“Raw” by John Oliver Hodges
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, Timothy Gager brings us on a long trip back home.
This week, John Oliver Hodges tells the story of a young woman who wants to scar the world.
Walking through the weeds of a highway shoulder at night. That was okay. She’d check on Valerie and finish off the bit on Joey’s mirror. Whenever cars passed she turned and stuck out her thumb like she was in a movie. She felt ridiculous, but a car pulled over. Milk ran up to it, got in, and came to in the morning in the weeds of another shoulder.
A woman picked Milk up this time, and they had a pleasant conversation during their drive into town. The woman’s name was Enzie. She had three children and worked at the Department of Transportation. She pointed out that Milk’s temple was bleeding before letting her off at the corner of Gaines and Camellia in front of Gilbert’s Cafe.
Milk knew Gilbert, but it was still absurd to go in barefoot. But she went in anyway and saw her high school English teacher, Mr. Diggly, who barely recognized her. He had to squint, but when he saw it was Milk he became concerned and got her a napkin for the blood on her face. Like many of the guys at her high school, Mr. Diggly had loved her badly; Milk was the object of all their hearts. That was before Danny, or “that bastard” as they all referred to him.
“I can’t believe it’s you,” Mr. Diggly said, rocking her in his arms.
Milk hated to believe it, but she was crying into his tweed shirt.
“You’ve been through so much,” he said, patting her back. It was like he wanted her to cry more. Milk pushed him away. Mr. Diggly immediately lifted his hand, and Gilbert whipped up an Americano for Milk.
They talked about old times.
Mr. Diggly could talk a long time about anything.
Milk was hurting all over.
Mr. Diggly made her hurt more: just looking at his horrible face, seeing him, having to sit and listen to the man who’d told her she was raw, that she was going to be a great American poet one day, that so much talent resided in her body, he used that word, body, as if all she had to do was claim what already resided within her to scar the world. What more could a young woman want than to scar the world?
In Gilbert’s bathroom Milk wasn’t too embarrassed to admit that poems were inside her body now. She had always liked writing in public. Napkins, receipts. Like a litter of mice, her poems wanted to explode into the world and eat eat eat crumbs and bits and pieces of cheese and peanuts.
Milk told Mr. Diggly that she could not pay him, but maybe he could drive her out to the swamp on the tender of their friendship. Mr. Diggly did that—drove Milk out to the swamp, the “hippie swamp” as a lot of folks called it—and dropped her off.
“Goodbye, Mr. Diggly,” Milk said.
It was absurd that Milk would be here now like this, in this ridiculous bind after what she had told her mother.
Milk White, Milk not milky white, but sort of tawny, olive, she did what?
Walked along the dirt road that she’d walked back and forth over, and driven back and forth over, for as long as she could remember. Purple Haze Lane. She was on it, doing what she’d told herself she’d never do because of what her mother paid him to do. Might as well drop to her knees and pray for pain to fall on every living thing in the universe—that’s what she’d thought of putting her divine worms into this dust again. But here she was. It was as absurd as Danny reaching down the back of her jeans saying, “Mr. Wiggly wants to know if his house is clean,” and Milk answering in the affirmative that it was.
Getting closer to the house she heard the sounds of saws, electrical tools, things plugged in that were moving. She turned right onto Milk White Road and felt like she was getting sucked in by the sounds, by the rotary force of progress.
Milk White walked down to where her mother and sister stood on ladders. They were pressing their weight against the house, running their sanders back and forth over the boards, stripping down the paint to the raw grain, removing what Danny Fisher had been paid to put there.
JOHN OLIVER HODGES lives in Brooklyn. He wrote The Love Box, a collection of short stories, and War of the Crazies, a novella. His writing appears periodically in literary journals, and can be seen in recent issues of The Masters Review, Crossed Out Magazine, and Negative Suck.
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 3, 2014
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