The Hopes We Foster


Instinct was a prison.

Instinct was like a prison—

She didn’t care anymore, epiphany’s luster abated.

Dim, incandescent light reflected glossily off the orange-painted walls of her bedroom, outgrown. She crushed and railed another line, hoping her hands and mind would follow suit, but there was nothing to write anymore. The scent of soggy Autumn leaves melted through a single cracked window. What did it all mean? Would she sleep tonight?

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You’re Like Red

Sitting in a hospital room beside his brother, they watch The Shawshank Redemption on the miniature television in the corner. After Andy Dufresne tells Red that hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, he releases his brother’s hand, takes four steps, and shuts the television off. He sits back down. He tries to take his brother’s hand again, but he’s thinking too much now about the way it felt—cool, flappy, like some fish.

He stares at the television. “Crock of shit,” he says.

His wife sighs on the other side of the bed. “You’re unreasonable,” she says, her thumb caressing his brother’s forehead. “It comforts him,” she says, even though the doctor said there has been no brainwave recognition for three straight days.

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The Dynamic of Coincidence

Why am I here?

Because I have to be somewhere.

It’s all about coincidence. Everything in this great world exists because of the accidental pulling of a cosmic trigger.

Science believes the universe is in a constant state of flux, which is a scientific way of expressing change. And we are no less a part of the vast open space of bonded particles than is Jupiter or Mars, and we exist in the very same state of flux. When we run into an obstacle to this state of change, like the man standing in front of me holding a gun, it impedes our progress and we end up like a miniature Big Bang. We turn dark from being compressed and explode. Although, my potential Little Bang right now would more likely occur from a bullet and not compression of my ability to stay in flux.

“Give me your wallet,” he said.

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A Little Quiet

“I don’t know how you can stand all that bickerin’.”

Nora Casper looked up from her book and turned in the direction of the mumbled comment. She was sitting on a sidewalk bench reading while her two children Anna, age 5, and William, age 4, were behind her on the park lawn fighting over a stuffed animal. The man who made the comment was a scruffy older fellow who looked like he may have been homeless, alcoholic, or both. She didn’t bother to reply and went back to her book.

Now that he had brought the squabbling to her attention, she did find it annoying, but didn’t say anything to Anna or William because she didn’t want to encourage more dialog with the man who was on the bench just a few feet from hers.

“Me, I’d tell ‘em if they didn’t knock it off and play nice, I’d leave ‘em here,” he said a little louder this time.

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Weird Dinner

Four slices of lunch meat, two each.

The last two water crackers in the package, stale.

A can of lukewarm Sprite—poured into two bright green juice glasses.

One chicken nugget divided carefully down the middle, then again, to create quarters, which we choose playground-style. His. Mine. His. Mine. We take turns so it’s ‘fairsies.’

The microwave beeps long and loud, letting us know that the leftover black beans and rice are warmed and irradiated. “That’s a reassuring sound,” he says. Ten more seconds, just to hear the beep again.

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Cooley’s Cabin

Slipped a finger in the flap of a book, poring through the dusty shelves wearing a thrift flannel. Books in nooks and the smell of pages. Gapers paw through shiny paperbacks. Mousers nibble at passages and twitch at chapters. The fragrance of soap emanates fresh from my skin. I could sense it earlier.

Does she notice?

Backpacked picto-cravers gravitate toward illustrated fiction. Bags and bags of books and this one disinterests me. Leaving here disinterests me. Outside, the air is moist and too warm. My shirt still clings to my chest and arms. Nothing serendipitous brought me inside this bookshop, the nearest respite from the once pounding rain. A forced stop on a death march to the top of a clouded hill.

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My Uncle Trevor

If this kid doesn’t shut up about his stupid uncle, I’m going to flip. I get it, your Uncle Trevor is the most amazing man in the world. Before Jesus walked on water, Uncle Trevor did it. Give me a break. Amanda groaned.

If Ms. Frye asked Amanda to babysit in the future, the answer was going to be no. Double rates, free dinner, big screen television: none of it was worth the headache of watching seven-year-old Jimmy. It was a shame because the kid was pretty well behaved. But the annoyance factor was through the stratosphere. Oh well, lesson learned.

At least Joe had dropped by and kept her—her tongue at least—busy for a while. Amanda hoped he would ask her out soon.

“Go ‘head kid, make a muscle,” Joe said to Jimmy. In turn, Jimmy asked Joe to make a muscle. Amanda was impressed. Joe had really been hitting the weights.

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She said, “I just try to do so much, and in the end it feels like I do nothing.”

“You don’t do nothing,” he said. “You do more than I do. I do nothing.”

He knew this was the kind of response she wanted to hear. She’d said the same sort of thing before, multiple times, in fact. It was a funk. She’d grow out of it, feel normal and undoubtably optimistic again, and then it would return, her thoughts and feelings of despair.

She didn’t say anything about his comments, and he knew she knew he was basically right. That she did more than he did.

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Fluorescent Lights

He’s here now.

I’m staring at the man’s face, but he won’t look me in the eye. He’s busy fidgeting with a piece of plastic covering that’s come loose from the tip of a knob. We wait in stifling silence. Everyone is here now, sitting awkwardly, standing with forced expressions of blankness. None of us feel blank, though. We’re just wasting time pretending that what is happening is not actually happening. I wish my mother weren’t here. I don’t know if it would be easier, but at least our last moments wouldn’t be under fluorescent lights.

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