by Joseph Rakowski
Featured Art: National Defense by William Tasker
My daughter was just 10 years old when she arrested me. She broke down the door to the bathroom and caught me in the tub using her neuro-banger headset. She placed the tip of her Dodo Taser just above the water, and declared I was in violation of rule one and two of the Constitution for Lost Adults, enacted six months ago by the Juvenile Federation of Genetically Modified Youth. This meant, she had nailed me for illegally using her headset to browse Appearance-Exchange, a restricted social media site that was no longer accessible to anyone over the age of 18—adults.
Once I stopped thrashing about from the 50,000 volts of electricity, some of the other members of her constabulary entered the bathroom, grabbed my feet and my arms, and hoisted me out of the tub. As I wait in my jail cell now, I remember the pain of the lightning coursing through my spine. I can see my wife, Dorothy, pleading for her daughter to stop, the dancing and singing the neighborhood children performed around me before they handcuffed me and brought me here. I try to understand the reality of all of this and how it’s happened, but I can’t take it seriously. They’re just children. The very many of them.
Bart, our next door neighbor’s son, approaches my cell. “Hello, Gary,” he says, rapping his Dodo Taser across the bars, like he is in some old western simulation.
“Where’s my daughter? Can I talk to her? She’s upset, I get it,” I lie.
“Because this is your first week out and your refusal to follow the rules is now going to get you rewired?”
“I was on for only a second.”
“Social media was created by kids for kids.”
“I know,” I tell him, with a tinge of self-deprecation. “I couldn’t help myself. You know I was a kid when this stuff was invented. I was your age when everything went online.”
“You’re an adult now,” he says. “But we’ve realized you don’t know any better.”
I want to grab the little shit by his neck and shake him. “Thanks, Bart,” I say. “And how are your parents doing with all of this?”
“Enjoying it very much. And you would too if you gave it a try.”
“I was trying.”
“Try harder,” he says. “You ready?”
“For what?” I ask, looking at the empty cells next to mine.
“Judgement time. The honorable Josephine Lilly McLuhan awaits.”
“You’re our first criminal since the convalescence. You didn’t even last a week.”
The courtroom floor is littered with smashed neuro-bangers. Pieces of them crunch under my feet as I make my way past the jury box filled with children, the eldest no more than a teenager, their Dodo Tasers ready at their hips. They’re eating an assortment of candy—Sour Patch Kids—M&Ms—Butterfingers, and playing a game where one of them throws a ball into the air, then recites something before catching it again. One of the kids shoots a peace sign at me with half-chewed Twizzlers. As I arrive at the defendant’s table, I’m joined by a young man who takes the seat next to mine. He can’t be older than eleven, but his head is adult sized. He’s wearing a suit, the pants and jacket rolled up at the ends into bulbous cuffs. His tie is loose and nearly reaches his knees. The only thing that fits him are a pair of antique reading glasses with the lens popped out, which people haven’t worn in years.
“I’m Jeremy, your counsel,” he says, reaching to shake my hand. “We got this.”
The bailiff, this monster of a child with the name badge Devon, announces the judge’s arrival and we all stand. Devon makes a series of biting motions at me, showing me all of her teeth. We wait in a stare off until Josephine enters dressed in a horsehair wig with curls at the side and ties down the back. She looks like Australian barrister Margaret Battye. Load her simulacrum if you get a chance, you’ll see. Josephine doesn’t look at me and keeps her nose down in whatever she is reading as she approaches the judge’s bench. Next to her is Dorothy, being guided to the witness stand. She holds a tissue up to her eyes, dabbing them. I try to give her a wave for comfort, but I forget my handcuffs are still on. The chain secured around my waist, makes a loud clang as it snaps and becomes tight. With the sound of Josephine’s gavel, we begin.
“How does the defendant plead?” asks Josephine.
“Guilty your honor,” says Jeremy.
“Wait. Just guilty?” I ask, looking at his large child’s face. “Nothing else? Right to guilty.”
