Michael Webster Thompson is about to receive his MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire this spring. His work has been published in Blue Earth Review. He lives in Durham, NH, with his wife and two sons.
Albert Haynes dreamt about bending the happy-assed Progressive insurance girl, Flo, over the hood of his ‘74 Dodge Dart when the pace of his fucking began to line up, almost like a metronome, with a loud, persistent noise in reality. Al knew the loud, persistent noise had to be coming from someplace other than his dream, realized that fucking was not something that he had done in quite some time; something was polluting his only recent chance at a legit orgasm.
He pulled himself out of bed and was surprised to see a boner tent in his pajama pants. It had been a long time since he pitched a boner tent, but with someone knocking on the door it wouldn’t be right to try, most likely unsuccessfully, to bust one out.
By the time he made it down the stairs his erection was long gone. And even though Al was old it didn’t take him too long to make it down a set of stairs.
He looked through the window beside the front door. His grandson, Yoshi, waited outside with a metal canister and his coffee shop apron bunched under his arm.
“I told you to leave the door open,” Yoshi said as he walked through the door Al unlocked.
“I didn’t lock it.”
“Fuck you didn’t. I definitely left it open.”
“I haven’t even been out of my bedroom all goddamn day.” And it was true. Though Al had risen to piss, he hadn’t been anywhere near the front door.
“You locked it,” Yoshi said. “You’re getting paranoid in your old age.”
Al shrugged him off. The kid didn’t know any better. His parents raised him like a toy. Like a bargaining chip. They were idiots, hence the video game character name, and Yoshi was a chip off the two old idiot blocks. If it weren’t for Al, the kid would be dead.
“You want me to make you a sandwich, Gramps?”
“Eh, whatever. I’m not hungry anymore. I don’t eat. My dad would’ve said I eat like a woman. Or a gay.”
“That’s insensitive,” Yoshi said, sarcastically. Twenty-three years old with a bright and shiny future as a barista, that kid.
“What’s that metal thing you got there?”
“This?” Yoshi held it up and shook it. It seemed too light in his hands. “This here is a whipped cream maker.”
“Did you bring us some whipped cream?” Al enjoyed for a moment the thought of freshly made whipped cream, then remembered some of Yoshi’s birthday tantrums. “You hate whipped cream, Yoshi.”
“No shit,” Yoshi said and spread brown mustard across the bread that would become their typical shitty Yoshi sandwiches. “I love the chargers, though. The chargers are the shit.” He put the bread on the stove to brown.
Yoshi discarded a few fatty pieces of the ham directly into the sink, where Al would have to dump them out of the drain sieve later. And it pissed Al off.
“You’re a piece of shit, Yoshi. You know that? I feel like I’m the last to figure it out.”
“Whoa,” Yoshi said. He moved away from his sandwich preparation and looked at his grandpa; took him by both shoulders and full bore eye stared him. “These chargers. These chargers. You won’t even believe it. It’s like enlightenment.”
“I don’t do drugs.”
“This isn’t a drug. It’s the same shit they give you at the dentist when they want to pull a tooth. It’ll make you less fucking pissed all the time.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word pissed.”
“Didn’t you just?” Yoshi looked out the window, his eyes glazed over.
Al tried to follow his gaze and saw only a starved squirrel wrestling with a picked over corncob.
“Whatever, nothing,” Yoshi said.
“Okay. Show me what these chargers can do.”
“Oh shit! I burnt the sandwiches!” Yoshi pulled the pan off the stove and blew on it, as if that would rectify the situation.
“Leave the sandwiches alone, Yoshi.”
The boy knew never to cook on “High” on the ancient, busted range. Above it were constant reminders of burnt food. Trails of old, accumulated smoke lined the hood like veins. There was always time to clean, but never enough time to clean everything.
Al became desperate to leave reality; wished he could be back in bed. “How do I ‘do’ a charger?”
“You want me to load one up for you?”
“All right, I’m gonna put two in. You depress the lever when you’re ready to inhale. Don’t waste it.” The boy looked at him seriously about the wasting, as if one breath of uningested poison would be a tragic loss.
“Here it is,” Yoshi said. “Put your mouth on the nozzle and push the lever down and inhale slow.”
Al started breathing the gas in.
“But don’t waste it,” Yoshi added.
Al felt fine. Breathing deep. But then he was up, up, up above everyone, above the room, not reunited with his wife or anything Biblical or heavenly, but larger than he used to be, weightless. He thought a thousand thoughts a second but couldn’t remember a single one of them. From above, not outside the ceiling but somehow the ceiling had been raised, he saw Yoshi sitting at his ratty kitchen table, looked down at his grandson’s greasy head and wondered how many times Yoshi had taken advantage of this privilege. This momentary escape from reality that was at once so liberating and so disorienting. It could never be as good as the first time.
Al came to with his foot lodged in the Lazy Susan and a serious gash on his shin.
“How’d it go,” Yoshi asked.
“Perfect,” Al said.