By Mike Dorman
He did, of course, know when it had happened. Which is to say he had no clue precisely when. It had occurred, not at one decisive turning point, but over the course of days, insidiously, the awareness of it growing slowly, like how spring does not bloom suddenly but rather imperceptibly crosses a critical mass until its clear the season has finally, and inexorably, shifted. In this way did Mark realize he, too, had grown old.
Thirty-six. The idea rumbled around in his head, didn’t seem right, like how those psychos convinced their leg or arm didn’t really belong to them must have felt. Thirty-six? Not him. He didn’t feel a day over twenty-five: Lord knew he still had all the insecurities, despite a happy marriage, and despite all the signs of Nadine’s fidelity—chief among them “Leo”, barely even recognizable as a teddy bear after 40 + years of snuggling, and still squished beside her head every night.
And he hated that he cared, hated the cliché, but there it was, regardless his repression, regardless his denial: those options he enjoyed at twenty-five, that sense of owning the world, of conquering his professional life, of finally embodying All That Potential? He wasn’t going to live up to any of it. Yet still worst of all was the possibility that he just might.
Amir had been right: sometimes having hope was worse than the alternative (and if he was so right about this, why not other things? Maybe all those women Amir passed really were looking at him sexually).
Such were Mark’s thoughts as he crossed the parking lot, the Audis and Mercedes and BMWs glittering in the sun and looking out of place before the two-floor rise of corrugated aluminum that looked more like a manufacturing plant than Mulheim’s most upscale gym and further proof that Germany’s industrial heartland, after being bombed beyond distinction in the second war, had rebuilt not with beauty in mind, but sheer function.
The grunts and sibilance of clay court volleys drifted through the mesh screen, walking with him, so to speak, along the path separating the indoor courts from the outdoor ones to where a terracotta boulder rested like a pleasant coincidence before two bike racks in full bloom. Resting on a tile of clipped lawn just before the entrance, the rock had been sliced diagonally down the middle, the exposed surface then adorned with metal letters in Copperplate Gothic, a font Mark had always appreciated; sure beat the hell out of that schoolhouse Sans Comic every Klaus, Karl, and Heinrich used when advertising their landscaping ventures (did they not have Word? There were some real decent templates these days).
Which brought him to his own flyer. He frowned at the close-up of the coffee mug, knowing there would be mistakes in the German—Nadine had not been home to consult—and wondered if he should have printed in color after all. No, he thought, reminding himself this was just a rough draft, a visual aid, a conversation starter really.
In the hallway, Jr. Tennis champions smiled at passersby from plaques, and though it was dimmer than outside, it was strangely warmer—not only due to Germany’s lack of AC culture but also because, in the back corner of the repurposed tennis shop, the pizza oven was currently glowing a cozy, furnace orange.
Mark wiped his brow and squinted into the gloom. The room smelled like cork, and though not much larger than an average kitchen, had been creatively and efficiently and—dare I say?—boldly utilized, replete with two slim picnic tables that one, in theory, could eat on, though Mark couldn’t recall a time he had seen a customer. The walls were covered in what had at first appeared to be the chalk scribblings of a madman, but proved, upon pupils’ adjustment, nothing more sinister than the handwritten menu displayed on the blackboards now acting as wall panels.
After contemplating the chalk message above the table that read, No, we don’t have WiFi: talk to each other! Mark called into the darkness. “Hello?”
The figure before the oven had his arms spread on the countertop as if he needed the support after having just downed a third shot of tequila. Though pudgy, his spot atop the raised dais momentarily transformed that fact, making him seem more bullish than squat, his baldness more thuggish than regrettable.
“Uh,” Mark tried again after his greeting went unnoticed, or, more likely, ignored, “I’m here. As we agreed?”
“Yes, yes take a seat.” He indicated one of the steel stools screwed to the floor before him. “Would you like a drink?”
