SmokeLong Quarterly

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All My Friends Are a Lot Like Me

Story by Kyle Hemmings (Read author interview) June 28, 2011

art by Gay Degani


All my friends are junkies. They claim to shoot straight V-8 but they smell like house whiskey. On paper, they all testify that they are reality testers, but you never know what you’re signing. They love getting philosophical toward the end of parties. The unmarried ones explain birth like this: We burst from a bubble. No more questions, please. The cynical un-few complain how all their lives they felt like embryos dropping. One friend, the gay man recently fired over inter-office politics, and an avid reader of Franzen, says so many of us press on without legal papers. He’s been complaining lately that his feet feel so heavy.


Some of my friends drown in swamps. Some emerge with new ideas. At least two of my friends can see a dull distant light, perhaps a residue from childhood tunnels. On Oprah, three of my friends offered videos that showed charcoal barbecues and smiling women holding slow pressure cookers. Oprah introduced that segment as Life Before the Divorce. Two of my friends would not show the camera their veins. A friend of my friend said that on that same show Dr. Phil was really a wolf dressed as one of my friends. I believe Oprah winked at him.


Sometimes at night, outside my window, the friends who are misaligned jokers hang upside down. When these friends go cold turkey, they scramble like spiders or call sugar the last great love. I find these friends to be fair-weathered and turbo-tragic. They make jokes about insecurity and Teflon promises. At least one of my friends has beaten the addiction but now believes he’s a robot. To reach him, I have to go through many automated messages.


Some of my friends are cold-water-flat junkies. They live for commercials and reinvent the backrooms of the Old West. Some wait to see their own story on the Life channel. All these three-room friends walk to work. They call each other up on cell phones and chat about nothing. When I tell them I can see through their flimsy walls, that no room is a castle, or how isolation is not a turret, they hang up the phone. They claim celery is good for the heart. They cry easily at funerals. For that reason, I never attend any.


Other of my friends live in prisons, paper thin or deceptively soft, where the bars bend but not break. Some prisons are bamboo, some are virtually long and endlessly horizontal. Some prison walls contain intricately coded graffiti. Some of my prisoner friends spray-paint their lives with florescent apologies. One such friend seizes whenever he thinks of a certain woman. Her memory reminds him of the shadow on the x-ray. He doesn’t date anymore for fear of exposure.


All of my friends are celluloid like me. We sit and watch the real world full of flat shapes we can’t win for losing, and return to our TV sets and the red flags. We can’t love strangers without cheating. Sometimes we sit and watch ourselves on TV. We hold hands or pass popcorn. We coo into each other’s ear, place a taunting finger near one’s privates. During breaks, we discuss plans to spend the night. In the morning, we say good-bye but never kill each other off. Some of my friends die on Reality TV. Some of my friends spread rumors that many of my friends are ghosts.

About the Author

Kyle Hemmings lives in New Jersey. His work has been featured in Five Fishes, FourPaperLetters, Lacuna Journal, and others.

About the Artist

Gay Degani has been nominated here and there for Pushcart consideration, Best Small Fictions, and a few various and sundry honors including the 11th Glass Woman Prize. She is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). Her micro “Abbreviated Glossary” appears in the anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fictionedited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro. She occasionally blogs at Words in Placeand is currently working on another novel of suspense.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Two

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