SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Dinah Cox (Read author interview) June 20, 2016

Art by Simeon Mills

With some trepidation I stand before you today on the platform in the center of the town square, the boxwoods behind me trimmed to a fare thee well, the columns of city hall festooned with velvet banners, to give you the news: caring for your carpet will not help. Replacing old appliances with new ones will not help, nor will minor modifications nor the elbow grease of spit-shined surfaces. To change the furnace filter on the same day every month is to acknowledge destruction on a global scale, but your steadiness will not help. Keeping a calendar will not help. The daily distractions and disappointments will not cease to matter, only multiply and intensify, clouding windshields with a fog of doubt. (Products made by Procter & Gamble will not help). Saving stray dogs will not save humanity; humanity will not save itself. These are not the burdens associated with masculinity. Theirs are no less trivial, though not always of the home. Think of tire treads, stainless steel containers that fail to regulate temperature, the stench and stains from freshly killed game. The street cleaner will leave a cloud of dust and the oil will flow downhill into gutters and streams, pipelines made safe by government regulation. Poison will come in all forms, though the poison from snakebites can be cured. If you had ten clamshells and you had to divide them between your own household and your next-door-neighbor’s, with the stipulation that any unused clamshells would vanish into thin air, how would you divide them? These are the questions that trouble psychologists, now suddenly aware of Western hegemony. Learning about generosity will not help. Those soft photos of the Russian schoolchildren and their farm animals will not help. A famous feminist literary critic stricken by cancer says to plan a dinner party for vegans, but doing so will not help. And the food will be mushy. And the water foul. And another one dead from complications from surgery. And another one penniless. Taking a vacation or staycation will not help. Falling in love will not help. Keeping a journal will not help. Hamburger helper will not help. That Beatles song or that video game where you pretend to be one of the Beatles will not help. Your only help will be your own dumb luck, made dumber by the sunrise, dumber by nightfall, dumb the whole live long day.

About the Author

Dinah Cox’s first book of stories won the fourth annual BOA Short Fiction prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions in May. Individual stories appear in a variety of publications, including StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, and Copper Nickel. She is an associate editor at Cimarron Review at Oklahoma State University.

About the Artist

Simeon Mills is a cartoonist and writer living in Spokane, Washington. His graphic stories appear in various journals, such as Okey-Panky, The Florida Review, and The Pinch. His graphic novel, Butcher Paper, was recently published by Scablands Books. See his work at www.simeonmills.com.

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

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