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by Al Kratz

The grocery store was so dark, empty, and incomplete. I wondered if I had died. Or worse, everyone else had. Maybe in the time it took me to walk from my car to the produce section, The End had come. When was the last time I had seen someone? I couldn’t say.

It might sound like the problem was mine. Or that I’m asking you to turn and face the strange, but I’m trying to tell you something. I’m trying to understand the moments when you know something is happening in the middle of nothingness, and you can ignore it — most people do — but I won’t. Ignoring is the opposite of standing on the shoulders of giants. Ignoring is tiny giants standing on yours, shouting into your incapably big ears, pay attention!

The grocery store was so dark, empty, and incomplete. I wondered if I had died. Or worse, maybe everyone else had. I was happy to see the cashier and reassured by the bottle of whiskey strolling along the conveyor belt like a thing that had chosen to be in no hurry. The cashier was real enough. She had things a lot of real girls seemed to have like wavy blonde hair and ruby red lipstick. Besides, she smelled like Fruit Loops. She held a card up to me, and there was something she seemed eager to ask.

Are you participating in the game of life?

That’s what she asked me, and I could tell she didn’t just mean the store promotion. The tiny giants stomped on my shoulders. They wanted me to see what happens in the middle of nothingness.

I wish I could say I was the hero, the one who learned all the lessons and set everyone free. I wish I could say.

Was I participating in the game of life?

Inside that store, struck by a question, I almost cried. Maybe I did. I searched for an answer that yes, I was not only participating but, man, sometimes I was winning.

But sometimes it’s hard to speak.

When was the last time I had participated in the game of life? I couldn’t say.


Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa, where he is currently working on a novel and always writing flash fiction. Follow him on Twitter at @silverBackedG.

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