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by Ben Slotky

Megan says a cloud weighs a million pounds. She is mousy and earnest. She is young and looks old. The average cloud, she says. One point one million. This is where you work, this is in the atrium. There is a display. Local artists. Self portraits. Oils. Diversity is being celebrated, the sign says. It is National Inventors Day. Innovation and ingenuity. Thinking outside of boxes and you are walking around. There is cake, there is coffee. You see Megan. She is talking to somebody about clouds. She is saying they weigh a million pounds. She is nodding, happy, smiling at her certainty. Shrill voice echoing. She pushes up her glasses. One finger from one hand. The person she is talking to isn’t paying attention. He is looking at a painting. It is a field. There is a stream and a sunset. You wonder if he painted it. He looks like other people look. You look up at the skylight. You see if you can see any million pound clouds. A part of one, a glimpse. The light is bright. There are motes of dust. There are always motes of dust. You can’t see any clouds. You are sure they are there. Looming. Impending. Millions of pounds of clouds, you think. All you see is motes. Around and above. Particles floating. They look like nothing. They look like dots. They are everywhere, you think, as you look up. You wonder where they come from, these motes, these dots. Like flakes of skin, dirt, dust. Particles and particulates. Everything commingling, everything ascending. Floating and hovering. A cloud of dust, you think. You smile, you think, and keep walking.

Ben Slotky’s first novel, Red Hot Dogs, White Gravy was published by Chiasmus in 2010 and was re-released by Widow & Orphan in 2017. His work has appeared in The Santa Monica Review, Numero Cinq, Hobart, Golden Handcuffs Review, Barrelhouse, McSweeney’s, Juked, and many other publications. He lives in Bloomington, Illinois, with his wife and six sons.