“Dropping Like Flies” by Brian Lance
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Brian Lance goes to war.
Flies pepper the window of my Fort Benning barracks room. I stun them with pine-scented Glade. With each spray they drop—well, like flies. I swat their twitching bodies with a rolled Stars and Stripes and sweep them into a heap. Despite my lack of Raid or fly tape, I’m surgical. Spray. Swat. Sweep. Repeat. Between waves I fill a paper sandwich bag with the Glade. I take a few pulls—you know, for the doctor. Night falls as my body hits the floor.
I’m Patton. I watch the flies streak overhead like outgoing artillery rounds and laugh. I wax nostalgic on the decimation of ancient hordes, something about my Roman incarnation. I’m Bandito, leading legionnaires, swinging a Gladius Hispaniensis. Something about Carthage, Sahara grit scratching my lips and gums. I’m Old Blood and Guts, disemboweling the kits of the Desert Fox. Or maybe that’s just George C. Marshal talking. Who knows what the real Patton looks like anyway? And what do I know about Latin?
When my arms stop tingling and the stars and tracers blacken into flies, I fill the bag again. I don’t stand. The bag lowers to my face like a hot air balloon making its descent. Errant Glade particles shower me. The pine scent mixes with the smell of a dip spit bottle near my head. I breathe deep. The balloon crumples and fades.
Napalm smells like victory. Robert Duvall—I mean, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, says that while a village burns, babies and all. Speaking of Kilgore, there’s a book about firebombing—but that’s Dresden, not Nam. I remember stuffing Styrofoam into gasoline to make napalm, embalming G.I. Joes in globs of it. Torch ’em. Smoke ’em, if you got ’em. Kick the ashes around so Mom doesn’t notice we zapped our toys. But Mom sees everything, even the boys huffing the gas in the napalm lab. She sees them crumple like balloons and puke. I see Mom wagging her finger. Maybe she’s waving.
The blades of my box fan turn too slowly, as if in a strobe light. The blades bat the spots in my vision. Or maybe those are flies. Is it better to have mice in the barracks, or flies spawning from their poisoned carcasses? My temples throb. I can’t stand, so I crawl into the kitchenette and climb the cabinet doors to the sink. The smell of pine seems to resist soap and water. A fly lands on the wall in front of me. But I’m out of Glade and too slow to swat. I watch the fly preen its countless eyes, its wings, and I wonder if I’m winning this war.
BRIAN LANCE is pursuing his MFA at Western Connecticut State University, where he’s an editor for Poor Yorick Journal and writing his second novel, Four Fires. He’s the father of a two-year-old son, who seems to excel at maintaining the upper hand. He served nine years in the Navy and earned a bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He wrote “Surrounded,” his entry in Akashic’s Terrible Twosdays series, during one of many espresso-fueled nights at the 2014 Yale Writers Conference. His work has appeared in Oblong Magazine, and is forthcoming from Carbon Culture Review. Follow him on Twitter @btlance and @pyjournal.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Apr 30, 2015
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