La Paz Porta-Homes
By Jace Einfeldt
When me and Trev were younger, we went Christmas window shopping with mom. Most years, looking was all we could afford to do with her habits and all. We had always wanted a bike. The wind in our hair, the freedom. Doesn’t get much better than that. Just pedaling, balance, and total control. Just you, the bike, and the road.
Christmas Day usually consisted of presents wrapped in pages from the National Enquirer topped with a bow. The days between Christmases got longer when money was scarce. One year, mom noticed me and Trev trading basketball cards with Kenny Farnes two trailers down. That year, Trev got a City Rec League Basketball T-Shirt (size XL) with ketchup stains on the design: a picture of a man hanging on a basketball hoop with the words “Rim Rockerz” across the top in graffiti. Even if we didn’t like the gifts, we had to say we did. She was thrifty in all the wrong ways.
We had a paper shredder in the trailer that mom brought home from her job at Staples, and when she said we had no money I wondered if she just put her paychecks through the shredder. I remember sifting through the shreds hoping to piece together a dollar bill.
Even though we were poor, mom threw parties like we weren’t. Our trailer was full of people and got smaller when guests came over. They always stayed overnight. Sometimes we stayed out late because we didn’t want to walk in while she was conducting business. When me and Trev left for school, we played “the people sleeping on the floor are lava.” When mom was out, we played “guess when mom comes home.” Loser cleaned the living room, gave mom Tylenol, and got her to bed. In the end, we both dealt with mom’s hangovers. We played our games and made our own traditions. Mom revered our traditions and games as much as she honored and respected routine drug tests at work.
One Christmas, me and Trev were eleven and nine years old respectively. We wrote Santa a letter. We were 99% sure he didn’t exist, but on the off chance he was didn’t want him to miss us. We wanted to cast a wide net. We even sent a letter to the president. We told Santa we had been good boys all year. We cleaned up after mom’s parties. When she forgot to turn off the light in the living room and fell asleep on the futon, we turned it off for her and put a blanket on her. When the police came looking for her, we said she wasn’t home because that’s what she told us to say. When she needed us to pee in containers for her so she could keep working at Garth’s Food Mart, we peed in containers. We talked a lot about it and decided to ask for a bike. We’d use it to be paper boys so we could help mom pay rent. We weren’t asking for stupid things like mom always said. We just wanted something nice. We signed it “Sincerely, Kirby and Trevor Davenport.” We even wrote the address: La Paz Porta-Homes. We knew Santa made it to La Paz. Last year, Silvia across the way got an easy-bake oven, and Scotty Philips got an RC monster truck.
We put the letter on the kitchen counter praying mom would take it to the post office.
Mom got laid off from Garth’s for sneaking dried mango slices out in her bra. We didn’t expect Christmas this year.
Mom went out a couple nights before Christmas looking for a miniature tree but ended up blowing the tree-money on a bag of weed. She told us that marijuana comes from trees, so she actually got what she had set out to get. We ended up making a tree by gluing Andes Mints wrappers together on a piece of paper, using brass pushpins to hold it up on the wall. On Christmas morning, we sprinted to the living room to see if Santa got our letter. Mom was up. A bedsheet was draped over something in the middle of the room.
We couldn’t remember if she had come home. She told us that Santa came with something last night. She said that if we wanted it, we had to promise that we’d use the gift to help her. We nodded with excited resolve to help. She pulled the sheet. It fluttered to the ground. In its place was a yellow two-seater bike.
We didn’t breathe. One breath and the bike would crumble into powder and mom would snort it up.
I imagined flying down a hill with Trev in the back-seat, air soaring through our hair, tickling our ears. We swore we’d do anything to help.
She handed us a heavy backpack and an address on a piece of crumpled up lined paper. She told us to take the backpack to the address.
We lumbered forward through the narrow dirt path leading to Jacinto Drive tipping over twice. The chain caught hard with ever pump of the pedal as we agitated it with our constant gear shifts. Just as we got a rhythm figured out a kid bolted across the street right in front of us. Santa definitely made it to his house last night. He had a bike; his was new. He probably didn’t have to pee in containers for his mom or tell the cops that she was gone when she was actually wasted on her bed with a glass of water and three Tylenols waiting on her night stand. He probably didn’t have to pretend people were lava or keep guessing when his mom would be home even though it was well past midnight. This kid, who could still believe in Christmas miracles, shot a smile our way. Trev returned it with the bird. We rode off down Jacinto Drive glancing back as mom and the trailer got smaller and smaller.
Sitting with My Wife’s Urn in My Lap
By Jace Einfeldt
Does “on my lap in an urn” count as never leaving? If not, do I have any moral or legal obligation to hold my end of the promise?
