The day the Second Coming of Jesus Christ revealed himself, I’d stubbed my toe really bad. I limped into the kitchen. My girlfriend, Y, had CNBC pulled up on her iPhone 8+ and they were talking about Him. He was wearing jeans, a HARVARD sweatshirt, and His name was Abu. He was floating twenty feet above the Chrysler building.
“Do you want me to get you some ice sweetie?” Y asked.
“Nuh-uh.” My toe was throbbing. I just needed a minute.
Then Abu, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, cried out:
“I am here to bring the world JOY!”
And as He said JOY, I felt it. I could see that Y felt it too, the most exquisite and intense orgasm rang through my body. I seized and all thoughts, all pain, all feeling but overwhelming ecstasy left me.
It stopped when they blew Him out of the sky with a surface-to-air missile, shot from 3rd and 42nd. It took the top of the Chrysler building with it. I checked my pants to be sure they were dry. Y looked at me like she’d just finished a sub-portioned appetizer and raised an eyebrow. My toe began to hurt again.
“Actually, could you get me some ice?”
She sighed and got up. She took a Ziplock bag and filled it with ice. She wrapped a dish rag around it to protect from the cold. We turned back to her phone and, as the debris cleared, we saw Abu rise again, His clothes gone; He had no belly-button or penis and His hair was all burned off. He looked wild.
He wiped the dirt from His face and said,
“I’ll be back. Motherfuckers.”
Y turned the phone over. I placed the make-shift ice pack on my toe, and it began feeling better. Y ran her fingers through my hair and asked if maybe I’d feel like having sex in an hour.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “It’s up to my toe, really.”
Featured art by Nikita Klimov. Originally published in The Moss.
And, to his credit, the doctor did say it was a trained squirrel before he let it loose. I was on the table as he said it and I thought back to my early twenties.
“I’ve got a stomach of steel!”
I’d told my friend who’d just poured me a shot of hot sauce. Then, I downed it in one. I was twenty-two.
I’m thirty now. It turned out my stomach was steel, but my colon was made up of those little flecks of dust you find floating in the air of old attics.
The doctor spoke to Y who sat beside us and took notes:
NO SPICY, NO SALTY, NO SWEET, NO DAIRY
“…and make sure you don’t love him too much. This boy has had too much love already.”
I would have been glad at least to have been called “boy” at that moment if the doctor hadn’t tapped my ass as he said it and I could feel the squirrel hide and the doctor cried,
I forced myself to relax.
“Are you okay?” the doctor said.
“I’m okay–yeah, I think so,” I told him.
I heard a squeak, a pinch, then another squeak.
“Good,” the doctor said. “Good, good.”
NO RED MEAT, NO SODA, NO ALCOHOL, NO JUICES, NO YEAST, NO EGGS, NO SUGAR, NO PICKLES
The doctor made some kissy sounds and finally, thankfully, the squirrel emerged. I took myself out of downward-facing-dog and sat there. I looked at Y and I thought, “you still want to have sex with me, right?” But she seemed to be hard at work making sure to write down everything the doctor said in feverish detail.
NO CORN, NO TOMATOES, NO PASTA, NO BREAD, NO LOVE!
I thought about when I used to go to the doctor with my mother and they’d tap my knee and it would tickle a bit when they put the stethoscope to my chest. The doctor would say things like:
“there you go,”
“just a little cough now,”
And then when they’d all finished up, they’d turn to my mother and say, “looks like the little guy has a cold. It’s a couple of days of ginger ale and ice cream shakes for you, young man!”
I’d take my mother’s hand and she’d lead me back to the car and say, “now let’s swing through McDonald’s, what-a-ya-say?”
And I’d say,
I pulled up my pants as the doctor sat and calmed the squirrel. “There you go, good, brave boy,” he told it before tucking it in a drawer and turning back to me, Y was busy rolling up her notes.
“You will come back in one month,” he told me.
Y took my hand and led me to the car.
“When do you have to be back at work?” she asked.
I checked my phone and adjusted myself in the seat.
“Ten minutes ago.”
This story was originally published on Medium in The Moss. The fantastic illustration seen above is by Nikita Klimov.