“Pardon?” Though Mark’s German was at the point where people no longer commented on how good it was, this guy spoke fast.
“Something to drink?” He said, just as fast. “An apple spritzer? A coke? A beer?”
“…just a water, please.”
After walking back from the fridge and uncapping the bottle in a drawn-out ceremony that Mark’s inability to chit-chat in German made seem even longer, the man poured the water in a Koenig Pilsner beer glass and slid it across the fabricated wood. Through all this, Mark chastised himself for not knowing (a) something witty to say and (b) if said witticism would not rather be taken, in a German context, as insecurity. One thing his six years in Mulheim had taught: Germans could endure awkward silences far longer than an American.
“You brought something?” His chin indicated Mark’s lap.
“Uh…yeah.” Mark’s hand very nearly raced after the snatched-up flyer like it was his lover leaving on the train. “It’s just a rough draft.”
The bull-man brought the paper under his nose and for a moment, Mark wondered if he might smell it, feeling all the while like an open wound as the man’s eyes tripped over what he could only assume were mistakes.
He’s excited about the idea, Nadine had said. He’s super nice, she had said. Once again, Mark was having a completely different experience, a fact he attributed to his lack of big breasts and toned, female figure. He couldn’t count the times he’d watched grins and twinkling eyes mutate into malice the moment Nadine brought him over to meet another “really nice guy”. Once, an old cowboy with an eye patch didn’t even bother to return his handshake, just went on flirting in his whisky-slurred speech as if he wasn’t even there.
“English coffee,” the man nodded at last. “I like it.”
“So…you’re interested?” Mark wondered not for the first time if this meeting was going well. Both the idea and push were Nadine’s, and so Mark, rather than hoping for the immediate partnership before him, found himself daydreaming of that life changing email again, the one with the positive response to his query, the one with the book deal.
It’s not that he was afraid of work, or that he didn’t like teaching. He did. In fact, up until a week ago, he had imagined himself on the next rung of that career, right up until FOM offered him only one class for the fall semester, which didn’t make sense, because hadn’t his professor ratings been near perfect? Last semester, his third at FOM, he’d needed to turn down courses, which had given him the now clearly misguided audacity to imagine full-blown employment. Sorry, Herr Brewer, we must offer courses to our full-time professors first. Of course we are very happy with your work here and look forward to seeing you this fall.
Career path? A freelance English trainer was no career, that much was clear, right along with his worth—six years of experience wasn’t getting any callbacks, further proof of the saturation the recent influx of student travellers had placed on a market willing to pay low wages to any idiot, so long as they were a native speaker. So here he was, peddling his services at his gym, conjuring a dormant entrepreneurial spirit just so he could gain work he didn’t even really want.
“Yes, in principle, I am interested. The idea of a language café is one that I’ve seen work before. As I explained to your wife, I have many tennis mothers who come and wait here while their kids take lessons.” To Mark’s despair, the man stored the flyer (it was just a rough draft!) in a pile behind the counter. “Do you know Kirsten Jones? No? She goes to Sporting as well, is also an American. Well, if there is a person to talk to, she is the one. She runs her own language school—you really don’t know her? Networking. It’s all about networking. I will give this flyer to her, and ask around to see if there is any interest. Though, on your flyer you say 10 am? That could be too early.”
“It’s just a rough draft,” Mark explained again. “My idea was to keep this as simple as possible. I just wanted to offer—“
“—simple is good, simple is good.” The man bid Mark stop with show of palm. “I will talk to Kirsten. As I said, she runs her own language school, and is in contact with the Dusseldorf Tennis Academy. Do you know of them? Well, they are responsible for an international youth camp during the summer, and Kirsten is coordinating with them because they have expressed interest in learning English, as there is a need for it when one gets into international competition. She wants the contract for the entire international tennis academy.”
Mark gulped his remaining water. Had this been an English conversation, he would have steered it accordingly, made a case for his original plan of just advertising the idea and seeing if anyone showed. Instead he said, “Sounds really interesting.”
