Two Shorties

Two Shorties
The Plight of Zebras

I woke up on a podcast—the host asking, “What do you think about the plight of zebras?” I tried remembering their plight. Zebras? Zebras? Had I recently seen something? On my feed? I’d search Twitter, but my iPhone was in my purse. This whole time I sat thinking, I tried keeping a neutral but slightly pensive look. “Spinach,” I said. The host shuffled papers, shooting a glance to my right as if to ask, “What the fuck?” to a producer in another room, then looked again at his hands. I fantasized about making love to the host. Pictured him standing—swiveling the mic arm out of the way—crawling on the table between us; breathing heavily in my ear, biting my neck, then taking me from behind. A laugh track playing as we spooned on the table afterwards. I smiled. “Spinach,” he said.


The Way It Has to Be

A girl from work called to say she had cancer—twenty-seven minutes to live, according to the doctor. “Can you help?” She had important things to do before she died. So, I was in the middle of a really great cooking show but agreed. I always thought she was cute. Figured, there was a small chance doing something kinky with a coworker was on her bucket list. “I’ll be there in three minutes.” “Hurry up.” No “thank you.” No, “you’re the best.” Nothing. Traffic was bad, so I made it in four. “What took so long,” she asked, clicking the seat belt. I found that funny. “Where to?” “The DMV.” I did a Jack Nicholson thing with my eyebrows while she looked out the windshield like a person with twenty-three minutes to live. I peeled out, communicating I’m the coworker to consider, taking off a sidemirror of a F-150 parallel parked in front of me. I checked for a reaction—maybe swollen pupils—but she kept her gaze forward. A line of angry people was looking at a screen that displayed a new number. They all groaned. The only people more upset were workers. “She’s about to die,” I said, but was directed to take a number like everyone else. We found a seat. A new number flicked on the screen, but quickly flashed back, initiating grumbles. “Are you like, going to sign the title of your car over to your grandmother or something?” “No,” she smoothed the top of her skirt like every woman in every story. “Your… daughter?” I asked sheepishly, looking at my watch. “At least tell me why we’re here, of all places?” She started crying. Ah, fuck. There there. She leaned in, continuing into my armpit. I scanned for anyone to brag to, sort of a—look, she’s crying in my armpit, pretty cool, kind of thing. But no one looked. Everyone gnashed their teeth and twisted papers in their hands. “I had to renew my tag,” she sobbed. I felt something. Anger. What the fuck? “Are you serious? But… why? Nothing will matter in… four minutes.” “I know!” she cried harder. Ah, fuck. There there. “My ex said I’d never amount to anything. Mom said the same. That I couldn’t take care of basic shit. Like, I can get clothes in the washing machine, but drying, folding, it’s not like I forget. I wanted to do something meaningful, you know? With the end of my life. But I’ve never been good at motivating just for the sake of me, so all I could think was some petty shit like this. So they’d question whether or not they were right when they heard about it.” “Jesus, that’s fucked up. Guess if we’re being honest, I probably would’ve made up some dumb excuse when you called today, but I’ve got the hots for you. So, like, I can’t even do something as basic as be a nice person unless there’s a cute girl motivating me.” Everyone sighed as I guess a new number hit. Yeah, me too. “Who the fuck’s that?” Everyone looked toward the sky for a speaker or something, then toward the workers, who all refused eye contact. “Is this some hidden camera bullshit?” I looked to see if she had that Punk’d look, like I was the ass hat being laughed at, but she seemed confused and terrified, like, “God, I still have two minutes before you talk out of the sky to me,” or something. It’s Tyler Dempsey. I’m writing this story, errr look, you don’t know me, but I never get to talk about this sort of thing. So, I heard y’all and thought I’d butt in. The whole—people can’t motivate except for anger or sex—it’s true. Half the time when I write, it’s because I hate myself and am trying to figure out why, or am trying to like myself to a degree that if I wasn’t myself, I’d think, I’d fuck me. “This is the weirdest shit ever.” You say that, but like, she isn’t refusing to sleep with you cause you’re bad, it’s just, when she thinks about it, she thinks, I wouldn’t wanna fuck me if I was fucking that guy. Like she’s the author looking at a character and judging it, then making herself behave off those judgments. And you. You’re going, I’d totally fuck me if I was fucking that girl. “God, this disembodied voice is right,” she dried her eyes, “why am I learning this now, though? Why does it have to be like this?” Complication makes the story continue. It’s why we fuck up our lives when they feel stagnant. In a way, we’re saying, I don’t want things to end like this, I want to live. So, because you’re about to die, and all your complications will cease, I’ll show you what it’d be like if that wasn’t the case. I’ll snap my fingers, and everybody in the room, workers included, are gonna start making out. Then it’ll all be over. Are you watching?


About the Author

Tyler Dempsey is the author of three books, most recently Will We All See Each Other Afterward. He hosts Another Fucking Writing Podcast and lives in Utah with his dog.


Photo by Geranimo on Unsplash