Control

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Eight

 

The postman nailed a note on my front door. The box out by the road was frozen shut.  He couldn’t deliver. I had to do something about it. I didn’t do nothing about it. 

I saw envelopes had been tossed on the ground outside where I’d thrown rock salt and a slush puddle had formed. Then it was the coldest night of the year, froze it all. Then what?

What I shouldn’t have done was what I did, chop the mailbox off its post, drag it into the kitchen, but that’s what I did. Thawed it out in the sink while I drank my drink in the same clothes as yesterday as yesterday as yesterday as yesterday.  

Inside the mailbox, I found a surprise. The Hawaiian shirt I’d given Sadie, returned to sender. Little glowing volcanos. The get well card was in the pocket, with a personal message, You’re good man, don’t ever doubt it. 

Of course I’m going to doubt it, Sadie. I was born to doubt it.

 

i wrote a book called Killing Donald Barthelme. i didn’t mean to. i didn’t really mean to write a book. what I wanted was to reveal my darkest secrets and in turn receive applause. i wanted to write about one thing while actually writing about something else. i thought writing about how donald barthelme was bad would somehow set me free. but it turns out that when i told publishers i had a book about donald barthelme, they actually wanted a book about donald barthelme. and in the editing process they got rid of my winks and nudges to the reader: they reduced the book to what it said it was. and it came out. it was advertised though not reviewed in the new york review of books. my mom called and said dad was sick. i said, “what kind of sick?” mom said, “i don’t know, sick. the doctor wants to see him for another test. it’s probably nothing…” i said, “should i call him?” she said, “no, no. he doesn’t know i’m calling you. i don’t think he wants you to know, he doesn’t want you to worry.” i said, “do you want me to worry, mom?” then she cried and said, “shit. lorenzo. no. i don’t want you to worry. what are you even trying to say? you think i like this? you think i’m happy?” i said sorry but was thinking, “none of this is supposed to happen.” i published a book. after you publish a book, you’re an author, not a person and you don’t have to handle people problems anymore. after i published my book my mom wasn’t supposed to call me at all. my dad was supposed to send me hand-written notes saying, “congratulations, son. i’m proud of you.”

Self

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Seven

 

On the rush to the hospital we detoured for cigarettes and I locked the keys to the Chrysler in the ignition while the Chrysler was running.

You can’t go anywhere without cigarettes. You can’t. I don’t care. If somebody had shot me in the head and not Margaret, I’d have asked the EMTs to pitstop at the 7-Eleven to get me smokes. Okay?

Okay. I was drunker than I’d ever been coming out of the store. Sadie and I had been trying to set a personal best/worst/best. And I was high too. I could have been anybody. I tried the door handle and realized my error. Everything has always been an error with me. Well, whoever I was, I’ve been a lot of people since my mother died. Whoever I was, all I’ve ever done is fuck up.

The Editor

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Six

 

The editor rushed into the mold-reeking business center, up the stairs, past the massage therapist, past the office full of young people making cold calls, selling extended vehicle warranties. 

His shiny shoes sunk into the filthy carpet. He wore new dress pants and a dress shirt. His hair was slicked back. He carried an Armani briefcase in his left hand. 

He was late for an editorial meeting. 

Out of the two thousand submissions, some lucky winner would receive $10,000 and receive publication in the novel you’re reading right here.

 

Cum hitting the psoriasis on my elbow made my elbow sting. His ex had psoriasis too, maybe that was his type. I found out she had psoriasis from her blog and I’d scrolled through the entire blog all the way back to the beginning. I asked him to say goodbye to me before he went to work but he didn’t, he left the room quickly when his alarm went off and didn’t return. I had work later in the day at my new job. I hated it but also I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. I never managed to find one I didn’t hate, I just fantasized about getting into a car accident and being able to sue someone or else starting a petting zoo with my ex-boyfriend as a way to make money instead.

Blank

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Five

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Four

 

Why do people write stories? Because they’ll die soon, that’s why. Why do people read stories? Because they’re alive, for now, that’s why.

The editor was overwhelmed. Submissions poured in. Another 2000 words about someone’s grandma dying, $20 deposited into the account. By the end of the first week, a hundred stories a day.

The editor called me on the phone, “I don’t know what to do, man. I can’t keep up.” It was the middle of the day, I was in bed. The sun shined through the Venetian blinds.

“How many stories do we have now?”

“Over a thousand.”

“Well, it’ll get worse, just before we close.”

“I need help.”

“I’d love to help you pick a winner, Joey, but I’m on night shift. I’m in no condition.”

“Yeah. Okay. No worries.”

“Just batch select and reject them all. Send that form letter I sent you.”

The form letter said this:

 

Yo, thanks for sending your story about your grandma dying to the Good Luck novel. We got a lot of stories about a lot of people’s grandmas dying, and regret that there is no place in the larger work for the death of your specific grandma. Much Respect, The Editor.

Good Luck

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Three

 

The garbageman was at his kitchen window, looking out. I’m all alone, and I am the Devil, and I am misunderstood. 