“I will give her your flyer.” The man stared at the counter. “I’m not making any promises.”
As Mark hopped off the stool and walked up the stairs separating Sporting from the tennis club, he considered it was probably a bad sign he hadn’t gotten the guy’s name.
He stumbled on the path, the darkness abruptly disturbed by a distant light that bloomed against the ridge ahead and made it seem that the bearded face yelling something incomprehensible at him had no eyes.
Light eradicated shadow and all contour of the man’s face, and he realized it was Dad. “It’s Wodan! It’s Freja!” Dad jostled his shoulders and jabbed a finger overhead. “They’ve come! Don’t you see? They’ve come to test us!”
The next rumble knocked father into son, both falling against a boulder and collapsing to the ground. He crawled forward, his fingers suddenly appearing amidst the grass as the next fireball in the sky sent shadows rushing from the valley ahead.
In an instant they were gone, darkness melting from the ridges to again complete the night.
“Are you alright?” She stood, her lightning-colored gown translucent and billowing about the fields, her face high above like a lighthouse. When the next flare waned, she was closer to earth, her face lined in scratchboard-sharp shadows.
He crashed to knees. “Do you forgive me?”
When her brow furrowed, he soared through its grass-tipped ridges, weaving in the air until the next sudden flare flattened her brow a milky white. “Don’t you see?” She shined like a saint on the path ahead. “The gods are coming back!”
Frightened, he backed away, ran, batting grass walls aside. When he opened his mouth to yell into the darkness, it came to him that he had forgotten who he was searching for.
“Over here!” From within a cave, diamonds gleamed, growing until they appeared within the face that the next swell of light revealed. All around Dad, grass-trees gamboled, their lengths limned in the same shimmer of the object which he raised from his waist. Swimming atop the wooden surface, ribbons of light illuminated the photo of boy-Dad beaming as he hugged a trophy half his size. The light ebbed to spotlight the engraving screwed to the bottom: Singles Jr. Champion, Southeastern Regionals 1963.
Dad reached from the darkness and patted his shoulder. “So long as you’ve got your plaque, they can’t harm you!”
But I don’t have my plaque, he couldn’t scream.
“I am telling you, women are never wanting to be equal. They are all the same, they want to be taken care of. It is inside of them. It is…” The driver side of Amir’s car—or, to be precise, his wife’s company car—filled up with a chalk-white vape cloud that streamed around his boyish face. Propelling his e-cigarette in the air like an Italian’s hand, more smoke accompanied the completion of his thought, “…biological. Think of it, do you think you would be behaving the same to her if she did not earn as much as you? You think it is okay she travels to Hamburg to see her friends and not let you do the same?”
“If it’s with her own money…” Mark shrugged. “Look, I—my generation—we were raised to believe that boys and girls are equal. I mean, not everyone. Where I grew up, in Utah…look, I was never that kind of guy who was gonna grab a girl by the arm and say, ‘come, we’re eating here, and I’m ordering you the shrimp’, but, yeah, I mean, the conservative of us still think men should rule the home. Some of those Utah girls wanted to be bossed around.”
“You see?” Amir said, “It is not only cultural. It is your personality. Your Dad was probably weak too, did whatever your Mom told him to. Just like you and Nadine.”
“Maybe you’re right.” Mark wondered if it was okay to sponsor people you didn’t really like. “Anyway, what did you need to talk about?”
“Did I offend you?”
“No. Look, I just got to get home, is all. Dagobert’s alone. But I’m happy to talk about what’s bothering you.”
“I did offend you. Look, it is okay if you are weak, it’s no problem. Everyone is different. Me?” His fingers spread across his clavicle. “That would be a deal-breaker! If my wife ever bossed me around just because she earns more money than me? It is such a turn-off. Right now, she wants to go to this fancy hotel in Greece, 5000 euros for 5 days. What do I need this fancy shit for? She tells me, Amir, it is my money, let me spend it for you on a nice holiday, but I said no! First of all, it is our money, not yours, and I will not let you waste it.”