I stood in the swank lobby of a SoHo high-rise arguing with the domesticated ex-marine leashed to the front desk. He had a hole-punch of a mouth and little black eyes. His name was Jim.
I pointed at my face. “Jim, you’ve seen my face a thousand times. Look!” I pulled at my nose, eyelids, and ears. “It doesn’t come off, Jim, this is my god-damn face. Just buzz me up.” Jim stood and shoved a thick finger in my face. “You — ” but he was cut off by the ding of the elevator. Quin came sliding out in a Ferrari-red speedo. “Hurry up!” he said and dipped back into the elevator. I looked at Jim. He lowered his finger and sat back down. I ran to catch the closing elevator doors and slipped in beside Quin.
Quin was bouncing on the balls of his feet; he was waxed from the neck down. The years had not been kind; he looked like a pile of mayonnaise; a weak gut, thin arms, and flabby thighs — the left one decorated with a half-assed pinup girl tattoo.
“Yeah — ” He looked at me, even his eyes bounced, “yeah, yeah,” he said.
“Yeah, baby, yeah.”
“You gonna tell me what’s so great I had to leave work?”
Quin watched the floor numbers climb. “Why does this take so long!”
I leaned against the side of the elevator. “Well you could move to Jersey City with me, I live on the second floor. I can even take the stairs, and — huge upside — I can’t get lost in my apartment.”
“Mhm. Yeah man, yeah.”
The doors opened straight into Quin’s penthouse pad. There was a spiral staircase to the right, floor-to-ceiling windows straight ahead. In the middle of this Taj-Majal on top of the world that Quin called home, there was a massive steaming hot tub. It was solid gold.
“Another hot tub?” I asked, unimpressed.
Quin smirked side-long at me. “It is The Fountain of Youth!”
I walked up to it. The jets kicked on. I stepped back, “You’ve nicknamed your hot tub the fountain of youth?”
Quin sighed at me, “No, idiot, I had them turn it into a hot tub.”
“The Fountain of Youth! Don’t you listen?”
“Dude, The Fountain of Youth isn’t real,” I reminded him.
He gave me a pitying smile, “Everything is real if you pay enough,” he reminded me. “Now step back. Okay, you are here to make sure nothing goes wrong, you gotta watch me.”
“Like a good little friend,” I muttered. “Okay, so, say I believe you, what do you want The Fountain of Youth for anyway? You’re thirty-two.”
“Yeah, but don’t you want to go back to being a teenager?” He glanced down at his mayo-belly.
I shook my head “Hell no, I hated being a teenager.”
“Ah, you were one of those.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Quin climbed up onto the side of the pool, “Oh you know, those people who are always bitching about high-school and how anyone who was cool is now a truck driver or some bullshit like that. Not true. I tell you; I was cool as shit and look at me now. Bet you wrote poetry, didn’t you?” I glared at him. “Thought so,” He said. He rubbed his hands together and winked.“Bet your poetry was rubbish.”
I gave him the finger.
“You’ll pull me out if anything goes wrong, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah alright.”
He stepped in and submerged himself. I waited. Nothing. I looked out of the window. I could see the curvature of the damn planet from that window.There was a sound from behind me, a splashing. I turned back to the tub as a young boy’s head appeared, it screamed, then disappeared again. I ran over to the edge.
I followed the shrinking shadow below the surface then plunged my hands in and pulled out a newborn baby boy. It coughed up a bit of water then cried like hell.
“Shit,” I told the baby, it cried some more. “Dude! Hey man, Quin?”
“Wahh!” Quin said.
“Alright man, alright. I’m going to get you to the hospital. Hold on.”
I held him at arm’s length and ran for the elevator; the pinup girl tattoo growing more harrowing, shrinking as we went. I hit the “Lobby” button with my knee. Quin wailed as we descended. I looked at him. “You idiot,” I cried, “You stupid baby” — then panic hit me — “what the fuck am I going to say to Jim?”
This project was actually 10 years in the making. I wrote it back in College and I had to read it as part of my final to a class of very serious writers. The reaction was a group full of stodgy poets snapping their fingers (because “we don’t clap here, we snap.”) And my professor saying something like “right,” or, “okay,” or both while I chuckled awkwardly at what I thought was a very funny story.
