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by Michael Grant Smith

He’d intended to relax on the sofa, not take a nap. Hours later he awoke with a very strong feeling: stepping barefoot on broken glass, vinegar splashed in the eyes, cardiac arrest. He couldn’t be more specific, it was simply a very strong feeling.

There’d been a time — was it ten, twelve years ago? — when he’d come as close to experiencing a feeling as he thought he ever would. In the glare of his post-nap epiphany, everything reset.

“Back then, I probably missed my chance,” he said to the empty living room. “Seems to have worked out well enough. I’m doing fine, thank you!”

The sudden feeling owned all the attention he could muster. Prospects of redemption become scarce when life-years dwindle. Before long, the sun would slip behind the man’s horizon. He leaned back, eyes closed tightly in concentration, fully awake now.

“I’ll devote the rest of my days,” he said with lots of space between words, “and all my energy, and time, and money, and everything, to figure this out!”

His eyelids snapped open. The room’s appearance was unchanged. Of course! He was the one who’d undergone the cathartic transformation. His living room had not. Its ceiling still needed new plaster, the windows wanted re-glazing, and creosote plugged the fireplace. His sigh uncapped an abyss filled with despair.

Weeks ago, a family of barn swallows had appropriated the abandoned finch nest above the man’s collection of replica ceremonial swords from the Second World War. Often, and as recently as today while drifting off to an accidental nap, he’d admired the swallows’ tenacity and the splendid architecture of their nest. Yet the birds’ annexation of his own home was fundamentally wrong, and he must address it. Perhaps spread a blanket on the mantel beneath their nest and catch the droppings?

No. He wouldn’t let the minutiae of household chores subvert his newly founded mission to identify, engage, and capture his very strong feeling.

“I need to find answers but I’m not especially inspired,” he called out to his wife.

“Have lunch,” she replied from the laundry room. “Maybe a tuna sandwich. Fish is brain food.”

“I’m thinking about ordering pizza,” he hollered back, telephone in hand. “Does pizza come with fish on it?”

The washing machine’s door slammed the way it had to be slammed to stay shut. Startled, two swallows sliced acrobatically throughout the house. The man marveled as the daredevils swooped and veered without colliding.

“Are anchovies fish, or rather some type of mushroom?” asked his wife. She leaned on the doorjamb and held the basket of towels she washed two dozen times a day.

He tapped the telephone’s keypad and for once did not comment on the eye-stinging haze of fabric softener in the air.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I think they’re synthetic, like candy corn or wasabi.”

Big meals made him drowsy. He hoped to fall asleep again and dream of wisdom.

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, The Airgonaut, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, Unbroken Journal, MoonPark Review, Okay Donkey, Splonk, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.