Reading Out Loud/Per Se

I went to the Saturday Night Special open mic again last night, and read a short fiction piece. Reading my work aloud isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I try to do it at least once in a while. It’s good to practice appealing directly to an audience who is right in front of you, to consider what will make them laugh and what will make them think and what will make them sad when you read it to them. I’ve been going to this open mic on and off for a few years now, and the readings get better and better each time. Here’s what I read:

Per Se

Asher was up all Saturday night surfing the Red Pill Subreddit, which was an anti-feminist website. He went to bed at five and woke up at two p.m. It was pretty much a given that he would spend all Sunday day on the Red Pill Subreddit unless he left the house, so he went to Tilden Park.

He wasn’t an anti-feminist per se. It’s just that the guys on the anti-feminist sites were some of the only guys he could relate to. They weren’t snobs, and some of them made some pretty valid points about stuff. But Ryan, who was the only semi-cool guy from Asher’s dorm who would actually talk to him, told him those sites were for losers who were just salty that they couldn’t get laid. Which was the whole reason Asher was on the sites, because he was a loser who couldn’t get laid. That’s how all the guys on the sites were; it wasn’t some kind of big secret. But anyway when Ryan said it, he called Asher son in that way cool guys talk to each other.

“Son,” he said, “Those sites are for salty losers who can’t get laid.”

No one ever called Asher son, definitely not his father, an emasculated beta male who worked in nonprofit fundraising and had failed to teach Asher how not to be a social pariah. It felt nice to be called son, even by a guy who was chronologically speaking four months younger than him.

The Uber driver dropped him off by a trailhead. She looked the same as the girls in his dorm, Ugg boots, nice body, probably stupid.

“Time for a hike,” he said. She looked him up and down all skeptical, like it was that obvious he wasn’t the hiking type. How to successfully lie to women was another one of those things his father never taught him. Sigh.

As soon as she was gone, he doubled back through the parking lot, past the playground, and up the hill to the petting farm.

He walked through the crowds of parents and kids, said hi to the sheep, bowed low to the rooster, who he thought of as the farm’s concierge. He’d been coming maybe once or twice a year since he was a kid, whenever he felt too lonely and depressed to accomplish anything productive, and it always looked exactly the same.

The cow barn was his favorite. It was dark and shady and smelled like mud. The cows had heads that were as big as Asher’s whole torso. They could eat a baby in one bite, but they never did, even though all the moms kept waving babies right in their faces. They just stood very patient, accepted pats on the head with neither anger nor pleasure, watched the people watching them. Something about the cows made Asher feel very peaceful.

Three Ugg-boot chicks came in the barn, petted the cow, shrieked and giggled when it licked one of their hands with its slow, giant tongue. They looked kind of familiar, like maybe they were in one of his classes. Maybe they lived in his dorm. The parents were all nice to the Ugg-boot chicks, let them play peekaboo with their babies and say hi to their little kids. They never let Asher talk to their kids.

He wished Ryan would come to the farm with him sometime. Maybe Ryan and a few of the cool guys from his dorm. But guys didn’t do stuff like that together. Girls did, guys didn’t. Asher didn’t know why, exactly. That was another one of those things his father never taught him.


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