Fiction by Tyler Sones
For Halloween, you dress up as an Andean tribeswoman. You model your costume on a woman in a picture you found in National Geographic—a porkpie hat with a purple band you pat with coffee grounds so it looks authentically dirty, a complicated blanket draped around your shoulders, petticoat, skirts, and some turquoise earrings you got in New Mexico forever ago. It’s frustrating choosing between sandals and shoes, shoes and sandals. You consider going barefoot, but all the carpets are gone and the floors are so cold.
Your husband Jimbo doesn’t dress up as anything. He knows how much you like Halloween, though, and he’s really a very sweet man. He clomps up from the basement, claps out a rhythm on his knee, and watches you dance. You twirl, spinning your blanket around you and smiling till your cheeks are sore, chanting nonsense to the tune of “Smoke on the Water.” As a gift, Jimbo gives you one of those long beef jerky tubes that he’s been saving. You start eating at one end, he starts at the other, and y’all meet in the middle in a kiss that only sounds gross when you try to explain it.
Outside, the landscape is a sinister medical experiment gone off without a hitch. Trees are new monsters who urge you to hold your applause until the end. Who hold their hands up like they’re saying don’t shoot. This is why your neighbors keep the curtains drawn.
You’re pretty sure when things return to normal that you can return alongside them. But Jimbo’s been spoiling himself over a battlemap of Civil War II, and you’re not sure if that’s just peculiar or beyond the pale. You let him try to explain a crucial battle, the part where the Upper Nebraska Corridor is blown to smithereens by drone swarms launched from Studio City, California. Jimbo’s losing general is a ball of dryer lint with toothpicks for antennae perched atop a rubber hamburger and barking orders only Jimbo can hear. The victor, Brigadier General Abelard Klee, is a He-Man action figure wearing a breastplate and khakis, standing upon Yuma, Arizona. In his left hand, the general’s got He-Man’s sword, whatever it’s called, and in the other, a tiny bouquet of plastic flowers. Jimbo expects you to follow the troop movements and understand what he understands. He makes explosion sounds and thumps the vanquished from the table. He doesn’t look at you when he swipes his hand across the southern states. A FEMA truck flies all the way from Georgia to land in your cleavage. You don’t feel good about any of it—Jimbo, the war. You haven’t slept without a pill since summer.
People move in across the street, and they install an inflatable snow globe in the yard, in the shade of the tamarind tree. You think you remember Mr. Cuthbert planting that tree in the early aughts, drinking cans of Bud Light Lime and wiping his forehead with his sleeve. Poor Mr. Cuthbert. The tamarind tree has grown tangled too, like all the other trees, but its shelter keeps the snow globe out of the wind. You try to wave at the neighbors through the window, but they don’t ever open the curtains. Maybe you’ll make them some banana bread. The snow globe reminds you to nag Jimbo again about the Christmas decorations.
Jimbo says that’s not a snow globe and stomps down the stairs to the basement. If it’s not a snow globe, smart guy, then what is it?
You’re going to have to start writing things down. Everything reminds you of something else. Christmas and Chanukah, sandals and shoes. A hawk, from when there were hawks, bursting from a tree with a grackle in its talons, diving low over the street, and on its tail a whole family of grackles, how you watched them disappear and hoped that the predator would not win, that some equivalent of good might triumph. And now the way your breath snags when you try to breathe deeply—it reminds you how the angel of death passed over your home, just like you hoped it would. Maybe Jimbo had actually remembered to paint lamb’s blood over the front door when you mentioned it weeks ago. But, of course, he didn’t. Of course, it’s just plain luck. And you know it’s not a snow globe too, but it’s the holiday season, you’re lonely,and you just want things to be nice like they used to.
Tyler Sones is an MFA candidate at The Ohio State University. He’s originally from Texas, and his work has previously appeared in North Texas Review and Mockingbird Collective.