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Apr/May 2019 Fiction

Anodyne

by Seth Cable

Excerpted imagery from photography by Kris Saknussemm

Excerpted imagery from photography by Kris Saknussemm


When I was a kid, my friends and I played a game we called "Anodyne."

This game was only ever played at D.Dave's house, since it crucially required use of a hammock that hung in his backyard, suspended high between two trees. One of us would sit straddling the hammock, while the rest would throw things at them—soccer balls, baseballs, branches, rocks, etc. If they fell out of the hammock or called "mercy," that would end that round of the game. But, if they could stay in the hammock for ten minutes, they won a point. The first person to earn 200 points was the winner.

I can't remember who invented this game, or how it developed between us. I do remember the day I decided to stop playing it.

I had ridden my bike through the woods behind our backyards to the area just behind D.Dave's backyard. I was headed for the path that lead to the Friendly's by the highway. As I got onto it, though, I heard a woman's cackling laughter coming from D.Dave's backyard. I put down my bike and walked through the bushes until I could see into his yard.

D.Dave and his mom were playing Anodyne. His mom sat straddling the hammock, laughing hysterically. Next to D.Dave was a small pile of broken bricks. He hurled them at his mother, hard and fast. His face was red, and his lips were curled back in a pained grimace. His throws were frantic, flailing, but nearly every one connected with some part of his mother's body. Through it all, she sat steadily on the hammock, head back, screaming laughter into the sky.

Underneath her laughter, I could hear his mother was saying, "Mercy... mercy." But, this did nothing to slow D.Dave's torrent of broken mortar. Every so often, as he threw a piece of brick, D.Dave seemed to grunt something like, "Ten to five," or, "Tentative," or, "Tender life."

In my memory, this scene lasted a few minutes, but it was probably only just a few seconds before D.Dave paused his assault. As his mother's laughter rolled on, D.Dave stood, chest heaving, staring at the pile of brick. In a single motion, he bent down and picked up a chunk the size of his fist, and in a long arc, lobbed it directly at her head. With a nauseating thud, it connected with her right temple, and she fell noiselessly to the ground.

For a few moments, I simply stared in shock, as his mother lay motionless in the grass and D.Dave continued pelting her with smaller pieces of brick. Before I could collect myself enough to cry out, she rolled onto her stomach and stood up. Without looking at her son at all, she walked calmly back into the house, the barrage of little red pebbles never ceasing. It was not until the door closed that D.Dave finally stopped.

I waited some time before approaching D.Dave in his backyard. As I waited watching him, he strolled about, flicking leaves with a stick. His back turned to me, I walked my bike into his yard from the woods.

—Oh, hey, D.Dave!

—Hi, Chisnaivkarantangerson!

—I was going to bike over to Friendly's. Do you want to come, too?

—No, I can't right now. I'm helping my mom with yard work.

From somewhere behind me, in the bushes where I had been standing, a man's voice whispered, "He's not lying, you know."

 

<== END ITERATION 2B; BEGIN ITERATION 2C ==>

 

I can't remember who invented this game, or how it developed between us. I do remember the day I decided to stop playing it.

I had ridden my bike through the woods behind our backyards to the area just behind D.Dave's backyard. I was headed for the path that lead to the Carvel by the highway. As I got onto it, though, I heard coming from D.Dave's backyard a deep, heavy, sloshing, as if someone were dragging a tub of water or inflatable pool. I put down my bike and walked through the bushes until I could see into his yard.

Between the two trees in D.Dave's backyard was a large dark mass. It was composed of several slowly shifting mounds extending up from the ground and enveloping the hammock we used for Anodyne. Though it seemed stationary, little rivulets of purple hue coursed across its otherwise featureless ebony surface. Every time the ribbons of purple swept over the portion around the hammock, the ropes twisted a few degrees, groaning in response.

It was some time before I realized that D.Dave was standing just a few feet away from the mass. Beside him was a small pile of broken bricks. Every so often, he would pick a piece from the pile and hurl it towards the mass surrounding the hammock. The bricks would land with a soft wet smack, stick to the mass for a few seconds, and slide off. When the pieces hit the ground, the mass would undulate momentarily, creating the sloshing noise that lead me there. At one point, as he was throwing, D.Dave said something that sounded like, "Turtle dove," or, "Turned it off," or, "Turd of love."

Not knowing what else to do, I walked my bike into D.Dave's yard from the woods.

—Oh, hey, D.Dave!

—Hi, Chisnaivchisnaivchisnaivchisnaiv!

—I was going to bike over to Carvel. Do you want to come, too?

—No, I can't right now. I'm playing Anodyne with my mom.

At that moment, from every window in D.Dave's house, his mother's voice trumpeted out in multiple tones, harmonizing with one another: "D.DAVE! I JUST EARNED ANOTHER POINT!"

 

<== END ITERATION 2C; BEGIN ITERATION 3F ==>

 

I can't remember who invented this game, or how it developed between us. I do remember the day I decided to stop playing it.

I had ridden my bike through the woods behind our backyards to the area just behind D.Dave's backyard. I was headed for the path that lead to the killing lands by the highway. As I got onto it, though, I heard a low electric hum, coming from the direction of D.Dave's backyard. I put down my bike and walked through the bushes until I could see into his yard.

In the center of his yard, where there had previously stood the two trees and the hammock for Anodyne, there was now a perfectly circular hole, about 20 feet wide. This hole, which logicians and philosophers had been debating for centuries, offered the means for naturalizing intentionality. We'd already spent billions of dollars studying it to no avail, which had prompted some of the more reactionary elements of society to start advocating for the closure of the Universities and the jailing of their faculty.

Encircling the hole was a line of small, black, globular objects, about a foot in size and spaced about a foot apart. They marched counter-clockwise on three extremely fine, spindly appendages. Every other object boasted a bright purple spot on its rear. For reasons I'd rather not have to explain, I thought of D.Dave's mother.

Not knowing what else to do, I walked my bike into D.Dave's yard from the woods.

—Oh, hey, D.Dave! (I said to the hole.)

—Hi, T.Tom! (Replied D.Dave's voice from the hole.)

—I was going to bike over to the killing lands. Do you want to come, too?

—No, I can't right now. And neither can you.

I stepped over the edge of the hole, and the next thing I knew, I was standing here with this tape recorder.

 

<== END ITERATION 3F; BEGIN ITERATION AO ==>

 

I can't remember who invented this game, or how it developed between us. I do remember the day I decided to stop playing it.

Holy Mother God, remember us always, for we will not always remember ourselves.

 

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