Exit and Bleach [story] by Danny Judge

I went to the pines—there were two. The floor was littered with dead nettles and cones but not ensconced, not lost. I found shade there. Sanctuary.

There was little to see with my liar’s eyes; I kept my own council within the pallor of the trees—breathed adrift a calligraphic yet rhapsodic mosaic of refugee notions to paint the tide a lighter shade, an ethereal relief.

I used the ground to stand with—a life preserver in a fractured penitentiary of open-air seasickness; I stooped among the roots of the pine and sat. There were ants, like me.

The ground swelled and ebbed quickly—I grasped the branch overhead, my foot found it next. Ten feet above my clones and cones, their martyr’s infringements, I climbed further from the sun.

A tow rope dangled languidly from above like a serpent, daring me to do nothing, pushing me nowhere—it was cold and neutral, more so when I wrapped it loosely around my neck.

The boat stopped rocking; the tide bated its breath and waited for me to sink.

I considered it strongly enough to let my foot dangle over the drop. The air was easy to breath—I was closer to heaven, where the atmosphere is free and unburdened by abuse.

I wanted sorrow in the eyes of the sun—that the fire which burned me should miss me and somehow never rise again.

It was over in a moment. I let loose the serpent and went back to the ants, the dead nettles, closer to the sun but still in the shade. I’d have to face it again. Someday the sun would set and I would flee in the night, and the sun would miss me then.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This story refers to Seema Reza’s essay “Fear.”]

 Danny Judge is an emerging writer who is working on his first novel. His short story, “Last Night,” will appear later this year in The Quotable. A former Marine, he lives in the Midwest with his wife and two-year-old son.

Image by Tom Bech