired teenager with a beer belly. My manly lip turf would prove my worth to society and assuage at least one of my childish insecurities.
It didn’t take long to notice that people treated me differently with a mustache. Older women and men began calling me sir. Children respected and feared me. People showered me with looks of reverence when before they had looked at me with a combination of disdain and pity, and sometimes disgust. My mustache made me feel more important, more manly, and more relevant than ever. My posture improved, my self esteem blossomed, and my head felt inflated with helium. I floated through my errands as if gravity no longer concerned me. The men either looked at me with envy, or if they had a mustache they stroked their stache and gave me a knowing nod of approval.
The cashier at the grocery store, a bald man with a nattily trimmed mustache gave me a wink and a nod, and touched his mustache. Then he called the manager over, a man with a bushy mustache that could have easily put Magnum P.I. to shame. He placed his right finger on his nose and then stroked it across his mustache much like every other mustachioed man had done, and then looked at me expectantly. Not knowing what else to do I mimicked his gesture. He smiled and proceeded to use his manager code to take twenty five percent off my grocery bill.
On the way home from the store I was so perplexed by what happened at the grocery store that I blasted through a red light and was pulled over by a police officer. The man had a mustache of special effects proportions, like some sort of computer generated super-stache. It seemed to command the entire lower portion of his face, covering up his mouth and wiggling back and forth when he spoke. He approached my car, and upon seeing my mustache repeated the same gesture as the grocery store manager, a finger to his nose and then a quick stroke of the mustache. I responded in kind and he laughed and told me to be more careful. We members of the order must be cautious, he told me. We must not abuse our privilege. Then he asked if I wanted a donut. Sure I told him. He brought me one with rainbow sprinkles.
When I got home my wife noticed the rainbow sprinkles littering my mustache. Yet one more reason why mustaches are disgusting, she told me. How in the world did I get rainbow sprinkles in my mustache, she asked, crossing her arms and glaring at me.
I just stroked my mustache and told her she would never believe it.
Traffic had become unbelievable lately. Daryl would sometimes eat lunch during the commute, to maintain his stamina. He’d even started packing extra food and water, just in case.
Today the traffic was worse than ever. The clock in the truck didn’t work, and the jam stood locked in place so long that Daryl lost all track of time. Seasons passed. Civilizations had toppled and rebooted. Children had stepped into the shoes of their ancestors. That’s what it felt like to Daryl at least. Forever plus one day. Of course he was overreacting.
It couldn’t have been that long, could it?
Click on the link below to check out some of the other entries.
I was too busy to participate last week, and of course with school starting next week my life will basically be over. Or least significantly occupied by tending the childrens and sitting in traffic.
I always pack extra food and water, just in case.
Ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right, a day where everything, in fact, goes the opposite of right? A day that deteriorates to comic proportions, everything about it unraveling until it becomes almost predictable. Every joke’s on you.
It seems almost surreal, doesn’t it, like a conspiracy of the universe to destroy you? Karma is pissing on your head. Practice deep breathing and visualization, stress management techniques and transcendental meditation. Practice aggressive passive aggression. Stay calm in the face of cacophonous calamity. It could be worse, right? The universe can only nod its head in your direction, an unwavering affirmative to your inquiry and thanks for asking. It could be worse and so it is. Care to wager again, double or nothing perhaps?
Laughing helps, but there’s a point where laughter becomes hollow and painful, a point where laughter makes the hurt worse. At some point the body and mind become numb, survival mechanisms kicking in and flooding your neural circuitry with endorphins to lessen the anguish. It could be worse becomes it’s not so bad. Turn that frown upside down and buck up buckeroo.
There’s always tomorrow.