Heartsick

People are digging in the burning soil with their bare hands. There’s no wind, nothing to move the smoke. I’ve never seen so much anguish on people’s faces. I may seem to care. I don’t, actually. Why should I? A bar in Brooklyn hosts a karaoke night called “Human Beings against Music.” My father is in there. My grandmother, too. I was going to join them, fix them up. But I can’t, and all because I blabbed to some locals that we ate a roasted cat today and it tasted pretty good.

 

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Strange items are frequently left on my doorstep or in my mailbox. Used scratch-off lottery tickets. A leather briefcase with snap locks that won’t open. It’s like I’ve been made captain of lost things. A yellow Star of David badge. The takeout menu from the defunct Bowl O’ Rice restaurant. Photocopies of an article titled “How to Clean Sex Stains.” My drawers and closets are overflowing with this stuff. And yet I can’t quite bring myself to throw any of it away. The most I can do is wonder what’s next. Perhaps the flame of a cheap plastic cigarette lighter?

 

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The doctor is turning out to be absurdly talkative. “Apparently it’s Mental Health Awareness Day today,” he says. “And ski season is coming. Quite the weather forecast for Budapest. I’ve never been to California and, yes, that’s sad.” He keeps up this giddy stream of consciousness while jamming a giant needle into my chest. I beg him, “Stop, stop, please stop.” He just pushes the needle in deeper. I’m screaming now. A nurse hurries in. “Almost there,” the doctor calmly tells her, referring, I imagine in my distress, to the outskirts of heaven, where angels, some the size of a grain of salt, some the size of a pebble, buzz like dung flies.

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Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from ThoughtCrime Press. His latest collections are I'm Not a Robot from Tolsun Books and A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submissions Press.

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