“Guilty your honor,” says Jeremy again, ignoring me.
“Please keep your client quiet,” says Josephine.
“Will do,” he says, poking me hard in the gut.
“Wait, Josephine,” I call. “I can explain.”
Devon charges me, pulling out her Dodo Taser. Forgetting the chain again, I try to throw my hands up to stop her. The chain digs into my lower back, nearly toppling me over.
“That won’t be necessary,” calls Josephine. “Yet.” She looks at me for the first time with the eyes of her mother; the better pair between us parents, soft and sharp at the same time. “If your client speaks again, he’ll be held in contempt,” says Josephine.
“It won’t happen again your honor,” says Jeremy, rolling up a file on the desk before standing on his chair and smacking me in the back of the head until the cuff on his jacket unrolls, covering his fingers. The jury box of children goes wild with his antic, throwing candy at us.
“That’ll be enough,” says Josephine.
“Yes, your honor.” Jeremy stops and begins rolling back up his jacket sleeve.
Josephine turns to the jury. “How do you find the defendant?”
“Tatty,” one of them yells. “Loudmouthed,” says another. “Moth-eaten,” says a third. Then in unison they say, “Guilty of ego.”
Josephine nods in accordance then adjusts herself to address me. “With the power provided to me by the great justices of Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, and The Phantom Tollbooth, I find you guilty of using of a neuro-banger headset and social media past the age of eighteen, as well as, poor self-esteem that was the chief proponent of fake news, circulation of monthly baby photos without the child’s consent, all marketing efforts, the rise of sex robots, bad diets and lastly, the inaugural genome editing CRISPR baby movement, which gave birth to us.” The jury yells with excitement and begins throwing handfuls of candy at me again. A half-eaten and melted Butterfinger drills me in the back of the head and then falls at my feet.
“I’ve never used a sex robot,” I yell.
“Gross, Dad,” says Josephine. “I hereby sentence you to a rewiring and an extra hour of doing something you love per day.”
“But, Josephine,” I say.
The jurors begin stomping their feet. In the back of the courtroom, Devon wheels out a gurney in the shape of an X. She rolls it past the bar and into the area in front of Josephine. My counselor now has me by the arm and leads me to it. Devon places her hand on her Dodo Taser. “Get on,” she says.
I look at Dorothy who is crying so hard that her eyes have become swollen and only little slits for holes appear on her face. “It’s okay,” I say to her, but she drops her head in her hands and doesn’t look at me.
“On,” says Devon. “Now.”
I climb on the gurney and she and Jeremy secure body straps over me. She reaches under the table and pulls out a bucket of feathers: crow, peacock, eagle, turkey. The jury comes down and surrounds me, each grabbing a quill.
“Begin the rewire,” calls Josephine.
“Until he pees,” says Devon. “Tickle him until he pees. We must destroy the ego.”
It’s been one week since my rewire at the hands of those little savages. I have no choice for the moment but to try and follow the absurd rules in the Constitution of Lost Adults. I found my old compound bow in the attic, still in pretty good shape. I have no idea when the last time I shot this thing was, but I used to really love shooting. The Deer Hunter game created by Bang45 was incredibly realistic, so I stopped doing the real thing. Without a banger though, I can’t access the game. So, I’m stuck now pulling the bowstring back and aiming my arrow at the rubber deer across the yard.
Dorothy sits to my left in her lawn chair, drinking lemonade as she finishes her hour of gardening. I release my arrow and watch it fly across the yard, hitting the bullseye on the lungs. This extra punishment-hour of doing something I love is wreaking havoc on my shoulder. I can see Bart across the way, sitting on his roof. His parents are in their yard as well. His father practices juggling while his mom paints on an easel, facing an oak tree. The father, apparently completely accepting of this situation, entirely enthused, laughs as the bowling pins he’s attempting to juggle tumble to the ground. I grab another arrow.
“What do you want to do when you’re finished?” asks Dorothy.
“What are our options?”