“You and your wife are fighting again?”
“It is only about Salma. If you want to fuck up your life, that is fine. Go do it. But don’t mess with my daughter’s future.” For a moment, the steering wheel became his wife’s neck, and his knuckles went white. “She is so weak when it comes to Salma. I demanded that in this one instance, she do what I want—she knows herself this is the right thing—but she is…she is lazy. She comes home from work and would rather give Salma some chocolate than deal with her tantrums.”
“You’re mad because she gave your daughter chocolate?”
“Children do not need these gummy bear bullshit things! They are not even aware of them until we give them to them.” He exhaled another milky cloud. “The only thing I expect is that my wife care about Salma’s health. I do not want her getting addicted to candy and the stupid IPads. I don’t want her being like all these other stupid kids who cannot sit still for two seconds.”
That up until a year ago Amir had smoked cocaine while driving with Salma strapped in her child’s seat, Mark neglected to point out. “You mentioned in there you feel rock-bottom inside?”
“I am fine.” A cloud emerged from his lips as he repeated, “I am fine.”
“Well, which is it? A moment ago you shared how terrible you felt, even though all your external circumstances look so wonderful.”
“I don’t understand.” Amir growled at the ceiling. “I read the Quran, I pray, I do my religious thing. I have slipped on looking at women, but I have not masturbated in over a year.”
The church hulked outside the rear window, looking more and more sinister as the daylight waned. Beneath the wheel window, seated on the steps leading from the arched, wooden doors, two more from their group were engaged in conversation, the seriousness of which was made evident by the frequency and intensity of cigarette drags. Over his ten years of sobriety, such juxtapositions of the sacred and profane had become commonplace, and not often unnoticed. Mark had heard plenty of slogans, too, and one struck him now: churches have become houses for the holy, instead of what they should be: hospitals for the sick.
“You’ve tried to stop cocaine on religious observance before, right?”
“Religion is what I do to avoid hell,” Amir said. “And I use it to overcome my bad impulses.”
“Did it help you stop using cocaine?” Mark didn’t wait for the answer. “Because, why else come to AA? Why supplement it if it worked so well?”
Amir’s brow crashed on the steering wheel. “What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re doing it on your own will,” said Mark. “It’s all about humility. I mean, I like to think I’m past coming to these meetings, but, when I accept I have to, when I accept—humbly—that I got an addiction…it gets easier, man. That’s the whole crazy thing about all this: we don’t do our program because of—God only knows why—and all we’re doing is robbing ourselves of happiness. Look, prayer and Quran is great and all, but I think your hiding behind religion again.”
“I have slipped on my program.” Amir conceded. “I no longer write a gratitude list every day. I don’t call you, my sponsor. I tell myself I’m too busy to go to meetings.”
“See how tricky the ego is? It uses religion to prop itself up as holy, doing its typical checklist/trophy thing by ticking off religious observances, all the while trying to do things all by itself, without any help from God!” Mark shrugged. “No wonder you’re having control issues.”
“Control issues?” Amir pushed out his lower jaw as he did when thinking. “It is just good parenting that I don’t want Salma to eat unhealthy. Why should she become addicted to sugar when I have the power to keep her from ever eating it?”
“Why are you mad at your wife?”
Amir held the mouthpiece just before his lips. “Because she is lazy and doesn’t follow through on what we agreed to.”
“So you’re mad at her for not doing what she needs to?”
“Kind of like how you’re slipping on your program?” Mark grinned. “Hey, its totally common to project what we hate about ourselves on other people. Just…I mean, you think your wife’s giving 90 percent in regards to Salma?”
“Is she giving 90 percent with your daughter,” Mark said, “or you think she’s trying her hardest?”