Two years ago, I reworked this story into a flash fiction piece that became a part of the Flash-365 project and was published in the art collective, Hijacked Amygdala. When our project ended, Stephanie, who’d been a long-time reader of mine, showed me some of her amazing work and we decided to take on the project of turning The Fox and the Bear into a living breathing ‘Children’s Book.’
The idea behind this story is that Fables don’t teach relevant lessons. In the world today, where the tortoise would be awarded a participation medal, and the Hare would be paying out 5 million-dollar settlements to quiet sexual abuse victims, and gaming any system is a publicly encouraged pastime, perhaps fables need to grow up a bit. (And having a laugh while they’re at it never hurt anyone.)
I hope you all have as much fun reading the fox and the bear as we had in making it.
Moreblueberries: My brother Elliot Davis helped me to format and place all of the text in this story. He did many things on his computer that I couldn’t even begin to lie about understanding and is responsible for weaving my words and Stephanie’s art into a cohesive whole.
KM: My friend Konstantin helped me to turn all of the images into something useable by doing things with computers and programs (that is as eloquent as I am able to put it)
Nikita Klimov: And of course, Nikita, who I’d be helpless with this kind of stuff without, took the story and created the webpage thetruthaboutthehare.com while I sat there and pestered him with “can we do this?” “what about putting that there?” “and how about adding this little thing” and “will they turn like this—yeah, cool.”
In the mirror, I attach the fake ears and tug the hat onto my head.
“It’s the wealthiest Preschool in St. Peter,” K had said, “they’ll pay you a boatload to just stand around as an elf for their Christmas party.”
I sigh now, as I did then, resigned.
I wash my hands and step out into the hall. The Babushka rolls up to me. Her rock-face is polished. Her eyes are onyx.
She points. I nod. I follow her directions to a door inundated with Christmas joy. I go through.
The room is vast, a gymnasium almost. It is crowded with all manner of Christmas. Bells float through the air, jingling. Ropes of ornament-covered pine snake along the walls. A fat tree absorbs the center of it all.
Children wander about the place. None are more than five or six years old. They are dressed almost exclusively in argyle. A snowman in the corner is telling a story as a small blonde girl discreetly stuffs bits of his backside into her mouth. On the other side of the room, Santa Claus is red-faced as he picks up a small boy. A red-nosed reindeer stands calmly next to him, chewing on the inside of its own mouth.
Santa places the boy on the red-nosed reindeer. The boy begins to wail. A woman in a black sweater runs over and pulls the child down. The boy runs off across the room. I see him slide on his belly down a thin layer of ice. A young woman in a blue dress stands beside it. She claps.
A fair-haired little girl walks up to me. Not dressed like the rest. A simple black dress.
“You got a cigarette?” she asks.
She sighs, “you got a cigarette?”
“I’m not a child.”
“Oh…are you a midg—uh I mean– a dwarf?”
“I’m DEATH. And, I want a cigarette.”
I’m not sure whether or not to laugh.
“What do you mean you’re DEATH?”
“I’m not sure what else I could mean. That polished rock turd out there hired me to be here so…”
DEATH shrugged, “I’m often in Russia this time of year anyway.”
I continue to stare at the frail-looking girl. She winks. “Just between you and me,” she lowers her voice, “I never go anywhere I’m not needed. Even for the kind of scratch, this place shells out.”
“Right,” I manage.
“So, you got a cigarette or not?”
“Let’s go have one then. Take my hand, everyone thinks I’m a child anyways. Pretend you’re taking me to the bathroom.”
She holds out her hand. I take it hesitantly. Suddenly she grabs it tight, very tight.
“Your time has come!” DEATH says, her eyes go black. I panic and jerk my hand away. My heart stops.
She bursts out laughing. She holds her stomach and bends over, a joyful tear falling from her eye. “You should see your face,” she gasps.
I feel like vomiting.
“Oh, that never gets old,” she says, catching her breath, “but, seriously, let’s go.” She holds out her hand again, her eyes back to blue. I don’t take it. She steps forward and grabs my hand anyway.
“Don’t be a pansy,” she says. She leads me out the door.