“We still have to do our daily hour of trying to laugh. But after that we can do whatever. Our freedom check came in yesterday.”
“Freedom check. What a scam. Who are we if we don’t labor?” I hear Bart’s father laughing again. “I’m sure he loves this too. Lazy son of a—”
“We could go up to that restaurant the kids opened, Food from Gentle Soil. It was nice, remember?”
“And sit with all the other lobotomized parents, pretending like this isn’t happening. No thank you. I’d rather eat my shoes.”
“You’re going to get yourself worked up again and break another law,” says Dorothy.
“They aren’t laws. They’re rules,” I say. I think about pointing my arrow at Bart, and picking him right off the roof, but I know he would just catch it and it would be another rewire for me. “You can’t just tickle someone because you disagree with what they are doing,” I say, staring at Bart. “You think you know what’s best for us, but you don’t. Man doesn’t need to just sit around meditating and perfecting hobbies.” I produce a wide-eyed smile, shaking my head franticly side-to-side.
“They’re still children, honey,” says Dorothy. “And for the foreseeable future they’re taking care of our health, wealth, and happiness. You have to trust them. Everything we can do, they can do better. We sort of asked for it.”
“Those aren’t children,” I say, firing another arrow at the rubber deer, this time missing it completely.
“Like it or not, they’ve put you in timeout,” says Dorothy grinning.
“Well I don’t want a timeout. I want a canned-cheeseburger and a few minutes on Appearance-Exchange.”
“You can’t even exchange anymore.”
“Then why are they still keeping it hosted?”
“To track at-risk adults, like yourself,” says Dorothy, taking a loud sip of her drink.
“What about everything saved on there, my life? How will I communicate?”
“Who cares? Have you met even half of those people?”
“Why are you taking this lying down?”
“All I’m saying is I think that was the problem,” says Dorothy. “It’s all somewhere else.”
“What’s somewhere else?”
“Please. And our own daughter. My own daughter treating me like that. Acting as a leader of this nonsense.”
“She has always been a rather precocious child,” says Dorothy. “That’s how you wanted her, remember?”
“Do you think we can ground her?”
Dorothy laughs mockingly. “What do you think?”
I drop my bow and head inside the house. I want to read the Constitution of Lost Adults again that we have on the fridge. After the day of the uprising—when adults were drugged and secured all over the world, locked in basements, and bedrooms and office complexes—our children slid these rules under the door with instructions to play a video already queued up on one of those old tablet devices.
The rules read as followed:
#1. No social media in any form for anyone over the age of 18.
#2. Neuro-banger headsets cannot be owned or used by anyone over the age of 18. All adult registered headsets must be surrendered and destroyed.
#3. One hour a day must be spent reading.
#4. One hour a day must be spent doing something you love.
#5. One hour a day must be spent trying to laugh.
#6. Two hours a day must be spent with family or friends.
#7. All food must be self-harvested or bought locally.
#8. No more jobs. Basic Income will be distributed weekly.
#9. Love and respect will be shown to all.
#10. Have fun.
*Breaking of these rules in any manner will result in a rewire.
*Doing any of the rules in combination with another rule is allowed and encouraged.
*Play your video in times of trouble.
