“Expiration Dates” by Levi Rogers
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, Levi Rogers counts down the rest of his life one cigarette at a time.
I light my cigarette lovingly, laughingly, with a light purple lighter. Burn, baby, burn. Come on, let’s do this quick, let’s get it over with, inhale this death right now. Suck it in deep, keep sucking till your lungs burn, then push, exhale, blow . . . blow it blindingly upon the body. Watch the ash fall from the end and hit the stairs ten inches below. Feel it stain my teeth that rotten yellow color and drench my clothes with that dank, infamous stink of what can only be cotton saturated with tobacco, like bathroom floors saturated in piss and pink soap.
I’m killing myself, you say? Yes, I know. Oh believe me, I know. It really is the best death, albeit slow. But anything else would be too quick, too surprising. This way they’ll never know. The sooner the better, I say, let’s get on with it! Whatever it is. It is a bad idea, and I know it is a bad idea, but I do it anyway. I do not care what happens, whether I live or die. I wish I did. I wish that I cared more. I really do. My wife, with her beautiful eyes, wishes that I actually did care more.
“But how do you resuscitate a dying man?” my father once asked me. It was a wintery day in the Colorado fall. I had just finished splitting wood, and my little brother was starting a fire in our implacable wood stove. He kept using these matches, you see. The ones in bold print that say: STRIKE ANYWHERE. The ones you buy in the gas station next to nationalistic coffee mugs, t-shirts with bald eagles, and cheap sunglasses. The snow was lightly falling, the yellow leaves still freshly fallen off the frozen aspens. Our breath was visible even in the daylight, a small replica of the smoke billowing out from our black top hat chimney.
I replied to my father, “With matches, silly.”
He nodded sullenly and went back to chopping the wood. And now I see the humor. Because how do you resuscitate a dying man when there are no matches? How do you rescue a sinking ship when its walls are Swiss cheese? I guess the joke’s on me.
I wish he, my father, would have told me whether it was a rhetorical question or not. I’ll never know.
Today I asked my son.
“Son,” I said, “how do you resuscitate a dying man?” He stared at me with those big brown eyes of his. He is only four, you know.
He put down his Legos and said to me, “With matches, silly.”
And he is only four.
Later on that day, while my mom was making hot chocolate, I whispered to Denali, my beautiful arthritic Husky, “When will this all be over?”
To which Denali replied by sadly licking my face and staring at me with those mismatched eyes of hers, one brown and one blue, as if to whisper back, “Not soon enough.”
And so I held her there, with her joints disintegrating and her hair shedding into my matted hands. My hands drenched with saliva and blood, and finally I drank my hot chocolate, because ultimately, at the end of the day, what else is there to do?
At exactly fourteen past three I looked at the clock and noticed that time’s dismal hands were simply turning too slowly. And so I fixed it manually. I sped that clock up, sent it shooting to four, five, six, now seven! And then finally to twelve.
“Yes, we are at twelve!” I screamed. And then I sat down in our wooden rocking hair. I sat there for what seemed like eternity. And I noticed that nothing changed. Everything was still the same. I was still here. You were still here. And time wasn’t passing any faster. I looked abominably at those pathetic two hands of the clock. And then I strangled it. And I heard its last gasp.
You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
I looked at my wrist, and there I saw it: an expiration date, tattooed on my wrist in bold black block letters.
But it wasn’t its simple existence I noticed, but the date. It was a date in the future.
Odd, I thought. Because I’ve felt expired for quite some time now. And I’m not getting any younger.
LEVI ROGERS has been writing for many years and received his BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Utah. He has published and written for Revolv Magazine, the Burnside Writers Collective, the Daily Utah Chronicle, Relevant Magazine, Deeper Story, and Sojourners. Sometimes he writes on the Internet at levirogersisafraud.com. He also is the owner of a small coffee roasting company and currently lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Cat, his dog Amelie, and his socks, all of which have holes.
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: Jul 24, 2014
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