Do other lifeforms have urns? Is cremation an option for extraterrestrials? Do they make their own urns in a pottery class? Are they unnervingly aware of their own mortality?
Do other lifeforms mourn? If not, how do they express grief? Is it through tears? Self-inflicted solitude? Running for hours down the same paths that they once walked with their loved ones? If these aren’t options, do they have therapists? Supportive families? Close friends? Children? Religious leaders? Do they believe in God? Or gods? Or an afterlife? What would it be like? Would it be in the sky? Composed of clouds? Or would it look like a refurnished, restored version of their home planet? Would they see their loved ones again? Or would they simply just be? Or cease to exist? Float in limbo, directionless, cold, and alone? Would they find solace and peace in such ideas? If not, where would they turn? Are they afraid to die? Afraid to think about death?
Are there spaceships that can take individuals into space to clear their minds? How big would they be? Do they have private space shuttles? Would it be considered littering if I dumped ashes into space? Isn’t all life carbon based? Would I be fined? Would the Interplanetary Recycling Agency arrest me for improper disposal of an organic substance? Do I need a permit to dispose of organic substances? Does the permit cost more than $5,000? If so, where do I sign?
Part of me wants to be arrested.
To be fined.
To be found.
If I get arrested, would an agent of the Interplanetary Recycling Agency dispose of the ashes for me? If the agent is reluctant, could a bribe change their mind? If the bribe doesn’t do the job, would they take pity on me? Or would they look past me? Get tired of my questions: “why me?” and “why now?” Take the urn off my hands, and shoot me into space as punishment for not doing more? Would they blame me like I blame myself? Or would they seek to understand? Would they let me talk? Would they listen? Would they validate my weary soul?
I would take pity on me.
Would they believe me when I say that I was just keeping a promise made years ago? Do they believe in promises? Are promises protected by interplanetary legislation? Just because a promise is made with a pinky, does it make it invalid?
Do they have doctors? Do their doctors discover malignant brain tumors in their perfectly healthy patients? Are tumors even a worry for more advanced lifeforms? If so, how big do they get? Do they start as the size of a marble? Would these doctors provide false hope? Would they be told to be “cautiously optimistic”? Would the tumor grow to the size of a ping-pong ball? Would they play ping-pong in the waiting room to keep their mind off reality? Would it be inoperable? How would they break the news to the patient’s loved ones? Would they be blunt? Straight-forward? Cut to the chase? Would they, hopefully, try a more humane approach? Would they offer condolences? Or would they just move on?
How do you properly say good-bye to a pile of ashes? Can you just open a lid, say good-bye, and shake the contents out? Like emptying a vacuum cleaner? Or should it be more intimate? Meaningful? Ceremonial? Should I offer a prayer? Give a eulogy? If so, what would I say? With only myself to hear, would it matter? Is this even my wife anyway? How does the song go again? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? This is what she wanted, so why I am still clutching the urn?
If I empty the contents into the “EJECT ORGANIC WASTE” chute, will I feel less guilt? Would she be offended if I used the chute? Should I find another avenue of release? Is there a less offensive “EJECT ORGANIC SUBSTANCE” chute? Does it really matter in the end?
Once she’s released, will I be able to see the ashes drift away? Or will they blend into the blackness? Is it cold out there? Will I be able to see her again? If so, will she recognize me? Will I recognize her? Will I be able to tell her how much I miss her? Does she miss me? Does she know I’m here?
If I’m in space, how many days could I survive? Weeks? Months? Does air go bad? What if I ran out of fuel? What if the pod’s battery dies? Is the oxygenator connected to the battery? How much oxygen is left in the reserve tank? If there’s none left, would I asphyxiate? Should I just I pull the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Would there even be an “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Does being a widower in a one-man spacecraft count as an emergency? In case of an emergency, what should I do? Is there a limit on emergencies before pulling the “EMERGENCY ESCAPE” lever? Three? Two? One? Would I be a terrible husband if I left my wife alone in space? Would it be any worse than leaving her on earth? Will she be waiting for me on the other side? Once she’s out there, I wonder if she’d appreciate company?
How can I know unless I pull the lever?
About the Author:
Jace Einfeldt is a native of Southern Utah and is a senior in Brigham Young University’s English program. He is an avid reader and writer, specializing in contemporary American literature and short fiction. When he’s not knee-deep in class work, he works as a writing consultant with the BYU Research and Writing Center and BYU Writing Fellows. After graduating, he will be pursuing a master’s and PhD in American literature. Aside from his accomplishments within the English program, he plays the cello, is fluent in Tagalog, and has the most awesome wife.
About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:
CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.