I remember that Dorothy and I looked at each other after reading the rules and both thought this was some sort of joke that had gone too far. Dorothy started the video, and to be honest, I still don’t fully understand it. The film began in our living room, Josephine was filming us there without our knowledge. But it was just a regular night, nothing special. Dorothy and I had finished work and were connected to our personal neuro-banger systems. My ear guards were glowing green, a simple feature that signals my nucleus accumbens region is 100% aroused in Appearance-Exchange. I had two empty packs of canned-cheeseburgers in my lap. And Dorothy was hooked into a virtual store. She walked the room, picking things from the space around me and placing them in her cart. Josephine zoomed in on my face; the light from my headset streaming down my cheeks, filling in the pockmarks left from my acne, something Josephine will never have to deal with. The video cut there to a screen showing my Appearance-Exchange profile. Photos of Josephine every month from birth until she is two are scrolled through slowly. There’s a marker in the photos telling visitors her age next to a certified CRISPR hologram. I smiled happily when I saw these. After these, a slideshow of more photos from our simulated family vacations and bowhunting trips. Photos of our generated house by the lake in Tahoe, others in Beijing, Montana, and Brazil. Things I thought she would be excited to see and visit again. Most families never paid for full simulations. The global village is full of digital prattle and illusory forms of existence. But not mine, mine were top-of-the-line, the real deal, as authentic as you can get. Just when I wish I could see more of these photos, the video cuts one more time back to our living room, where Dorothy and I are still enjoying our evening. Josephine turns the camera on herself and tells us she loves us. Then a montage plays where GMYs and regular kids from multiple countries are seen taking down flags at capital buildings, bashing adult-registered headsets in the streets, shutting down stock markets and reducing numbers back to zero, and then the screen on the tablet device goes black.
We spent six months after that day confined to our basement, or as Josephine called it, our recuperation chamber, with all the comforts of upstairs minus anything that went against the rules. When Josephine finally let us out two weeks ago, I barely recognized her. She had grown over a foot and was almost six-feet tall. For Dorothy and her it was all hugs and kisses, and thank you, and sorry. But for Josephine and me, it was different. We watched each other like hawks for any sign of weakness.
My shoulder is killing me from shooting my bow earlier. Dorothy rubs it as we sit around the coffee table in the living room trying to make each other laugh. Most days we’re unsuccessful at anything more than simply making the other crack a half-hearted smile, but today Dorothy has chuckled a few times and we’ve gone well past the required hour. It reminds me of when we were newlyweds; how I was able to make her laugh at nearly anything; how she could make me laugh just the same. I wonder when we became less funny.
“Do you remember the first time you ate an edible and thought the world was ending?” she asks.
“That was so long ago and that wasn’t funny.”
“Maybe not for you. But you were so sincere. How you looked at me. How you looked at the world. How you kept asking if this was permanent. Remember me taking you to the bottle shop because you thought alcohol would help? And how you forgot how to pay for things with your wrist. You just stared at the lady and kept saying, beep. Beep. Beep.”
“Oh I remember. You called me comrade for months after that because you thought it was the same as cosmonaut.” Dorothy laughs so hard now she covers her mouth and tumbles over on the ground in pain. I shake my head at her, trying not to smile, but I can’t help it. She laughs incoherently with huge breaths of air.
“Another drink?” I ask.
“Sure,” she says. “Comrade.”
I rejoin Dorothy and hand her a fresh glass of wine. Josephine has come out of her room and is sitting at the breakfast bar that divides our room from the kitchen. I haven’t seen her since my rewire. Dorothy nods at me to talk to her, but I shake my head. The humiliation of it, the indignity of being forced to piss myself in front of a bunch of kids, my wife, the record kept of it all. Luckily no adults have access to bangers, but I bet those little bastards share it around, amused at the derision they’ve created. I sit down next to Dorothy and pretend Josephine isn’t there, but Dorothy won’t stop looking at her. Josephine has long curly hair like her mother, and she twirls it through her fingers the same way too. From behind, she looks just like Dorothy did when I met her, but taller. To think about how we created something so beautiful, so advanced, and how it all collapsed to this anarchy. I just can’t begin to explain.
“Dad, I can hear you thinking,” says Josephine. “Just say it.”
“You can, can you? Well then why don’t you tell me what I am thinking?” I ask.
“Why don’t you come join us on the couch,” says Dorothy, shifting away from me. “We’d like to talk to you. We still love you.”
“Ha. She doesn’t love us,” I say. “She doesn’t even respect us.”
“I still love you, Dad, but you have to accept and live by the rules, just like everybody else. You don’t get any special privileges because you’re my father.”
“I’m sorry I’m not like Bart’s dipshit of a dad.” I clench my jaw, trying to control myself. Don’t let her get to you, I remind myself.
