Fictions from J. Bradley
From Teenage Wasteland: An American Love Story
When you (or your tumors make you) drift off to sleep during class, you see another classroom, with the Math teacher on TV talking about how to calculate a body count during a war where American lives are lost, how the bodies with the non-preferred skin color aren’t factored in. The Math teacher says this is how we can show the American god how much we are winning by how much we aren’t losing. You watch hands that aren’t yours write on paper that isn’t yours take note of this American arithmetic. You watch a hand that isn’t yours raise and hear a voice that isn’t yours ask how do we know what skin color the American god doesn’t prefer and the guard with his gleaming, oiled AK-47 answers the bodies where bullets make nests and give birth to more bullets. The voice that isn’t yours asks so if the bullet passes through the body, then the American god favors that skin color and the guard shrugs and says ask your Math teacher when you mail your homework and he’ll tell you. You watch hands that aren’t yours make note of the guard’s response. You listen to thoughts that aren’t yours wander off into his schedule protecting the class president, the boy who oozes, how he wishes the president wasn’t so aggressive about building a wall to protect heaven from boys and girls with the wrong mutations, the wrong skin color. You watch through eyes that aren’t yours the classroom and the TV change into monochromatic hues.
— § —
You inspect the ash ringing around your eyes, kiss tissue after tissue to make sure your mouth is a lure to shed clothing in dark, damp places. You cannot remember the last time you wore a face that would cause men to jump in the ocean to kiss you, how you would race them to the bottom and promise them your lips if they kept up though none of them ever could. You’re not looking to negotiate with the class president, the boy who oozes, about the safety of the school and the wellbeing of his constituents, the eleventh grade class. You want him to obey your command, crook your finger like a leash to bring the class president to heel, to save all of the school from the menace growing from the boy who coughs up oil’s body. You look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself over and over again that you are doing the right thing by putting the safety and wellbeing of the school before your happiness. You don’t have the stomach or the will to kill the boy who coughs up oil. The full moon of your hormones makes you want to do the opposite, find dark and damp places for you and the boy who coughs up oil to touch each other. You look at yourself in the mirror, the mermaid you have become for this moment, count the hearts you’ll have to break before this battle is through. You drown the tyranny of your desire with a sip of your mother’s wine before you head off to class.
The Ribcage’s Current Lover Uses A Wall Of Televisions At A Soon-To-Be Defunct Electronic Store To Deliver A Breakup Message
The armies of his mouth march through you, leave you splintered. The salesperson asks: how can I help you? You want to throw your shards at the screen, blind this now ex-lover, choke him with your residue.The salesperson grabs one of your tips, gets you upright. You stare one more moment at this wounding wall, skitter off towards a sun hanging so low, you would puncture it if you could.
J. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming flash fiction collection Neil & Other Stories (Whiskey Tit Books, 2018). He lives at jbradleywrites.com.