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by Nick Black

My colleague Denny wants my personal email address. I ask why, he says, “You don’t want this going through the office account.”

He’s not wrong.

I watch it at home that evening. I don’t like what I see. I watch it to the end, and then again to check no-one died. Then, glancing around, I hit the sidebar.

The next morning, Denny swanks up to my cubicle, chucks my shoulder. “You got that link, right? Did you see it? What fuckin’ morons!” His eyes and nostrils wild, drag the Magnum moustache up with them. When he walks back to his desk, his dove grey slacks don’t hide where he’s wiped wet hands across his ass.

***

Hailey’s up around 4 to pee. I don’t hear her pad toward me before her breath’s against my left ear and she’s leaning all her weight into my back, coming to look, see. We hunch as one in the white wash of light. After several long minutes, she stands up and kicks the base of my spine through the sofa. “Come to bed,” she says, unimpressed.

I’d rather she’d caught me with porn.

People snapping ankles, jumping off their garage roofs. Chugging fabric softener. Sandblasting their balls. Disproving natural selection. Who would watch this stuff?

***

Denny tells me I look pale. I think Denny wants my job.

***

I start wondering if algorithms whale song to each other. I don’t recognise my reflection in Google any more. Amazon’s plastering our home page with shit we’ve never bought. Fabric softener. Sandblasters.

***

Hailey, Bug and I drive to the beach. Palm trees swish against the sky: I think of hula girls. The ocean changes colour as clouds pass over. I comment on a sexy roller skater, threading at speed through the dog walkers, and ask Bug if there are any girls he likes and do any of his friends do drugs, and he stares at me with disgust, and all of us long to go home.

***

Search engines are like memory foam. Something monstrous has been sleeping in my bed. I burn through nights, Up Next, Up Next, Up Nexting to try and make sense of its world.

Election Day, I complain to Hailey the electronic voting machine overrode my choice, she snorts and says, “Yeah, I’ve seen your news feed, mister!” I open the news on my phone and enter a hot bubble of spit. I can’t find a single decent story about my candidate.

When the results come in, the other one wins and I’m denied sex for a fortnight.

***

She calls me at work, screaming. Bug used Super Glue as an eye dropper to entertain the goons in his class. She’s screaming at me so loud the whole office hears. I grind my cell harder into the bones of my skull.

We meet at the ER. Of course the courthouse Hailey had to run from was closer. When I get there, she’s threatening Bug he’ll never see 16. His raw eye narrows, dark and gushy, as I approach. He seems relieved to pass the punishment baton on. “And you know who I blame …” Following his lead, I decide to say nothing.

She speaks to my supervisor, who’s highly amused to inform me he’ll be monitoring my online use.

***

Denny’s begun wearing a tie.

***

I take Bug to the optometrist for his check-up. Sideswiping my phone during the examination, I don’t hear the doctor the first few times she calls my name. Coming out, I tell Bug, “You ever do anything that dumb again, at least film and upload it.” Trying to lighten the mood.

He inflates his cheeks, deflates them again. “Would you help?” he asks.


Nick Black manages two small public libraries in North London. His writing has been published in lit mags including Entropy, Jellyfish Review, (b)OINKzine, The Lonely Crowd, Open Pen, Train Lit Mag and Funhouse. He tweets about things he likes as @fuzzynick.

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