“He’s not a dipshit. He’s trying.”
“What was so wrong with our life before this? Tell me that? What was it hurting? Why do you think you just get to change it for everyone?”
“It wasn’t real, Dad. Didn’t you do anything real when you were my age? Did your dad ever take you on a vacation? You must remember something before this?”
“I didn’t have a good dad like you do,” I yell. “What’s not real about any of the places I’ve taken you? The experiences we’ve shared?”
“Any of it.”
“Oh please.” Dorothy grabs my arm as I stand up. “Being happy isn’t real? You’re just an ungrateful brat. I don’t care how smart you think you are.”
“You weren’t happy.”
“So now you know my feelings too?” My hands start to shake so I put them in my pockets.
“You just have to trust me, Dad.”
“You haven’t give me any reason to.”
“That’s because you haven’t given it any time. You couldn’t even last a week.”
“I don’t want to. This is all so stupid.” I dig my fingers into my thighs.
“Can’t you just try for me? Please, Dad.” Josephine’s voice cracks a bit. I drop my head and close my eyes. It’s hard to remember she’s only 10 when I look at her. I hear her sniffle and Dorothy walks past me toward her, elbowing me in the shoulder.
“Don’t cry, Josephine,” says Dorothy. “Just be patient with your father.” I look over as Dorothy hugs Josephine and Josephine rests her head on her shoulder, like she used to do with me when she was upset. This has all become so foreign.
I walk over to the bar and pour myself a vodka. There are empty photo frames on the shelves next to it. I’d been meaning to get some photos printed out, but with everything online, I guess I’d put that off or didn’t see the point. There is just one photo from a while ago that Dorothy must have ordered. The image is of a skiing simulation trip we took to Tahoe. The picture is perfectly rendered with the magnificent blue lake behind us and snow up to our knees. We have jackets on that we’ve selected to match one another. Josephine was only five at the time, but what a natural skier she was. How clean the air was there. This photo was approved over 10,000 times, and I even got the distinguished heart stamp for it. I look over the photo, trying to see what’s not happy here, what could possibly be wrong, what’s so repulsive to Josephine and her kind, but I don’t see it. All I see is Dorothy’s red nose. I stare at it closely. I never thought about it before, the impossibility of a red nose. How funny. I look to where Dorothy stands now in our living room, holding Josephine. They stand right next to the couch where we took that vacation. It was warm in the house that day. It was August I think.
“I’m going for a bike ride,” I say.
Dorothy turns and looks at me inquisitively. “You have a bike?”
“I saw it in the attic when I got my bow.”
“Where are you going? Why don’t you just push the button by the door for an auto?”
“Because I’m not going anywhere, Dorothy. I’m just going to pedal around.”
Josephine wipes her eyes and looks at me. “Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and combat health conditions. It’s also fun. I’ll mark your ride down in your chart.”
“Sure,” I say. “Whatever.”
I head down the hallway to the hatch that leads to the attic. I pull the string and down come the stairs out of the darkness. Dorothy puts her hand on the ladder.
“You’re going to behave, right?” asks Dorothy as I make my way up.
“She can’t really hear what I’m thinking, can she?” I say.
“I don’t think so. That wasn’t an option at the time.”
This is the biggest piece of shit bicycle ever created. I crank on the pedals and the damn thing is barely going. I’ve already stopped twice to catch my breath and my ass is killing me. I pull over for another breather and squat down next to the bike. I feel like I’ve been sitting on a pinecone and trying to suck air through a plastic bag. I see June up ahead in her front yard. Her daughter Sarah has spent the night at our house a few times. She and Josephine seem to get along. I’m sure now more than ever. I watch as June hoists a 15 foot pole up into the intersection of more poles. It looks oddly enough like she is trying to build a tipi, but you can’t be sure of anything these days. I walk my bike over and stand quietly in the front yard. She’s really struggling to get her rope to tie or wrap or whatever it’s supposed to do around the poles.
