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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Something to Chew On

Story by Henry Presente (Read author interview) March 16, 2005

This gum is fantastic. You just wanted something to chew on, but this gum is so much more. This gum’s wrapper is radiant and you are compelled to cloak it in your palm to shield your eyes from the shine. This gum comes with sunglasses.

These sunglasses don’t work the regular way, since your eyes themselves start to sparkle as soon as you grasp this gum. You are nearly blinded by your own brilliance, and only the sunglasses block your searing beams of ocular light from the unprotected eyes of pale strangers who do not glow.

The cashier counts out your change and nods knowingly. He bought this gum long ago-—is still chewing the aging wad, in fact. He mourns the taste that so hastily departed.

That’s the flavor you’re savoring right now. It is indescribably, ineffably, unspeakably delicious. Bedazzled, you read the ingredients though they explain your pleasure about as well as sand explains the desert. This gum is made of gasoline, stardust, sucralose.

The wind in your hair is made of air. The air is filled with music from the car radio. The wind in your hair is made of music.

There are voices raised to hysterical heights and sustained like crowdsurfers, a new one propelled just as an old one descends. Your friends are laughing and blowing bubbles, too.

Your party has invented perpetual motion, but the car is not moving. The planet is sliding beneath you, like a magician swiping a tablecloth from underneath the wheels.

When the world stops to let you off, there is no line and no wait. Soon you are dancing inside outer space with a million other people. In a moist, interstellar fog, you are all wearing sunglasses, dancing and chewing gum in time with a steady, cracking thunder that threatens rain.

Leather smells like sea salt, but there is no rain. The thunder rumbles into a frenzy and still there is no rain. A collective howl grows in one million throats, and in a single moment, everyone rips off their sunglasses.

The bang is big as two million spotlights pour from two million eyes. People grope around in blind ecstasy. There is the hard beat on your eardrums. There is a soft kiss on your lips.

An inhale is an exhale. Your gums mix. The kiss is gone. Your gum tastes differently delicious.

In the parking lot, discarded wads of gum lay flattened and blackened on the asphalt. Your hand drops into your pocket and the empty gum wrapper feels light in your hand and heavy on your mind. You chew gently as you make your way to your car.

You chew gently as you make your way home. You chew gently as you drive by the store where you bought this gum a lifetime of an evening ago. You see the cashier through the window, staring vacantly and chewing gently.

About the Author

Henry Presente’s creative writing has been published by Medicinal Purposes Literary Review, Post Road Magazine, and EWG Presents. By day, he develops proposals for a health and human services firm. By night, he haunts and hibernates.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eight
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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.