The fear in my legs has subsided by the time we get to our destination, a closet. Inside I light up two cigarettes. She takes one. She smokes through her nose. I can’t wipe the frown off my face. It’s beginning to hurt.
“So, what are you doing here?” DEATH says through the cloud that’s sprouted up between us.
“Uh, I am an actor.”
She snorts. “Bummer.”
We finish our cigarettes in silence.
“We better go back,” DEATH says, holding out her hand again.
I take it this time, apprehensively. Before we leave, I can’t help asking,
“What did you mean that you never go anywhere you’re not needed?”
**Artwork by Marvel** (This fairy tale was prompted by the artwork shown above)
The Turtle was born with the world on his back.
Well–not exactly. The Turtle was born with his mother on his back, his father atop her, atop them were a series of grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles then great-greats of all breeds and colors and even way up at the top just below the world there was rumored to be a great-great-great. But The Turtle felt the world on his back through it all as he pressed down upon his brothers and sisters and little cousins all below him all holding up the world all smaller–bigger–fatter. There were talkers, and snorers, and wigglers and whiners; it was turtles, all the way down.
The Turtle was born around the time the spoon was invented. In fact the first words he ever heard trickle down from the world above were ‘you just dip it into the soup and pull it back out.’
The Turtle had never seen a spoon. Once, before he was born, someone dropped something called a goblet, which his father always described in great detail.
‘It hit me right on the head!’ his father would call down, ‘sat there for a hundred years, couldn’t see a thing!’
It was a magical story. The Turtle hadn’t heard it’s like, but he planned to. He waited. The world grew louder and louder and all the greats and great-greats and those above began to grow agitated and cranky. Eventually even The Turtle ‘s father would no longer tell the story of the infamous goblet.
One day while the turtles above and the turtles below whined and griped about things they’d all started referring to as ‘booms’ The Turtle slipped away and swam up to the world’s edge. He climbed up and rolled out into the sun. Then he began to walk. He was the size of an elephant and it wasn’t long before the world took notice of him. It was a man–one at first, and then a village. They asked the turtle if it wouldn’t mind carrying their village to a nearby valley. The turtle, knowing the villagers to be much lighter than just his mother alone, accepted on one condition, they show him a spoon.
So, they did. They showed him an elegantly carved wooden spoon, a hundred years old, never used. The Turtle eyed it suspiciously and decided, “no, that is not a spoon.”
But, the villagers had already loaded themselves and their things into a great big suitcase on his back so he agreed to take them as long as they promised to show him a real spoon once they arrive in their new home. They agreed and the turtle carried them. It was not a long journey and they soon arrived in the next valley and found a town full of people. They were starving and they told the turtle that the land was no longer fit to live. They asked the turtle if he would carry them too over the next mountain. The turtled, realizing that they certainly couldn’t weigh more than a few aunts and uncles, agreed on one condition; that they show him a spoon. The townsfolk, with no food and an excess of spoons, agreed. They brought hundreds of spoons to the turtle and laid them out.
The Turtle eyed them suspiciously and decided, “no, those are not a spoons.”
But, the townsfolk had already loaded themselves and their things into the great big suitcase on his back so he agreed to take them as long as they promised to show him a real spoon once they arrive in their new home.
On the other side of the mountain they found a city, war-torn and dying. The turtle once again agreed to take them too on his back as they were no heavier than a dozen or so turtles. And again, they brought him spoons and again he did not believe them to be spoons. So, the turtle walked with the suitcase on his back until it was full of everything in the world but spoons. At the very end of the earth he found an old man with a stick who was sitting on a block of ice. By this point the turtle was very tired and he could feel that the “booms” had begun inside the suitcase on his back.
The old man on the block of ice was very cold and asked the Turtle if he might come inside the suitcase so that the turtle could take him somewhere nice and new. The turtle, who’d grown cynical and suspicious told the man that he could only come into the suitcase if he showed the Turtle a spoon. The old man, looked out at the trail of spoons behind the turtle and frowned. But he was a very wise man and so he took his stick and held it up to the turtle.
“This is a spoon,” he told the turtle and then dipped the stick into the water and pulled it back out, as you might a spoon.
At this, the turtle was so over-joyed that he fell, rolling onto his back and never could quite manage to get back up.