“Do you need a hand?” I ask.
“Hey, Gary, how are you?” she asks, making all sorts of arms movements with the rope.
“What are you building?”
“What’s it look like?”
“Well, it looks like a tipi.”
“Always wanted to build one. Spent my entire freedom check on the kit.”
“They sell tipi kits?”
“Sarah ordered it for me. Nice bicycle by the way. Haven’t seen one of those in forever.”
“I know why. They suck,” I say.
“Oh come on. You seem to be having fun.”
“I hate that word.”
“Finally,” June shouts, getting the rope to do whatever it is supposed to be doing.
“You should try riding a bike,” I say.
“Happy with the tipi,” says June, moving to another rope. “You should ride by Dale’s house. He’s building a castle facade around it.”
“Why would he do that?”
“We are having…can you guess it? Fun.”
June has dropped the new rope and is reading a sheet of instructions she’s picked up from the lawn. She looks at it then looks up at the top of the tipi frame. She does this a couple of times. “It looks right to me,” she says.
“Wouldn’t know.” I say. “Definitely interesting though.”
“Sarah is going to love it. She is inside sewing together the outer covering. We are going to sleep in it tonight, maybe the whole week. See how it goes.”
“Sure,” I say, trying not to make a face.
“Enjoy the bike ride,” she says, swinging and flinging a rope again.
My ass immediately hurts getting back on the bike. I want to pick this thing up and smash it into the ground. A tipi, I think looking back at June and almost falling over. I wonder how long it’s going to take for all the adults to get bored playing Peter-Fucking-Pan. I’ve seen June’s Appearance-Exchange profile. She was the head of marketing for a huge IT company. She must have shared a new item every hour the way her profile was tagged and routed through. She was everywhere. And that’s a lot of places to be. And now she’s in a goddamn tipi.
I pedal by Dale’s house and sure enough he is building a fake fortress in front of it with his son Craig. He waves me over, but I keep riding. The thought of giving him the middle finger from a bicycle makes me want to smile, but I swallow the feeling. I want to get to Malik and Trinity’s house; they don’t have kids, so they must really be hating this claptrap. If anyone has a plan, they do.
As I pull up, just like I thought, no one is out in the yard playing make-believe. I start to ride up their driveway when I notice none of their lights are on. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and get off the bike. I walk bowlegged up to their door and knock. The display screen on their door lights up and produces an away message over a tropical island landscape.
Dear All, we are in Barbados on vacation. We’ll return when we return.
Vacation? Return when we return? Barbados? That’s so unnecessary. Not to mention safety concerns. No one’s ever died on Submersion Urchin or Westing Hole. I really crave a neuro-banger now. How am I supposed to share in their vacation if I can’t follow it? If they’re even alive. If they’re having fun? I become nauseous.
I limp back down the driveway to my bike. I pick it up and then let it tumble over. No way am I getting back on this thing. I kick it before rolling it to the side of the house and parking it in Malik’s bushes. I sit down on his energy compression unit; it’s cold. I wonder if they left right when all this went down or what kind of recuperation chamber they were stuck in. The audacity to go on vacation. To keep private about it. The little monsters must be threatening them. This can’t be of their own volition.
I start my walk home and there is a smell of smoke in the air. When I finally make the turn on to our street, I notice a fire in the center of it. There are a few parents and children standing around it, holding hands. I’m not sure what they are burning until I’m right up on them. It’s a pile of photographs, a few still being tossed in as I arrive. I recognize one from Appearance-Exchange. It’s the Harrison’s family trip to Machu Picchu two years ago. The edges of the photo crinkle and in an instant it is turned to ash. I look over and find Thelma Harrison hand in hand with her daughter. She had recommended the simulation to Dorothy and me even before they took it. I thought it was a great photo. The smell of sharp chemicals mixed with caustic green hues reach out from the burning photos. I haven’t seen a fire since I was a boy, and this one doesn’t bring back fond memories.
