“Welcome, Cheater” by Douglas W. Milliken
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 Douglas W. Milliken
It was one of those days when the snow started and wouldn’t quit, so we bought beers and drank them and didn’t stop until long after dark and anyway, we were out. The apartment seemed all stained and yellow and stank of rancid burger grease. The snow just kept coming. We needed escape. All the streets of our city were closed to parking and some even to regular traffic, so now so many good citizens were parked in the municipal lot by the park, the sort of place nearly no one dares to go in the summertime. Even coated in snow, the cars all looked so much like beetles to me. We walked out into the blizzard night among soccer-van and wagon, on our way to who the fuck knows where, and some switch must have tripped in Joel. All the cars we passed had their wipers flipped up, so they wouldn’t freeze to their windshields, and like it was his job, Joel started snapping them off. It’s stupid how easily they broke away. Because there were so many, I helped him. We took every wiper we could find, then dumped them in someone’s unlocked backseat and continued into town for more beer.
Joel sometimes tells stories about being a kid so poor in the country, growing up with nothing and empty-bellies and dickhead stepdads and even more nothing. He talks sometimes about he and his brother hunting pigeons with a slingshot. Eating pigeons. Shitty, buggy pigeons. I’m certain every word he says is a hot brick of bullshit, and he will freely admit, too: it’s a lie. But then he’ll smile and say—he always says—“But how can you know?”
The best part about winter? Big puffy jackets. No one knows what you’ve got in there. We walk in the store and walk back out and no one even knows what we have and what we don’t.
I guess Joel’s point is that nothing is certain. People choose not to break laws because they know they’ll get caught if they do. Yet we are criminals and we are free. Liars and thieves. Who can stop us? Are the cops even really the good guys?
Or, hey: I raised a little girl for five years before I found out she wasn’t really mine. Goodbye Melanie! Goodbye dreams! How many kids do I have who I’ll never say hello to, never lay eyes on, never know? Am I even really their daddy? Goodbye children! How can you know?
When we take our malt liquor to the tracks and watch the closed-down airfield try and fail to rescue itself—when Joel finally passes out in the snow, slowly disappearing under more snow, a dark slumped shape on the rails—I don’t feel too bad about leaving him. We choose ourselves for ourselves. I’ll be in my own warm bed tonight. Maybe Joel will be in his, too. Who’s to say we ain’t where we belong?
DOUGLAS W. MILLIKEN is the author of White Horses and occasionally reviews for the Believer. Other work also appears in McSweeney’s, Slice, and MAKE. www.douglaswmilliken.com
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 to [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: Oct 10, 2013
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