“Holding Pattern” by Marjorie Tesser
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.)
by Marjorie Tesser
Candy Crush Saga
No. I thought you quit. My husband is curled over something held low in his lap.
Just one time, I say. Just a little bit.
He ignores me, eyes fixed, glazed, a zoned-out slackness to his mouth. I’m momentarily piqued, but then feel a flash of relief. I’ve dodged a bullet. If I lapse once, there’s no knowing how far it’ll go.
At first, it’s simple: Line up three of a kind and they drop.
Get four in a row and they turn into super one; the same thing happens if you make a T, or a letter L—a different kind of super one.
Knock two super ones together, they throb, become tumescent, orgasm; explode in a torrent of colors, sending little semen-y fish swimming around the screen.
It’s free, they say, but you can pay to get “boosters,” little cheats to help you win—a hammer, a hand, a giant bam-bam lollipop.
I swear I’ll never pay to play. Except just this level, the one that’s impossible.
I’m on a binge this week. I have a crick in my shoulder, a pain in my neck. I see colored dots even when I’m not playing.
At the beginning of each game, I say, this is the last. See, I’m actually not the kind of person who plays video games.
Then I hit “play again.”
Come to bed, my husband says. I settle in next to his warm furry nakedness, then grab my phone for just one more round. He groans and turns over.
I dream of lining things up, having them drop.
In the morning, I play just one game. Hair of the dog and all.
Waiting while it loads, anticipation builds, like making the preparations for drug use, the rolling or grinding or measuring, whatever.
The relief when the board’s set up. Happy colors happy music. My path set out for me. I can do this!
You start slow—most of the levels aren’t timed. You’ll play it smart this time, try and line up your moves, don’t go for the easy three, the pulsing ones the game prompts you with if you seem to deliberate too long.
My unfinished novel pants at my feet like an annoying dog; I pointedly ignore it and start the next level.
Line up, slide down. Line up, line up, slide down.
Shitty game this time. A couple more tries.
Good round this time, almost cleared the board. Try again.
Be careful, too many random choices and you can lose your life.
All the time, it’s nudging you—give your friends lives! invite your friends! ask your friends to unlock levels! share your wins!
Give a life to a friend. See, you’re magnanimous. Accept a life from a friend. You’re popular—someone likes you.
Give some lives to friends. You feel guilty, like you’re a dealer, roping them in.
I play day and night. I have to play before doing any other task, one stretching to several. I start to get antsy hanging out with friends, anxious for them to leave so I can go and play.
Ashamed, I hide my phone from prying eyes, toggle off the screen when someone comes in the room. I hope it saved; I was doing well.
Finally, I screw up my resolve and remove the app entirely.
Actually, semi-finally—the next morning, I, um, put it back on and play again. Amazingly, I easily pass the level on which I’d spent the whole previous day. See, it knows when you’re leaving and acts sweet, like an abusive boyfriend. It wants you dependent and passive. It acts indifferent, but wants you there.
It understands you. It wants you.
One day I quit, cold turkey. I post on Facebook, I’m done with the world’s most addictive game. Later, several friends tell me they started playing because of my post, addictive the highest recommendation.
MARJORIE TESSER, poet and fiction writer, is the author of poetry chapbooks THE IMPORTANT THING IS (Firewheel Chapbook Award Winner), and The Magic Feather (Finishing Line Press), and is co-editor, with Bob Holman, of the Bowery Books anthologies Bowery Women: Poems and Estamos Aquí: Poems by Migrant Farmworkers, and editor of Mom Egg Review.
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: Jan 23, 2014
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