A Story in Which No One Dies
by J.A. Tyler
Someone's neck cut. Chopped through. Someone's hair tinted red but not like hair so instead like blood. Or a car accident with a dangling spine. Or a pool where a girl doesn't re-emerge. Or a cloud that rains African killer bees. Or a fire that eats a man's legs. Or a soup that is made of miscellaneous leftover parts. There was always an element of it in there somewhere playing catch with the eyes like a father and a son.
And his grandma had said can't you write a story where no one dies.
So he did or tried to.
She was in the kitchen feeding him her lamp chops and he was sweating beer and clinking his rotten teeth and smelling of a little girl from down the street. So she clunked him on the back of the head with a pan that was garlic and olive oil scented. And nothing happened. He maybe stumbled forward with his head just a bit and maybe clipped his tongue with his rotten teeth just a bit and maybe hiccupped just enough mid-swallow to make a small sound. But then he went on eating and she had to sit back down with the pan still in her hand and him with a growing headache.
And there was a man laying in the middle of a burning fusel-lodge stained field yawning with opened suitcases and he was hearing other people around him getting up and shuffling their feet and feeling clean in the air mixed with smoke. And some of them were on fire and some of them were bleeding and some of them were clean in half. But they were all still shuffling on as if it hadn't happened. As if they could. Like zombies coming forward. And most of them were confused and so they just grabbed for bags they thought were theirs and headed towards a direction that felt closest to home and that was that.
And like always there was a kid too a little girl too who was crying at a bedside of a mother or a father or an uncle or an aunt or a grandma like his was and she was weeping and snotting like a little girl should and the person under the sheets who should have ceased breathing didn't and instead kept on with a rattling breath until the girl grew tired of crying and went off to watch television. And the breathing went on while commercials blared and the little girl eventually came back to ask if the mother or the father or the uncle or the aunt or the grandma still under the sheet would like to share some popcorn with her.
But he knew he couldn't.
And his grandma said you're a piece of shit then all violent like that all the time.
And he was because that man with the rotting teeth and the smells of a next door neighbor's little girl was a pedophile and cheated on his taxes and never took the time to chew the meals that she had so absolutely prepared. And so he needed a pan upside his head until his heart stopped beating.
And the man in the plane needed that moment of ultimate sadness when the wings were ripped and the thing was beginning to burn up to make him understand it. So that he could text his wife and tell her that he loved her and that she always had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. And to tuck the kids in for him every night from then on.
And the little kid the little girl too needed to be there crying next to a lump of sheets barely rattling breath so that she could weep and hate and wail and rage and then become stronger. And become more solid. And become the woman who she would be later. Strong enough to handle killing her husband with an olive oil scented pan. And strong enough to read that text message from her second husband as his plane was diving down.
Jesus Christ his grandma said when she read it.
I know he said back ashamed too of himself and the way he was.
About the author:
Among other publications, J. A. Tyler has recent work in The Feathertale Review, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, & Word Riot. His debut novella will be available in 2009 from Ghost Road Press. He is also founding editor of the online lit review Mud Luscious. Read more at www.aboutjatyler.com.