J. C. Kuehn Miller

Read. Write. Repeat. Aspire to be a Janitor.

Entirely About Edamame

It’s a lonely thing- going crazy. Everyone has their preconceived ideas of insanity, but the reality is, not all crazies are the same. I do not belong in the psycho ward beside the suicidal, the schizo, the bipolar, the addict, or the teenage overdose. I belong in the street. I belong in the classroom. I belong in the back pew of the back-woods Baptist church. I belong waiting in line at the liquor store. I belong in your house.

It’s a lovely thing- watching every shred of your mind fall out of your ears and your mouth, slowly settling on the floor, and scampering under the cracks below the door. I watched a man die once. He didn’t really die because I watched him die five times after that point. Every time, he would grab his throat, fall to his knees, and pass out on the ground. Every time, I would turn him over on his back with his toes pointing to the ceiling.

Every time, I would laugh as I imagined someone walking around the corner and accidentally stepping on his feet. In my mind, he would have shot up and smacked the poor pedestrian in the nose like a rake hidden under the leaves in the fall.

Again, he would die. Again, I would turn him over on his back. Again, I would laugh at the human rake.

It’s a lowly thing- existing. Whenever you live, there was a time when you didn’t. There will be a time when you don’t live anymore. Our lives are nothing but existential strip teases. Now you see it. Now you don’t. I watched a man die once. He pulled the cord on his confetti vest and disappeared into smoke and broken mirrors. I laughed. Another dancer flipped herself upside-down on the pole, slipped, and broke her neck. Luckily, we have strippers to spare.

I was an abortion. They failed, but they attempted it nonetheless. I was there, almost, writhing and cooing and reaching my hands to the heavens to take me home. They quickly squeezed my brains back in. I could have been a wise man. The wisest man to ever live died. He saw it fit to live for a short while, then, his spirit left his corpse and he decided that it was mere foolishness to stay alive. He didn’t have much of a choice by that point, but we are none the wiser gaping at the shell.

God save the queen. She will die too, and then become wise.

What about God? Isn’t he supposed to be the epitome of wisdom? Yes. I already mentioned him. He died. I almost died, but the god inside fell to sleep. He was wiser than me and stayed dead. Jesus died. He came back to life because he pitied us so much. He couldn’t bare the thought of us being left out to dry after we named him Saviour. We have enough disappointment to deal with let alone finding out God died and stayed dead.

If you hold your fingers in the right spot, your eyes will fall out. That’s okay, you don’t really need them anyway. The house smells of must and old people. The deer head on the wall matches the darkened tan carpet. Little bugs live down there in little colonies. The microscopic president was assassinated yesterday. The subjects bore his body off and burned it at the base of the television. Our family died on the Challenger yesterday. We buried them in the caulk between the tiles in God’s bathroom.

My grandfather moved in his chair. He fell asleep during Matlock. He will wake up halfway through Hunter- just in time for the Roadrunner cartoon to come on channel six. We were watching channel forty-two. I watched the smoke from the insect pyre rise in front of the glowing talking box. It cast animal shadow puppets on the wall. They danced arm in arm like children dying of the plague in a ring around the rosies.

The house burned down.

My grandmother died. The fire alarm startled her and she slipped in the shower. The burning house was her pyre in the caulk between the tiles in God’s bathroom. My grandfather looked at the bonfire by the street, chuckled, and said, “Looks like the coyote finally roasted the roadrunner.”

If it were up to me, the sidewalks in neighborhoods would be made from tree bark flakes. That’s where we stood. Many of my childhood memories were now dancing arm in arm in the heat of oblivion. My grandfather kept on chuckling. It was funny- sort of. He patted me on the back and said, –“It’s a series of breaking and things coming undone that makes us who we will be.” That doesn’t make any sense.

When the big trucks came, they cried over the burning house through a long snake. It spewed its death venom on the fire. I watched a fire die once. It hissed and popped. I watched a fire kill my grandmother once. She slipped and fell. The poor roses in the garden- they are being scorched by the heat. They will need to be watered and pruned tomorrow. Insect villages were wiped out completely. The ant prime-minister called an emergency meeting of the security council. A level four threat was issued and the grasshoppers were forced to evacuate past the apple tree in the backyard. Traffic was gridlocked between the rusting swingset bypass and the weathered shed boulevard.

Fire Marshal Venedi told my grandfather something. I looked at the neighbors sitting intrigued at the absence of a house. Such a novel idea! There was a house there and now there isn’t. Is that what land looks like without something built on it? I think I remember seeing something like it before in elementary school. We went on a field trip to a park. There was a lot of green around- I remember that.

Short steeples stood puffing on their cigars over the pile of smoldering rubble. They were blackened like their lungs. My grandparents didn’t go to church on Sunday. God must have been upset with them. He was always upset with me. I was the cute runt of the litter that everyone adored, but didn’t want. After all of my brothers and sisters were sold or given away, I was left in the corner of the cardboard box snorting lines of broken glass and shredded paper. The pet shop closed and I was left in a potato bag beside the river. I watched a puppy die once. Its fur exploded beneath the tires of my friend’s car. I hope I die with a bang. No matter how I die, my last words will be the first spoken over me: “oops.”

