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News & Features » December 2013 » “The Boy on the Box” by GG Burrows

“The Boy on the Box” by GG Burrows

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 marijuanacocainespeed, 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.)

Linda BurrowsThis week, GG Burrows explores the effects of Ritalin and what it means to be “the boy on the box.”

The Boy on the Box
by GG Burrows

There’s lights on the ceiling, big white circles, each one brighter than beach sun, but you can’t blink or squint when they’re taking your picture.

“Perfect. Give us a Polaroid of that. Perfect.” The art director’s voice comes from somewhere in the darkness beyond the white studio lights.

Bzzzeep. The camera spits out a picture, then a hundred more, bzzzeep bzzzeep bzzzeep. The photographer shoots every possible angle, prancing around you like a ballet. Production assistants scramble whenever he motions, a flick of his wrist or twist of his eyebrow. It’s their job to jump to his side with whatever he wants: storyboards, coffee, a cigarette lighter, Get rid of that shadow hiding his lashes, mess up the hair he’s a kid for chrissake, get that pin out of the shot. Mostly more packs of film to reload his camera—they sweep up piles of empties and square, glossy negatives off the set floor. I don’t squint.

Bzzzeep bzzzeep bzzzeep

“Open the spoon more, I need more product.”

There’s a spoon held tight in my fist filled with a cereal pyramid. Someone turns my wrist slightly just like he directed, tilting it more toward his lens. None of the Sugar Sprinkles spill out, though, or even move like you’d think; they stay perfectly stuck to the spoon. I sneak one quick look before anyone sees, keeping still like a statue. Only my mind moves all over the place, far away from this shoot to the Art Institute where my grandma takes me sometimes, the galleries there of Impressionist paintings, medieval armor, or miniature rooms, and statues all froze in stone poses. Stoned poses, stoned smoking pot I know Laura my sister does that a lot, and Gary my best friend, but no way my big brother. But maybe. I haven’t, mostly because I’m afraid to get caught. I don’t want my dad to hate me. I wonder if weed’s like the meds your mom gives you to help you stay still as a statue. Holding a cereal spoon. I’m thinking about how the P.A.’s did it, like a school art project or art therapy, picking only the most perfect Sprinkles from boxfuls spilled out on huge bakery trays, one—maybe two—of each flavor, cherry-red lemon-yellow orange-orange, arranging them one at a time with tweezers or toothpicks and precise dabs of glue into a pyramid on the spoon, till it looks pretty much like the drawings they’ve got on boards sketched in marker, the cereal box layout. HEY KIDS! NEW! Fruit-flavored rings in groovy psychedelic colors! All sparkling with spray fix that makes them look sweet or like something you’d want for breakfast.

And me, too, I realize that, I’m the boy on the box. Keep my eyes closed till the spray on my hair and face powder clouds float away—it smells like bananas, I think. When I open my eyes, big black ghostly circles hover before me, making me blind, making me blink like five hundred times. The first thing I see when the shapes go away is my mom smiling. From across the studio, where she sits posed on a folding chair, her hair upswept like a golden crown, she blows a fairy dust kiss to me. Perfect, she mouths so I can’t help it, smiling bigger.

“Beautiful! Hold that!” The A.D. shouts.

Bzzzeep bzzzeep bzzzeep.


GG BURROWS is a writer of fiction, a runner of marathons, a designer of graphics, and the proud parent of a physicist and a music supervisor. Born and raised in Chicago, she currently lives in Valencia, California. “The Boy on the Box” is a short story based on her novel of the same name. To read snips and bits of future fiction, meet more of her characters, or leave (nice) commentary re: their fun & shenanigans, visit GG’s blog at:   http://ggburrows.blogspot.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 info@akashicbooks.com, 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 StahlLydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).

Posted: Dec 5, 2013

Category: Original Fiction, Thursdaze | Tags: , ,