They both jumped at the knock on the window, though only Mark relaxed once it could be seen it was Roland. The best dressed as usual in a white Oxford shirt that complimented his recent tan, Roland waved affably—and, yes, daintily—goodbye as he climbed into his Mercedes.
“I am telling you, it is a cultural disease.” Amir’s lip curled as he watched Roland’s car reverse. “We do not have these homosexuals in Egypt. It is not right. It makes me uncomfortable being in the room with him.”
“Alright, I’m going.” Mark didn’t feel like going down this road again, and Dagobert was home alone. He paused before shutting the door. “Remember: its just like that reading we had in there: humility really might solve most of our problems.”
As he watched Amir whirr away in his wife’s Volvo, Mark chastised himself for feeling unduly perspicuous. Whatever help he was able to offer Amir had come from his Higher Power, and not from some past reading of Carl Jung. Besides, as was usually the case in this vexing AA program, the doling out of advice only revealed one’s own deficiencies. Because, the truth was, he hadn’t talked to his own sponsor in months. The truth was, he’d quit believing in the validity of his inner voice, because, if writing truly was what he was supposed to be doing, shouldn’t he have more to show for it by now?
Maybe it was time to grow up. Maybe it was time to give up on this stupid dream, to stop spending all that energy writing stories nobody read. It was time to put away childish things, time to be responsible, time to finally start providing.
Huddled together like puzzle pieces, the stained glass shards bloomed various colors, the halo atop the crucified savior shining brightest of all, its golden hue increasing in intensity until each pie-shaped slice of the wheel-window burst apart.
As the world receded from that prismatic point, he realized in horror it was only the blink of the beast’s eye.
Wind tossed about as he gaped at the sky, paralyzed as he was by the illuminated, wing beast that hovered above. Head shaped like a goat, the beast spread its rainbow-colored wings from its furry torso as, not unkindly, it stared back at him.
His back slammed the ground.
“Don’t look at the gods!” Dad’s legs pinned him to the ground as his hyena eyes twinkled in the darkness above. “Come. We must hurry! I’ve kept all the plaques at home.”
Dad helped him to feet and, after two steps, he was in the back of the Ford Explorer, the click-click of the emergency lights all he registered, overdosed as he was, high on enough cough and cold pills to kill a high-school senior. Dad looked back, all the decades and dementia stripped away, his face twisted in concern and all the more youthful for it. “Don’t worry, we’ll get the plaque.”
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I always thought you were a loser! I condemned you, hated you for being a failure…but you loved me. All you wanted was the best for me. And now you’re gone! Gone! I’m so sorry!”
Outside, the headlights grazed over wind-tossed grass crawling like seaweed atop the darkness. Dad jumped out and bounded up the hill towards the distant lighthouse, fireballs illuminating the coastline that stood poised like so many Irish suicides above the surf-smashed boulders.
The lighthouse took two for every step they rushed towards it, growing larger even as it shrunk, its cupola backlit by the Milky Way come closer to Earth for just such an occasion.
Dad shouldered the entry and the door crashed against their first home’s hallway. “It’s just down here.” Rushing past his brother playing Nintendo in the living room, Dad paused before the door leading to the garage.
He floated past Dad like a phantom, gasoline asphyxiating as he searched the shelves of half-inflated floats and sleeping bags for his plaque. The door opened and he could breath again; gasping, he glanced at his brother draped in the doorframe boasting he had just beaten Bowser.
The world shook. When it stopped, a dent in the shape of a giant fist was visible on the garage door.
“Got your plaque, James?”
“You know it.” His brother held up the proof, his grin matching the boy’s on the photo who pointed towards a painting of a cat hanging on a gallery wall.
The garage again trembled, wrenches falling from perforated walls.
The door leading to the kitchen rattled. Mark glanced at his hands, but only saw his shoes where he hoped to find the plaque. More banging, more rattling. He glanced up, and the door now had a fissure where golden light leaked through.