Kerrie Beth was among the onlookers. We liked each other. Nobody liked her. Everyone thought she was ugly. She found a picture of me once, cut out my face, and put the face of a monkey there in its place. She liked me. One time, were rode our bikes until sunset. We both had to be home when the street lights came on at night. Young love doesn’t like rules. No love likes rules. Our parents came out looking for us when we didn’t come home. They found us talking- just talking by the reservoir. My mom and my dad forgot about grounding me the next day. Some men decided that the twin towers were an eye sore. I watched America die once. The poor buildings in Manhattan- they were being scorched by the heat. They will need to be washed and polished tomorrow.

Everyone thought Kerrie Beth was ugly, except for me. She became a model. I became a drop out. She was killed the other day. Her husband has seen me at the bar every night since then. I watched a model die once. She took a bullet to the face. It was a beautiful death. Forensics found her manager’s DNA in side of her mouth spread like toothpaste against her perfect teeth. He didn’t kill her- literally speaking.

–”Granddaddy, can Kerrie Beth and I roast marshmallows?”

–”Yeah, it looks like the firefighters have pretty much given up on the house. Grab a stick, the marshmallows should be in the pantry above the microwave. Oh, there it is. The cabinet is laying over there beside where the table used to be.”

The marshmallows were already roasted. The lump of sugar sat there caramelized- far from eatable.

There was a whisper in my ear, a giggle, and my hand was softly clasped by another hand. It fit perfectly- like a glove. Two gloves make a pair, but one by itself, it’s as good as a dream without imagination. Her mom called her home. My child’s heart missed her even before she let go of my hand. A peck on the cheek. Grandfather walked up behind me and placed his leathery hand on my shoulder. –”Do you love her?”

–”Of course not granddaddy. Love is for movies and paperback books that never sell.”

–”I loved your grandmother, that isn’t in a book.”

–”Yeah, but she’s not here anymore. You can’t love something that you have.”

–”And when did you become the little philosopher?”

I knew he loved me. He used to pick me up from daycare when I didn’t have a father. Mom always had to work.

Maybe if we go to sleep and wake up again, most of everything we know to be true will fade away as a soon forgotten nightmare. For now, we’re stuck running down familiar yet foreign corridors not choosing which door we’ll turn to because choice seems to be three steps ahead of us.

A question posed and answer given. It’s never a sufficient response, but it will do for now. An alarm clock is set and the seconds turn to minute and the minutes become hours. It seems like never enough time because in reality, time becomes shorter and shorter. A breeze lands in the hand and in an instant, moves on weaving across the palm and through the fingers. At first, we get the feeling of being the gods of time or wind. In the end, we succumb to the fact that we are living with a misconception of free-will. The wind we thought we controlled, blows us the same as fallen leaves on an autumn evening.

Life is a series of decisions, revisions, acts, and abrogations. Lulled to unconsciousness, we forget the strings attached to our hands, feet, and heads.

My grandfather and I walked down the road. He wasn’t needed until paperwork was to be filled out. I wasn’t needed. The pebble on the asphalt bounced as if it had a mind of its own. I kicked it, but I’m not sure who kicked me. –”Where are we going?”

–”Somewhere we aren’t now.”

The little church with a gravel driveway answered my question. Brother Turvey was sitting on the steps that lead into the sanctuary smoking a cigarette. He stood up and walked toward us with his arms opening much like Christ on the crucifix. He was missing the crown of thorns. He was missing the hair. Brother Turvey wrapped his branches around my grandfather as one of the leaves hanging from his boughs tousled my white blond hair. Hollow words of condolence flopped off his tongue rattling between his teeth with leftover fried chicken dancing and dangling around his mouth.

My grandfather and the holyish man entered the church. Behind the building were rows of soybean plants.

I looked up to the attic of the church. A shallow face peered through the window. The eyes looked straight past me. They saw something that used to be there. The face was replaced by a blank palm and long thin fingers. The hand was replaced by a smudge and the smudge was replaced by dust.

Life is a broken series of unwinding and coming undone. A ball of yarn simply exists and is of no use to anyone as it sits wound on the shelf. It begins its significance as a carefree kitten hops up and knocks the ball to the floor and as it begins to unravel.

Amongst the tree line that separated the overgrown churchyard and the field of soybeans in rank an file stood the King Hare. He was a wise and powerful ruler. All the possums and squirrels came to him with their problems. He stood there regally on his back legs looking across his land. His subjects gathered around him forming the royal court.

In the old oak tree, a small sparrow chirped. The King Hare looked to the bird out of curiosity and his subjects followed suit.

The sparrow glided down from heaven and lighted next to the Hare. The chipmunk captain of the guard snapped to attention, twig at the ready, prepared to die for his king. The wise Hare raised his hand to steady the guards. A silence weighed upon the thicket. Cocking his head to the side, the tiny sparrow twittered quietly into the Hare’s ear.

Gam zeh ya’avor.

This too shall pass.

These words made Solomon quake. These same words made his dejected servant dance with joy and jubilation.

The King Hare fell on all fours as he sprinted off into the soybean field. When the court came to its senses, the sparrow was nowhere to be seen. Tale has it that the King found himself looking at his reflection in the pond down the road, whispering until he fell asleep and became the pond.

I watched a king die once. He dissolved into himself.

It’s a lordly thing- coming undone. My grandfather stepped heavily on the sunbaked walkway. A smile was still on his face. He guided me toward the field. As we stalked through the plants, he reached down and plucked a pod off of its stem. –”One twist and it opens up. One simple twist. When they are in their pods or packaged up, the soybeans look nice but have no purpose. They begin their significance as they come undone.”

I watched myself die once. I wept and lived.

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This entry was posted on May 18, 2013 by in Short Story and tagged .
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