Here is the story I just mentioned below. I hope I don’t get in too much trouble by posting it. The author is Peter Ward Brown and he is quickly becoming my favorite super-short story writer.
KIMBALL DRIVES HOME.
Kimball cruises up the left lane swift past the long line of cars waiting to turn onto the highway. At the light, he moves into the right lane and presses forth over the bridge. This is how to play the rush—key lane changes at the exact right moment and place. Left lane is fastest to the bridge, right lane is fastest over it. Kimball’s in a groove now, a model of efficiency and speed, informed movement and power. He is a man on the move, a man who knows how to play the rush. Barring some jackass cutting him off, he’s home in 20 minutes on heavy days, 15 on light. Kimball is a man who watches his minutes closely. He is an engineer. His life is one of precision.
Except at home, where the kids are involved. They take after their mother, meaning they’re all over the map and reveling in imprecision. They say things wrong. They remember things wrong. Good God, the other day the girl sang the “Inky Dinky Spider” instead of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” This is one of Kimball’s children? Child of a man who can get across the bridge in 20 minutes in a heavy rush? How? How?
For the record, Kimball notes that he loves his kids and his wife too. He loves them and provides for them and takes care of them in clear, precise ways. He has accepted that his family is one of those challenging, never-ending projects, replete with shifting variables, scope creep, budget cuts, top-down directives. He loves the kids, sure, but sometimes, hell, you know, they just never let up. Just once, just once in his life Kimball wants to make a plan involving his wife and kids and see it to flawless execution. This is his waking dream.
His night dreams are less prosaic. He finds himself in prison often, or sometimes a waiting room. No one ever says anything right. They call him Kimbrell or Kimbo, but never Kimball. Moving his arms and legs is slow and difficult, as his mind is dull and tired. He’s been ass-fucked in his dreams, and it has left him speechless and imprecise. Kimball does not sleep well. Kimball just makes do.
Kimball’s wife wants him to go to therapy. There’s a laugher. She can’t say anything right, but he’s got to go to therapy? He’ll go as soon as she learns to say things right. Otherwise, the idea of it sets Kimball seething and silent. It’s like being ass-fucked, he thinks.
Kimball goes to therapy. The therapist is a well-meaning man with a curly brown beard and a club foot that he rests on a little stool as they talk. He tells Kimball there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to say things right (damn straight), but that sometimes, too, there’s a need for some slack in life. Kimball nods. He half-listens. He is looking at a painting behind the therapist’s curly, bearded head. It is abstract, yellow and blue and red and green blotches of color blending in, and exploding.
“A former client did it,” says the therapist. “He duct taped the canvas to a heavy bag—you know, for boxing—then he’d dip his boxing gloves in paint and smack away at it.”
Kimball nods and says “Neat.” He imagines himself throwing these punches at the imprecise world, battering it with yellow hooks and red jabs, blue uppercuts and green crosses. This buoys him, somehow, makes him feel like he is in a dream, a dream that he is torn from with alarm and fear when he hears his own voice speaking.
“In my dreams, I get ass-fucked,” his voice says.
The therapist nods.