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©2018 Barren Magazine. An Alt.Lit Introspective.

A Suburbia of Volcanoes


by Justin Karcher

It sounds like Pat’s building an ark in the garage, but he’s tearing apart a cedar shelf so we have wood for the bonfire, ‘cause it’s almost nighttime in North Buffalo.

All the babies are gone, off to dreamland where chandelier pacifiers hang from a polka dot sky; where there are no cribs, storytimes that never end.

Back in reality, I’m drinking all the juice boxes left behind, collecting all the cauliflowers, gluing them to my face, transforming into a pagan god you can buy at the grocery store.

Eventually there’s enough firewood.

Jake and Adam start circling the pit, buzzed hounds wanting the heat, wanting to build a volcano in slightly-suburban America, the spark of life, Neanderthals in our bodies.

Then there’s the fire, then there’s a crop circle of us in lawn chairs smoking stale cigars from Amsterdam that Eric bought, like, two years ago, where maybe there was a red light that shined on his still-life.

Adam watches the fire like some guardian angel, fanning its flames with a paper plate. We tell him he’s doing a great job. He tells us it’s because of Jewish camp, tells us that Hanukkah’s all about making sure the flame of Judaism always burns bright, so some of us smoke more stale cigars, cauliflowers melting off my face, god turns into man, man into dirt, dirt into flowers, flowers into rabbit food.

Suddenly Rich’s turns on his iPhone flashlight like a twittering Sherlock, starts spotlighting the unlit grass looking for something. We ask what he’s doing. He tells us his contact lens fell off his eye.

Then we’re all on our hands and knees with our iPhone flashlights, looking for the missing part of Rich’s eye, an unnatural chain gang, the light of our smartphones mixing with the light of God’s fire.

Suddenly it dawns on me: what if his contact lens deliberately fell off his eye, that maybe it wants a better eye, new sights, different visions, different lovers, different beer labels, different moonlight, different radio dials, different apps.

We give up after about five minutes, a strange silence, meditative almost as we ponder the whereabouts of the missing contact lens, when life forces blurriness into our eyes, when we’re forced to wander slightly-suburban backyards or wildernesses on the other side of time, red light districts in the frozen parts of our hearts.

So keep the fire alive.

Header photograph © Ojooluwatide Ojo.

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