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Today's Story by Cary Tennis

Small things keep us going.

The Visit

Whatever wants to be written will be written. Whatever calls out to me will be a song. Whatever crosses the yard at night will be photographed and charted. Whatever crosses the sky will be remembered. Whoever speaks will be heard. Whoever listens will be repaid. Whatever clock is wound in the bedroom on the dresser in the moonlight by the pack of matches taken in Las Vegas from a bowl will ring at the time it is set for. Whatever curtain waves like a bird’s wing. Whatever grass grows green in the sun. Whatever speech comes unbidden to the tongue. Whatever lamp is lit. Whatever thing it is that comes when it is called, whatever lamp that is lit at sundown, all these things will be like in the Bible, things embedded in the walls of the house, things we say but don’t know where they come from, old newspapers found when carpenters take it down to the studs.

You sit on the floor and remember. You find a spot where it all comes back.  You listen and become a believer. You find a new position in reference to the sun.

That is to say, we are little and it is big. We are quiet and it is loud. There is a big game we are watching from the sidelines.

We intercept the packages meant for our neighbors and we marvel at their wrapping. We grow dull with repetition. We grow dull with age. We recede the more we see, and all we see grows smaller.

There are ancient fishes swimming. We live above the darkness. Down there in the trenches, the pressure is immense. We don’t have to live there. We breathe the air. Our pressure is equal. Small things keep us going.

Some things we say we can’t remember where they came from. Some women who pass leave their contact information. Some days turn inside out with longing. Some women hang their coats on the rack; some put them on a bed with the others. Some things we say cannot be taken back. Some things we say are always misremembered. There are stones you can throw and stones you cannot lift. There are places you have driven through at midnight. There are places you have driven through at noon.  There are layers and we like to use the pick axe. Look at your desktop, what promises are on it. Look at the immensity of starfish. See the orange claw dismembered on the beach. You think of all this. You catch a glimpse in the window of the menswear store. Sometimes you are frowning and you make a slight correction. Some days we eat too many times or too much all at once. Animals inside us make their noises.

It is all too much sometimes. We go to bed not thinking.

Can we end a thing we don’t know how we started? Can we stop when the relatives are yawning? Will we know when it’s time to go upstairs? Who will call us? What will we say? What will we say when it is time to leave? Who will recognize the stranger who comes to our door, finally after all these years? Who will read the piece of paper he gives us. Who will call upstairs to say, “Come quickly! Someone has died!”?


Cary Tennis is the advice columnist for Salon.com

Read more stories by Cary Tennis


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.   

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