I begin to wonder what prompted this display when I see our family skiing photo drift down from the sky and ignite. I look up and spot Josephine. She’s holding something in her hand and I already know what it is. She must have gone into the attic after I left. I had kind of forgotten it was up there, an early model from before she was born, the X1 Banger, in a box next to the bike. I hadn’t put it on, only held it for a second before placing it back. I wanted so badly to plug back in. I could have locked myself in the attic, wedged my bike over the door. It would have taken them a few minutes to break in. Of course it would have led to another rewire, a total setback. But they would have forgiven me eventually. Maybe I should have taken my shot.
Josephine walks over and hands it to me. She doesn’t say anything, but grabs my other hand and stands next to me. I hold the headset up and examine it. My memories associated with the dead device are strong, and I remember it as more than just a thing. It saddens me to know she wants me to throw it in the fire. I want to explain that to her, what this device really is, but she never experienced the crowded isolation. She never had to fight the loneliness. It changed something in me. Something I can’t just disconnect from even if I wanted to. I was happier connected. I wish she would understand that. Josephine squeezes my hand reminding me that I love her. A part of me is so proud of her for having leadership qualities, something her mother and I never did. It’s something you can’t program. I know she means well. I mean well too, which makes this even more confusing.
It’s been three months since my rewire. Malik and his wife still haven’t returned from their trip. I have no clue, but I guess things must be going well in Barbados. How I wish for just a glimpse, maybe. I guess it doesn’t matter. Today, Dorothy and I are both reading in the yard before we start the required time on something we love. My time requirement has been reduced back to an hour for good behavior. Dorothy is lying on her stomach next to the garden, a stack of cut wooden boards rest next to her head. We are in the process of building more above ground garden boxes. She’s dug the soil where they are going to go; it’s a rich black color, which I wasn’t expecting. Today, I’m going to help her set the boards and drill them into place. She tells me that her mother had the most fantastic garden: fresh snap peas and tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pumpkins, roses, sunflowers, you name it; they worked it together every spring with a nice harvest by summer.
Dorothy doesn’t think about our old life anymore. And she gets mad at me if I bring it up. All she says is—when she digs her hands into the soil, and scoops up the earth, she really feels it. Whatever it is that makes you want to garden. And whatever terrible thing that kept her from doing it is pulled out of her with every handful of God’s good earth. I try to stay positive with her. She is beautiful today just lying there, soaking up the sun’s glow, dirt under her fingernails, wrinkles at the corner of her eyes as she smiles with them closed. I want to believe there is something extra here that you can’t get from a simulation, but I can’t pinpoint it.
Josephine comes out through the patio door and joins us in the yard. She lies down perpendicular to Dorothy and places her head on Dorothy’s stomach. They both stare up at the clouds like they are being pulled someplace between them, someplace I still can’t go, but would like to follow. I take a photo of them with a flimsy camera Josephine found in the attic. I want to have this image forever. Josephine suggests I just take these photos with my mind, where things slowly fade and then are gone, but I can’t help myself, not yet. I put the camera down and grab my bow. I look for Bart on the roof next door, but he isn’t there. I pull my bowstring back with an inhale and focus on the sight pin. I let my breath out slowly and then as the pin floats over the deer, I release my arrow with the wish of sharing this moment with you.
Joseph Rakowski completed his MFA in fiction at the University of San Francisco. His literary work has been published by Witness Magazine, PANK Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Literary Orphans Journal and Litbreak Magazine.
Corran Brownlee spent his early years in Calgary, Canada before moving to London where he immersed himself in the British film industry as a storyboard artist and illustrator. After thirteen years in London and a year in New York working as a senior creative for a visual effects company, Corran returned to Calgary, where he now lives and works. His work continues to harbor the aesthetic he developed in London, stripped back images in black and white, haunting snapshots of untold narratives. Throughout his career he has explored different mediums including film, mixed media, and is now focusing primarily on charcoal. Corran’s work is part of private and corporate collections in Europe, the United States, and Canada.