“Falling Asleep” by Joseph C. Grantham
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, Joseph C. Grantham steps out of his comfort zone.
Philip buys an ounce of smack. Craig and I don’t even know what smack is until he brings it over—we thought it might have been food. (You could say we were sheltered growing up.) But when he pulls out the small plastic baggy with the brownish powder from his purse, the syringes, the thin black rubber tubing, we begin to form an idea. Philip mutters something under his breath while he arranges what he calls his supplies. Something about how the homeless man leaning against the entrance to our building called him a faggot. Something about how he only carries a purse because he left his briefcase behind a dumpster. He is setting everything on our coffee table. He seems to have a method, a way of organizing it. The order of the supplies, left to right from where I sit, is: baggy, syringes, tubing. Philip’s purse is on the floor.
Craig is my brother. For a few weeks we’ve been living in an apartment complex that almost burned down. It was under construction. In development. Some worker probably left a cigarette burning on the wooden floor. Now its walls are charred black on the inside. We don’t mind—we like the view. We use flashlights we stole from a surplus store. We make forts with sheets we stole from a mattress store and chairs we find in gutters. We duct-tape the flashlights to the hardwood floor so that they stand up by themselves, glowing under the baby blue sheets. We found the coffee table in an alleyway, one of the legs shorter than the others. It took us an entire day to carry it up fourteen flights of stairs. We are weak.
Philip asks us for a spoon. I crawl under one of the forts and find a small container of Greek yogurt I stole from a deli around the corner. I pull the metal spoon from the open container and slip out of the tent backwards, on my knees. I stand, handing the spoon to Philip. He accepts it, glancing curiously at the glaze of thick yogurt that still coats the end of the spoon, and pops it into his mouth. He slowly pulls it out of his mouth now, revealing the clean silver head of the spoon. Craig watches, a painful expression on his face. Philip moves over to the coffee table, pulling a small lighter and a half-filled water bottle from his purse. He pours a few centimeters of it into the spoon.
Philip looks out the window while he shoots up. Floor to ceiling glass. He inhales, exhales, clenches his left arm. His face turns about as white as the knuckles on his right hand. He stands, teetering by the window, clumsily stepping back. He says he can see the homeless man all the way from up here. He tells us that he’s not a faggot but that he has done some things. Has had to do some things. To get where he is now. He looks at me where I stand by my fort. Bloodshot eyes. He looks at Craig sitting Indian-style by his fort. He asks us when we want some, if we want some. Points at the coffee table. I tell him that we don’t want any, at least not today, and Craig lies back, his legs still crossed but his back now resting on the floor. We’ve seen what this kind of stuff does to people.
We met Philip our first night here. He taught us how to steal. He taught us how to eat. How to drink. How to sleep. He taught us how to not kill ourselves. He told us it was an art. He wouldn’t tell us how to earn a living, or even how to make one.
Philip is sitting, leaning against the window. He faces us, his lime green shirt pressed firmly against the glass, his glasses foggy. When he stands, the black tubing coiled around his left arm falls to the floor. Craig is asleep now. His eyelids twitch. I tell Philip that I am tired. That it might be best for us to see him tomorrow. He says he is tired too and turns away from me, faces the view outside our window, the sun just now going down. He says he’s been trying to fall asleep for a long time. He says tonight he’s really going to fall asleep, and crashes through the glass.
JOSEPH C. GRANTHAM studies literature and playwriting at Bennington College. He has interned with the good people of McSweeney’s and Two Dollar Radio. He spends his time between rural Vermont and San Francisco. If he grows up he would like to work at a bookstore.
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 2, 2015
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