“All That Breath” by Ben Slotky

September 5, 2017

You have spent maybe 35 minutes today thinking about tiny oranges. Tiny oranges are very popular. They’re called cuties. Everybody eats them, all the time. You think about how many people you will see today; you wonder how many of them will have tiny oranges. In their lunchboxes, in their homes. In their hands. You start walking to your ten o’clock. You think of a story about pears you will never write. It goes like this:

And this was right around the time I realized I never needed to eat another pear again. Don’t need them, that’s what I thought, right around then, give or take. We were all there, the five of us. I thought that about the pear earlier that day. The ground was still frozen and we were running late. Late, late. Da Vinci came first. He was in a hurry and out of breath, like always.

I wasn’t in any hurry and I was pretty sure the other three weren’t either. We would get there, all of us. Running ahead and shouting and breathing wasn’t changing that. It never did.

I hadn’t had a pear in I don’t know how long. What I ate was apples. I had packed 3 in my lunch box today. I could see outlines of them. Apples under the surface. I counted them, one, two, three, and thought about what time I’d eat them. I usually had my first apple at about 9 AM.

“Come on, you guys,” he shouted. We could see his breath. It was outside, behind him, in front of us. All of that breath.

The story is about apples, not pears, you think. You wonder if it means anything that you thought the story was about pears and not apples as you pass people who may or may not have tiny oranges with them, may be about to go eat a tiny orange. You are on M3 headed toward H. It is bright. You wonder if you are sweating. You have stopped wearing deodorant.

Because what if, you think

Because how far, you think.

In the story you will never write, you think the part about how the breath is everywhere is important. That would be the best part of that story, you think to yourself. You are staring straight ahead. Today is Tuesday and you are supposed to fill out your engagement status.

Collaborative effort, shared responsibility.

Transparency and white glove service.

This is what we are hearing now, this the new thing people say. They say white glove service. Your grandmother used to say the man with the green gloves. You think about this and think how you don’t have time to get into this right now. You think you need to remember to think about this later. You wonder if you will. You think you probably won’t because you are not into this anymore, you don’t think.

You know a guy who got into bees. People get into bees, you think. They have hives, they wear masks. They will do anything, you think. Anything to stop the everything.

You are almost to H, almost to where you are supposed to be. You would say where you need to be, but you don’t need to be there, not really. You would say something about the speed of ubiquity, the increasing speed of it. Everything is everywhere now, all of a sudden. Everyone is into anything and everything. It is tiny oranges, it is everybody saying I know, right. It is here, everywhere, right in front. The light is bright where you are.  How can everything be everywhere, you think, and was it always like this.


Version 2Ben Slotky is the author of Red Hot Dogs, White Gravy and An Evening of Romantic Lovemaking. His work has appeared in Golden Handcuffs Review, McSweeney’s, Largehearted Boy, Clackamas Literary Review, Requited, Juked, and other publications. His new novel is The Hill I’m Going To Die On. He lives in Bloomington, IL with his wife and six sons.

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