“They’re here!” Dad shouted. “The gods are returned!”
The fist again pounded the garage door.
As the Landstrasse meandered along the glowing wheat-fields, Mark reminded himself why he was driving out to Jonathan’s. Because a phone call hasn’t sufficed of late, because the action takes me out of my head, because I’ve never solved a problem by thinking my way out of it. Honestly, he didn’t believe any of these platitudes anymore—he presently hated the dime store wisdom—which was precisely why he was scared enough to drive an hour and a half out of his way on a weekday just to hear what he already knew Jonathan would say.
And that would be how expectations of the future got in the way of happiness-in-the-now, how writing was a part of his sobriety, that all that energy spent on soothing the craving was now freed-up for creativity. He would insist Mark enjoy the ride.
Wasn’t that just the thing about this spirituality business? If hopes panned out, it was God’s will, and if they didn’t, hey, that was God’s will, too, the necessary tempering of the soul for its Next Great Purpose. While a pinch of doubt might go with the territory, questioning was arrogance—God’s ways remained ever impenetrable.
For a while, he’d found Tim Tebow inspiring—not that he was going to advertise Philippians 4: 13 on his eye black or anything, but, if a Higher Power had helped Mark kick heroin, why not other things?
Now, however, after some years sober, he could look life square in the eye, could see that sometimes it sucked. No magical thinking of better days or some Great Destiny needed. He had tried some directions, and not all of them had panned out. Why beat himself up for playing in that church-plant’s worship band? Why be embarrassed of that date with the pastor’s daughter—at least the disaster had shown him he could never fit in with the churched.
He walked up the driveway, mentally sang. Oh it’s so disarming darling, everything we did believe, is diving, diving, diving, off the balcony.
After ditching the Christians, he tried the Eckhart Tolles and other distillers of Eastern Wisdom—their worldviews being better attuned to the multi-cultural, every day—and had meditated with all the fervor of one who might reach Enlightenment with the next, conscious breath. Yet, for all his hopes of integrating rationality with faith, of bringing the awareness the 12 steps had gifted him to society at large, he finally realized spirituality could never be “cool”. Sure, yoga might be trendy, and “mindful” tech-geeks who talked of flow-states increasingly the norm, but while hipster culture might tolerate a serial adulterer finding Enlightenment and remaining unchanged, Mark thought awakening entailed some qualitative change, some fruits of the spirit.
So he’d denounced the Autobiography of a Yogi as eloquently written hyperbole, and, after seeing India for himself, denounced Hinduism as primitive drum banging at painted statues. For that matter, why did post-moderns have so little issue with burning sage but were so cynical about exorcism?
In any case, he had dumped his fair share of worldviews, so why not this stubborn notion of becoming a published writer as well?
Because you’ve dreamed this even before you used to get high.
That inner voice was persistent, he’d give it that.
Thigh quivering, he withdrew his phone in hopes of finding that email requesting the rest of his manuscript. It was Nadine. Of course. Who else WhatsApped him?
Nico said you never came by again.
The guy from the café! Your possible business partner! No wonder he doesn’t want to—
The door opened to a flush-faced Jonathan, his chest free of shirt and glistening in sweat. “You found it.” Being English, Jonathan showed little excitement, a fact Mark had learned not to take personally. He wasn’t wearing his oversized, thick-framed lenses, drawing attention both to his eyes’ tininess and the skin that fell away like melting wax to his disheveled beard. A heavy-breathing object brushed past his jeans and onto the portico.
“This must be, uh…” Had Jonathan told him the name? “Your new dog. It’s pretty. What’s the breed again?”
“A Weimaraner.” Jonathan rubbed the dog’s neck. “He keeps me busy.”
“I remember when you were still scared of the commitment of a dog.”
“That’s right, you’ve a dog as well.” Jonathan scratched at his head. “A…gray hound, right?”
