august 1k

august 1K
Sean was thirty-something and fishing – old enough to know what to do with his life – young enough to still not know what to do with his life.  His wife was amazing.  His children beautiful.  He didn’t deserve to have this need for escape, this confused, childlike wonderment, and destiny, and all that.

He should be happier.

Last weekend he saw a movie about two people in love, and he spent all his down time at work thinking about it.

There was nothing wrong with his life.  But when was the last time he felt everything was right?  And should he even expect it to be?

Sean fished the same way he lived.  He dropped a line, propped up the pole, and cracked a book.  He drifted from spot to spot, and cubicle to cubicle.  His jobs were just like the ones on TV nowadays with obtuse managers and sad birthday parties.  It had become dizzying to go to work every day, then come home and watch people act like him on TV.  Sometimes even a cubicle was waiting for him on screen at the movies.

His life was cubed.


Drifting, staring at the pages of his book, he thought about going back to school.  Art History.  Sign Language.  Computer Programming.  Video Game Design…

Suddenly the boat crunched against a shoreline, and he sat up, startled, his book sliding off his lap.  This shore came out of nowhere.  Or maybe he’d fallen asleep.  He quickly stood up, and he rubbed the black stars from his eyes.  His vision returned to reveal a community of round grass huts, circle fire pits, and odd, primitive-looking people, frozen in their work, staring at him.

Sean felt acutely square.

“Hello?” he said.  Then a shadow fell over his face.  He looked up to see what looked like, but surely couldn’t be, an arrow with a round rubber tip, flying directly toward him.  It thumped him square in the forehead, and a black curtain of darkness fell over him.


It felt, keenly, as though a thin, sharp knife had been plunged through his head, from temple to temple, and as though someone was drawing the knife out, and slowly plunging it back through.  Repeat.

“Rise and shine,” said a deep voice, female, and nostalgic.  Those three words made him feel young.

He scraped his eyes open to see a thin, very tall, black woman sitting on the edge of his cot, smiling.  “I’ve got a helluva shot, huh?”

Sean nodded and got up on his elbows.  “How long was I out?”

“Not ten minutes,” she said, handing him two white tablets.  “Take these for your head,” she said, now handing him a round, tin cup of water.

He took the pills and lowered the cup from his face and realized his ankles were bound together.

“I have lots of questions,” Sean said.

“Good,” she said, “because I have lots of answers.”

She untied his ankles.


The tall woman, she had to have been six-one, led him through the community.  It at first brought to mind the sort of Indian village as depicted by museums, but there didn’t appear to be any Indian people.  There were black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, and Indian people from India.  There were those sorts of children as well but also children that he couldn’t classify.

Finally, he asked, “Where am I?”  But the tall black woman was gone.

A small Mexican/Asian looking boy with great posture walked up to Sean.  “Where are you?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s what I said,” Sean replied.

Pointing, the boy said,  “You’re right there.”

“Yes, but where’s here?”  Sean wanted to thump his head.

“Well, this is where we live,” he said and swept a hand across the landscape like a model from an infomercial.

Sean chuckled, now actually starting to like the kid.  Then he looked up and retraced the arc the boy had made across his quaint, mysterious, exotic, neighborhood/town type thing.

He couldn’t make much sense of the arrangement of the huts, but the arrangement felt right.  The trees stood tall on the Western side, so the sun could wake the people at dawn, and they could be cool in the shade in the afternoon.  There came to him a smell of fish cooking over a fire, and corn, and fresh bread, and something sweet like syrup.  The water from the lake lapped against the stones on the beach behind him, followed by a soft breeze.

He couldn’t find any distinguishing landmark.  His phone had GPS, he thought, but he’d left it in the car, for too many phones had been lost to the lake.

“How did I get here,” he asked, and there was no reply because the boy had wandered off.  “I wonder where the lady with all the answers went?”

A swishing sound came from his left, and when he turned, another arrow with a rubber tip clobbered him to the ground.  As the black curtain fell over him, his last thought was that this would be a lovely place to vacation with the family.


The knife was drawing in and out of his temples again.  He scraped his eyes open and rubbed the black stars away to find himself lying in his boat.  The fishing pole was gone – dragged away by the only catch of the day.

“Of course,” he said out loud, with sarcastic emphasis.  “It was a dream.”  He scanned all 360 degrees of the horizon and saw the old dock where he launches his boat, and Gene, an old guy who he sees here occasionally with his son.  Gene rowed the canoe he built up next to Sean and squinted toward him.

“What,” Sean said.

“You have an accident?” Gene asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“…’cause you’ve got two round, purple, bruises on your forehead.  You should have those looked at,” he stressed and rowed on.

Sean ran his fingers over the welts and smiled because everything just then felt right.

4 Responses to “august 1k”

  1. 1 Lisa 08/10/2009 at 9:40 pm

    This is my favorite yet. “A small Mexican/Asian looking boy with great posture.” Yes.

  2. 2 Cari 08/11/2009 at 9:51 am

    That is absolutely the best line of the story. Such a simple, honest observation.

  3. 3 Maggie 08/12/2009 at 9:08 am

    Oh dear, I don’t know how to say this…
    There were many elements of this particular story that made me quite uncomfortable as I read through. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but there were a lot of borderline-offensive bits in here — particularly the description, “primitive-looking people.”

    I’ve enjoyed all of your stories so far, but this one leaves me feeling rather sad and speechless.

  4. 4 amanda Regier 08/12/2009 at 10:29 am

    I sort of liked the ‘offensive’ bits because I felt they were conscious, intentional, and just the way a cubicle guy might think.

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