“The Remains” by Felicity Fenton

Earlier there was talk of explosion buttons and who might push them. Sidewalks, porches, begonias, all of it could come shaking down with one finger. It’s likely houses may sink low and soggy. Be prepared to swim. Make sure to store enough potable water, aspirin, and emergency blankets. Plan on there being no way out unless your fisted hands can punch through windows. Practice breathing in four counts. One, two, three, four. Strengthen your abdomen by gulping in sea air. Don’t confuse squirrels by ripping off their walnuts. You will need protein. Go ahead, eat shore clams.

Placards marched through school cafeterias and abandoned malls. Uproarious No’s shrieked everywhere. Votes were taken to adopt a leader. Ivy league. Old money. Tall. Broadcasts warned: toes, arms, and elbows will come off in lumpy drips. As a precautionary, use petroleum salve.

Drink aloe vera. Alternate the opening and closing of left and right nostrils by using the index finger and thumb. Caress canines before shooting them in the head.

It was confirmed, the button was scheduled to be pushed on a Wednesday, hump day, a day office workers considered easier than Tuesdays, but a day that still carried the heavy load of ongoing data entry, return on investments, and post-work body maneuvers such as pull-ups, back handsprings, and cyber football.

The leader’s assistant would be there to collect all melted remains, and on their way, would procure teeth whitener from the nearest luxury beauty market. There will not be a Christmas bonus this year, nor will there be Christmas, but the leader’s teeth would surely gleam.

Normalization attempts failed once the news was leaked. A busker plucked cello strings on a subway platform then took a shit in the outstretched palm belonging to an old lady handing over a quarter. Crows ignored street crumbs and instead rallied pigeons to fly south. Drive-through bank tellers dispensed stacks of hundreds. Grandparents waved goodbye from cruise ship decks. Below, orcas swarmed.

It happened one Wednesday in spring, an ordinary weather day, mostly sunny, warm enough to forgo a scarf. Six schoolgirls dressed in matching purple sneakers removed tennis rackets from their bags. A week before, they were crowned national champions. They celebrated both their victory and their ending with their parents, mostly registered voters who squabbled about their appointed leader while chewing down vanilla frosted cupcakes.

Vapors wafted into window seams. Tennis rackets clanked and spun between gasps. Fathers and mothers oozed into the grain of a dance floor they used to shimmy on. Toes melted. Arms melted. Elbows melted. Crows flew south.

Felicity Fenton’s stories and essays have been featured in Fanzine, Split Lip Press, Wigleaf, The Iowa Review, Pidgeonholes, and The Denver Quarterly (forthcoming). Her book, User Not Found was published by Future Tense Books in December, 2018. By day she works as a Creative Director and is also a Radio Host at Freeform Portland. She lives in Portland, Oregon.


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