“That’s right. A girl?”
“Boy.” Mark glanced up from his massaging of the Weimaraner’s neck. “Name’s Dagobert.”
“Well, I was just at a sit down for some tea. I can’t remember if you take yours with milk.” When compounded with his shoulder-length hair and unkempt beard, Jonathan’s slenderness made him appear all the more crazy, a fact which neither his shirtless torso nor tiger-print Chuck Taylor’s did anything to ameliorate. Yet, despite all appearances to the contrary, he was as English as the teatime he never skipped.
Mark already felt better. If this dude could manage 20 + years sober, then, well, surely he could. As he’d never been to Jonathan’s before, he inhaled every detail as he followed him to the kitchen. The low ceilings typical of German Altbau made the rooms seem squat, and the few windows created a dearth of natural light fully appropriate against the hallway’s bulging, mahogany carapace. Mark, peaking through a doorframe, found the IKEA furnishings offensive to the elaborate carpentry, though the living room’s leather sofa and Victorian writing table better matched the house’s soul. Surprisingly—and disappointingly—not a single piece of Jonathan’s, either painted or sculpted, was on display.
After Mark had twice declined tea (yes, he was sure), he fired off his grievances, Jonathan listening without interruption and with a floral-patterned mug poised before lips.
“You could work out a budget with Nadine.” Jonathan shrugged. “Come to an agreement so you could save up same money, if that’s what you wanted, and go on your own trips.”
The idea was nice, but Mark avoided the exact figures for a reason: already, his end of the month contributions felt like throwing pebbles in the ocean of debt he could never repay Nadine. The future might have been now—hard to escape the fact Jonathan and Amir both had breadwinning partners—but Nadine expected fifty-fifty on the mortgage: after all, she already paid all the groceries and vacations.
“Do you think I should keep writing?”
“What do you think?”
“C’mon, don’t do that!” Face crashed on palms, Mark suddenly lifted his gaze towards Jonathan. “You know, this would never work as a story.”
“Not sure I follow.”
“There’s no resolution!” Mark exclaimed. “It’s fine to compare life to a book and all, but…what if the next chapter never comes? You say just keep writing, enjoy the journey, but, in a story, that doesn’t work as a resolution. Okay, maybe in literary fiction, but who reads that crap anymore?”
“What would resolve it?”
“In the story I’d like to live? I get a book deal.” His hands whisked together. “Conflict solved. Catapulted into the next chapter.”
Dents popped around the garage-paper-bag from all sides.
“Got it!” Gathering the plaque from the trash pile, his smile died prematurely. “What?”
“It’s got a crack in it.”
Terrified, he saw that Dad was right. Beginning from the top corner, a crack split the wood, very nearly cutting the same red ribbon strung before a Starbucks his photo self was smiling before.
“What do I do?!”
Fear in their eyes, Dad and brother backed away as if he were contagious. Plaster rained on their shaking heads as a colossal fist pounded the ceiling.
“Help me!” He screamed. “I don’t know what to do!”
Above, a pool of brilliant light appeared in the middle of the ceiling, and, choice-less, he joined it, staring suddenly at his own, stupid-gazing-self holding the plaque below.
In an instant, he returned to his body, more courageous if not fearless. He would just have to meet the gods.
The door leading to the kitchen jostled on its hinges, golden light banging behind, scrambling to get in.
Ankle-deep in souvenirs that shined like silver, he approached the door. His hand stretched for the knob. Before his finger reached it, the knob twisted of its own accord—turned from the other side—and, ready or not, the door rushed open.
Light flooded the room.
About the Author:
Mike Dorman is an American ex-patriot who runs his own English training business for corporate clients in Germany. After a near-death scrape in 2009, he embarked, fear of failure and all, on his lifelong dream of publishing novels. He is working on the third installment of his YA fantasy series, currently seeking representation for the first book, and much prefers coffee over tea.