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The Pink Plastic Cone Crests Over the Hill
A very short story
Today’s work may well be the shortest submission we have had to date and it is in the running for being the strangest too. The extreme compression of the story gives it the disorienting and hard to penetrate feel of a nightmare, and like a nightmare or a dilerium it stays with you afterwards and asks questions of you. This is what art can do.
‘What was all that about?’ You might ask once you have spent a few minutes reading what follows.
Well that’s for you to decide. I’m not sure, but I know I liked it. Maybe Ryan himself over atcan offer you some illumination. Maybe not. Some things you just have to work out for yourself, I guess.
Christian Samuelmessner dons a thick pair of charcoal grip gloves, wraps a two-foot line of razor wire around both wrists, and tests his makeshift garrote for maximum tautness. At the age of nine, his underdeveloped ears blend seamlessly with the beige cotton swabs shoved inside, blocking unapproved stimulation from corrupting his acute sense of purpose. If Olde Scratch fights his skirmishes with weaponized noise, then young Christian must transform their battlefield into a library—or a funeral home, and a fresh plot of dirt available for anyone who stands in his way.
His sole accomplice, an emotionally-stunted six-year-old neighbor’s kid prone to aiding and abetting through autism, sits perched on a mailbox at the intersection depicted faithfully in Christian’s schematics, technical drawings rendered in crayon and pored over for weeks in advance of this activation. What remains is patience, drops of waste dripping down the bedpan of Father Time, a stillness temporary, felt and fulfilled by a committee of vultures spread across kudzu and concrete before the feeding of the wake.
Soon, a deceptively cheery jingle pierces the arid summer air, leading the useful idiot to vibrate with the electric fury of pure excitement, a signal to the stern warrior suspended out-of-sight above the four-way stop, deaf to any disturbance of his holy crusade. The bright songcraft of Olde Scratch always precedes his approach ‘til that moment when the pink plastic cone crests over the hill and nearly blots out the sun, a reunion of the wayward angel and his crossroads.
The little boy, ignorant to his key role in the proceedings, leaps up and down with awkward delight: a sweet scoop of soft-serve ice cream is nigh. As the white van rolls up to the curb, Christian descends from his hiding spot, ready to choke the spit from this ancient fiend, this sonic terrorist, barely allowing three final words to escape from his cracked, smiling lips: “chocolate or vanilla?”
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