He was like everybody I ever knew, everything I ever knew, an island, ashamed for some abstract reason.

Little birds swooped out of the trees and landed in a gang on his lawn, pecking at the grass seed. Each bird in competition with the next.

The man was zoned out, thinking of a way to throw himself in the garbage. But then he snapped out of it, saw the birds, heads bobbing, beaks snapping at his grass seed. Sparrows. Hopping and fluttering and eating.

He opened the window, leaned out and yelled. But the window was loose and fell down on his neck and now he was yelling at God, trying to yank the window up.

 

After a couple of incidents I got a reputation as someone who couldn’t look after kids properly. Bad things tended to happen. I had no explanation for it. 

I could have made more from the menial work the agencies offered, but that wasn’t the point. I liked to take the bus over to the other side of the lake, the parliament side, where my mother worked when she wasn’t sick. She was a night cleaner at the National Library and a day cleaner in people’s homes. I told people she worked in personnel. 

Here, the houses were nicer and the children were easier to handle. Their parents were embassy staff, museum board chairs, firm partners, acting-directors. During the summer, magistrates had heart attacks on the jogging paths. Now it was winter and the gardens were humble with frost. 

Finishing their homework was simple and graceless. I was allowed to declare which rules were unimportant. I told them whatever facts came to me, and they would listen,as long as I called them whatever nicknames they wanted. 

‘Drinking sea water is disgusting and will drive you insane,’ I told Julie. 

‘Ok,’ said Julie. 

Their parents left me money in glass jars along with invitations to eat whatever I found.These people would let anybody into their home. 

Depending on their spirit, I would have to keep them from hurling themselves down a flight of stairs or visiting their eyeball with the burning plane of a hair-straightener. There were three of them and all came to harm. 

 

It was the early morning in Kabukicho. The sun was only just up and everything was weird and tinted blue. The breeze pushed a piss smell from the gutters. There were cigarette butts in puddles along the curb. I was alone in front of a Family Mart. I didn’t know why I was alone. The morning light continued to open the corners.

A group of prostitutes talked and smoked near some drink machines. They wore long, padded puffer coats, mom jeans and white running shoes. They always dressed like that. Like Midwestern moms from the early nineties. I never figured out why, but it was consistent. We thought they were Chinese, but who’s to say.

Two of the girls looked at me and laughed.

I tried to smile back, but my smile was a failure.

What’s so funny, I thought.

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-One

 

A cloud was born over the Cape of Good Hope. It was first seen at sunrise by an ostrich staring out at the ocean waves breaking on the rocks. The ostrich often stood watching at first light hoping to see the Flying Dutchman, a spectral ship full of the spirits of sailors damned forever to fight that rough current at the tip of Africa. The ostrich saw no ghost ship, only a solitary cloud hovering over the sea in fair weather, and was disappointed.

The new cloud said googoogaga, but it was so high up the ostrich couldn’t hear. The ostrich didn’t speak cloud anyway. The cloud rolled over in the sky and cried for its mother and father but it had no mother or father. It had been born by warm air rising and expanding in the atmosphere, which, after rising high enough, had frozen into ice crystals that’d bonded with dust and pollen. But the cloud didn’t know this. It looked around for its mother and father and, finding none, it panicked and cried. No tears came. It was so young and inexperienced, it didn’t know yet how to make rain.

 

i had a son over the weekend

 

i have a son and he’s three. he has chestnut hair. the thing is i just haven’t been fertilized yet. but once i am, once he’s born, and once it’s been three years, i’ll have a son who’s three.

 

I wake. I reach for my watch. I press the light button on the watch. I shut my eyes and try to fall asleep. I can’t. I get up. I sit on the toilet. I try to pee while I sit on the toilet. I brush my hair while I sit on the toilet. I wash my hands and brush my teeth. I dress. I go into the kitchen and prepare breakfast. I let the cat out. I let the cat in.

Karen

By Daisuke Shen

Short Story

 

One thing about Karen that you should know: she is a good person. Sure, she has her faults, like ordering catering for the office from Applebee’s. Even Steel wouldn’t eat it, and he usually eats everything.

 

Home Depot Harvey says when it comes to entryways you can’t go wrong with a pergola. The culturally appropriated East Asian architecture in rot-resistant cedar suggests a certain refinement of spirit, i.e. “Why, yes. I did read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college,” while simultaneously declaring, “Here is the front door. This way. Come inside. Relax.” I buy lumber and a DeWalt cordless framing gun and put them on VISA. Between my Chase and Alaska Airlines Mileage cards, my limit is $10,000. I haven’t been watching my purchases.

It’s Saturday. Lawnmowers cry from front and back yards. A house finch shoots out of an Oregon Grape and nearly kills me. I google “How to build a pergola” and watch a tutorial on YouTube. This is going to be trickier than Harvey let on.

Anne sticks her head out the window. “What are you doing, babe?”

“Pergola,” I say.