Insomnolence

Charles Rafferty

I navigate the dark house by moving from the green star of the smoke detector to the blue star of the electric toothbrush. I am no different than Magellan or Marco Polo, I am guided by what burns. Some nights I step onto the back porch. The prow of it charges the blackness, while the stars above me sharpen and blur. Inside, I harbor the ache of what is no longer possible.

More by Charles Rafferty

Greetings

I counted the water towers, I counted the active smokestacks.
These were the breadcrumbs I thought would lead me back. Now
I know it’s possible to drive so far we forget why we left, that the
journey continues even after the car breaks down. I used to think
I had no message, but the message is me—bloodshot and hungry,
spilled coffee down the front of my shirt. People of the future,
gather round. I have traveled through ink to greet you.

Garden State Racetrack

When I was ten, the grandstand burned to the ground in the next town over. The black smoke galloped into the air right over our house, and ash the size of silver dollars began landing on the lawn. Later, when we heard what happened, we believed it was the smoke of horses, the smoke of our drunk fathers, the smoke of the money that would not feed us. I remember that the ash dissolved when I picked it up, that I had to scrub my hands twice to get rid of it. The following morning we would ride our bikes to make certain what had burned.

Forecast

Famous people have been dying all week, and the Christmas tree just stopped drinking. Talk about omens. It's impossible to get the venetian blinds to stay level anymore. Everywhere I look, people are running the errands they won't remember by this time tomorrow. I remember how, years ago, I had to cut the fishing line caught in the high branches beside the Mullica River, sacrificing the lure that put a kink in my neck as I hunched over my own lap to tie it. I fear my wife will decide to spend my last decade on earth with a better man. I fear I'll be a footnote to somebody else's grandeur. I fear I'll die as painfully as I deserve. One by one, the bulbs of the chandelier go dead above our dining room table. I wish I could say the coming dark was taking me by surprise.