Zugzwang by Blake Walmsley

There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.  Jean Rhys

Panic inspires the assigned hero.
3.14 epiphanies

later, Jim Nightshade slips on a banana peel made of genuine artificial
leather. Miss Ohio looks on with bloodshot eyes. I leaned
against the life-size fiberglass triceratops like no one had ever
leaned against a life-size fiberglass triceratops before.

“So you think you know what squalor is?” I said. She said, “I am
squalor.” After the puzzle fizzled, all that was found was a
gnawed-off radius and a chess set covered with A-1 sauce.
This was the last time she would participate in such a debilitating

elephant-hunt, absolutely, under any circumstances. “You are
so insincere,” I said. “I’m just faking it,” she replied. Behind
department store windows, mannequins arrange nosegays for
third-generation Shaun Cassidys. She hesitated, fell, continued

falling, two years after her friends stopped paying attention. The
nearest available platitude nods off as it speeds through the red
light, plowing through the crowd of earnest medical students.
Things she lost:  library books, bets, keys, umbrellas, phone numbers,

cats, boyfriends, mercury dimes, control of her fighter jet, girlfriends,
jobs, top-secret documents, driver’s licenses, moonrocks, her
balance, winning lottery tickets, Burger King crowns, plane
tickets, bus transfers, her belief in a better day. 0-0-0.

Gentlemen, start your cigarettes.

A photo of the ocean sucks you into a quasar machine full of broken
ocelots. Deaths, like stooges, come in threes. Photo albums snore like
graveyards, trailer parks for the not quite dead. Mother demolishing
the Berlin Wall. Judas opening Christmas presents. The disoriented

reindeer fly into our specially prepared nets. One idiotic image
follows another. At the sound of the tone, my eyes roll back into
my head like slot-machine lemons. Some objected to the baseball
statistics the minister injected into the eulogy like Nestle’s Quik into a

diabetic’s arm. These poor-sports were executed at dawn with
slingshots. Everyone collected their luxury cars and went home.
The cadaver slept through the whole thing, snoring its way through
the mayoral debate, the dream it thought it was living. Weeds

sprout like parking meters on the verdant battlefield. The hysteria
grows, expanding its starfish of influence. “So,” asked
the executioner, “how would you like to die?” “Laughing,” she said.
Furious as a bee, I skipped my sulking lessons that day and went

to the bus stop to talk to my friends. The beige knight was
planning a mutually destructive relationship with the first social
darwinist who stepped off Richfield Road 10. But when we returned
to the laundromat, lions were dancing to the sound of pinball

machines and his heart deflated like a red accordion. Inspiration
had become so scarce, we were forced to rely on neurosis. In
case of fire, I always take the elevator. English Shakespearean
actors wept as the tenth planet crashed into a meatball tree. Last

minute adjustments fail to revive the damaged whirligig. Shit, I spilled
the Strohs all over the Picasso. The executioner practices flexing in
the mirror. Each morning your hand reaches for the alarm clock a
second before it goes off. The ventriloquist who is to be decapitated

clears his throat. Pass the mustard gas, Tracy. “Where does it hurt?”
asks the kind dentist. The ouija board keeps saying DONTLOOK.
H-pawns dive recklessly over waterfalls, arms raised roller-coaster
style. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. You wait for something

interesting to happen.

Blake Walmsley was born in Flint, Michigan, where he attended the University of Michigan/Flint. His favorite writers are Weldon Kees, Danny Rendleman, Elaine Equi, Don DeLillo, Clark Ashton-Smith. He is currently living in his friend’s garage in Gloucester, Virginia near the Ware River.

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