This Makes Perfect Sense
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Disco"
Originally featured on 03-26-2009
As part of our series "Where the Wild Words Are (Words Gone Wild!)"

Franklin did not know that he possessed super powers until Claudia drove a Buick over his face and parked with the front wheel pinning his teeth to the asphalt driveway. The tire treads tasted like sweaty toothpaste, and he found that he could idly lift it and toss it in the air with his tongue. He heard the squeak of the shock absorbers and felt the ground tremble at his back each time the car rocked from side to side.

Claudia shouted and honked the horn. Franklin laughed. There was a good, sound reason that she had decided to park her car on his face, but right now it was so funny that the reason did not matter, even if he could remember it. Most heated arguments culminated in food fights, and in the aftermath, Claudia seeped into the space behind him and massaged his shoulders while he cleaned bits of smudged candy bars from the crevices in furniture. He liked the way her hands felt—for the first several seconds, he could not tell whether it was her hands or his own sweat that he felt on his shoulders as he scrubbed vigorously at the candy matter with an old toothbrush. Then her fingers would dig into spaces between his neck muscles, spaces that her hand had to create. And then her breath would slither around his jaw. He loved the smell of her breath. It smelt like…apology. Right now all he could smell was exhaust fumes.

After five tosses of the tongue, he put his lips into the motion and made the Buick’s driver’s side catapult into the air by a human head’s height above his own. When he got bored of that, he head-butted the tire and watched the car tumble over three times and come to a screeching stop in the front yard. Smoke enveloped the battered hood. A sprinkle of glass was strewn across the lawn. Minutes. And then the door opened.

Her arm stuck out. He could not see the rest of her. She was shaking to the point that all he could see was a vague shape of a woman’s arm twice its natural thickness.

It was that same night that Claudia first suggested the divorce.

Franklin would get Kiley—the caged rattlesnake Claudia had rescued in Arizona—three weekends a month. It would work out well.

 

The term for it was waking hallucination. Or was it walking hallucination? The talking rattlesnake coiled in the corner, that was what they were most likely referring to. When Kiley told him night after night, in that soothing baritone voice, that everything would work out swell…

 

Everything did. The illusion of Franklin’s heightened abilities, as demonstrated by his hurling industrial dumpsters over the freeway so that they landed in the middle of the river, earned him an equitable income. The splash the dumpster made was a temporary crater. Crowds gathered in Pilovar Square to watch him throw bowling balls so high in the air that they had snow on them when he caught them in cupped hands. They watched and dropped laundry money in his hat.

Claudia was in the crowd of observers. She stood in front of him in the same way that she used to materialize to his back, a cloud of condensation gradually becoming a person who was only there to dig breathy fingers into his neck and separate the anger from the love. That was, Franklin thought he saw her face in the disinterested fog. It was only an instant, only one time. There was no certainty it was her.

Claudia was probably still ticked off about the Buick. Her expression in the crowd of faces was an expression from forty miles.

 

Franklin told himself he would not cry. And he did not. Not until the night when a gray, lazy looking cat followed him to his car, which was parked fourteen blocks from the community college where he taught part time in the evenings because young people needed to learn the difference between exponential expansion and linear increase, and Franklin was qualified to explain such things. The cat never ventured more than two paces’ distance from Franklin’s heels.

The police did not come and arrest him until the cat was long removed from the evening.

Kiley whispered to him in a hiss from his coiled shadow in the corner of the cell.

Get off your ass and dance, you sorry sack of-

 

Franklin wept. Franklin wept until his eyes got so blurry he could see Claudia’s expression, and it was not forty miles.

He could do anything, really. It was not as if it had any consequence.

If he wanted, he could feed the cat to Kiley and then Kiley would really start to make some sense. If he tried to extract the things from his mind that were pure from the other things, he could lay awake and know what had prompted Claudia to call the police. If he thought hard enough, he could make his mind do what Claudia’s hand used to do: create the spaces.

The day had involved a dumpster and a bowling ball, and before that, a Buick. There had been a conversation, followed by broken glass. A classroom. A cat. Was there anything else?

Kiley looked fat in the corner, in the shadows. Limitations were for fools.

 

There were nights when the cat was behind him but out of sight. There were also nights when the things that naturally expanded exponentially stopped between his teeth.

Franklin realized far too late that there was always a good reason to dance.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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Portland Fiction Project

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