by William Kitcher
I stagger up the grey dirt mound and look out over the barren cornfields. The skeleton-like leaf-less trees bend toward the starving black-tinted crows. The squall rises from the north like a deviant pack of wild hyenas in the sun-drenched plains of Africa.
We interrupt this story to bring you breaking news. Something has happened to a celebrity. We don’t know which celebrity it is or what the news is, but we know it happened to a celebrity. We will relay more information when we have it.
Grandfather, his gangrenous skull shining with blotchy sweat, drops his shovel like a dead animal and tells me to appreciate what I have but he drinks too much and smacks the children repeatedly.
We interrupt this story to bring you an update on the breaking news about a celebrity. We’re still not sure what’s happened but we can pass on the news that the celebrity was either a professional tennis player, a singer, a minor royal, or a business tycoon. More information when it becomes available.
The cool sun breaks through the lifeless partly-scudding clouds and warms my now-naked pubescent body and my crooked soul like a phantom severed limb.
We interrupt this story to let you know that the celebrity was involved in a car accident. We have no further information at this time. Back to the story already in progress.
My brother, whose legs were brutally injured while bringing in last year’s pathetic crop, howls from our crumbling home, where Mother bathes the baby in dirty water, and I return to the pain of my dissipating childhood.
We interrupt this story to pass along the information that the celebrity involved was a singer, a big star, who probably has sold millions of units. We don’t have the identity of the singer yet but we can report that the car accident was fairly serious.
Our emaciated donkey brays as I limp toward the ramshackle house. My feet are blistered and bleeding through my crumbling shoes, and this is something I’m used to.
We interrupt this story to let you know that speculation on social media about the singer’s identity is not correct. We will not distinguish those speculations with a response. However, we can tell you that the car accident is not as serious as previously reported. A car travelling on Highway 41 went off the road onto the gravel side and sideswiped a tree.
The wind rises and blows the screen door off its hinges. It comes to rest against the kitchen window and scratches its peeling paint on the grease-stained window, reminding me of the storm this past winter when Uncle Ezra was crushed by our falling chimney.
We interrupt this story to pass on the news that the celebrity in question was not in fact a singer. It was Ivan Brankovic, the Serbian tennis player ranked number 87 in the world. We go live to sports reporter, Ramona Stibbles.
“Thank you, Dan. We can confirm that Ivan Brankovic was involved in the side-swiping of a tree on Highway 41 recently. Injuries are thought to be minor, possibly a bruised wrist. While our team tries to secure an interview with the paramedics on the scene, I’m reminded of the plane crash involving golfer Ben Hogan many years ago, another home-grown athlete.”
I’d had enough of this. “What’s the big idea?” I asked. “Why are you interrupting the story? And how is Ivan Brankovic a ‘home-grown’ athlete? You just said he was from Serbia.”
Well, he’s lived in North America for a long time so we think we can now regard him as an American.
“No, you can’t. He was born in Serbia, lived in Serbia for the first twenty years of his life, and he’s still a Serbian citizen. He just plays tennis here sometimes.”
It’s possible that you’re right about Ramona; she’s a bit star-struck. But we think Ramona was trying to be inclusive. We all feel in great pain when any celebrity has a brush with death. Isn’t that right, Ramona?
“What brush with death??? He side-swiped a tree, that’s all. And what’s with this ‘we’ stuff? The royal ‘we’? Who do you think you are, Queen Elizabeth? And even if it was someone important, why are you interrupting my story? People can get their news at other times. Right now they want to read a story.”
Well, to be honest…
Your story is pretty gloomy. And you’re writing in the first person. And in the present tense.
“That’s what people like.”
Do they? Or is that just what magazines publish? And because that’s what magazines publish, that’s what people think they like? And because that’s what people think they like, that’s what writers write? Isn’t that why you’re writing like that?
Yeah, you see, you don’t have an answer to that. And, actually, that’s why we interrupted you. The death of a celebrity is less gloomy than the crap you write. The minor injury of a minor celebrity is certainly less gloomy than the crap you write. We were doing your readers a favor. But that’s just my opinion.
“Who the hell are you?”
I’m part of a team that interrupts writers before they get into anything ridiculous. Normally, we do this before the writer can start, but, in your case, you’d already started the drivel.
“I don’t know what to say.”
The details of Uncle Ezra’s will revealed that he was wealthy beyond anyone’s imagination, and he left all his money to Mother and me. We used the money to fix my brother’s legs, feed the donkey, construct a new house on a site that had clean potable water in which to bathe the baby, get a new pair of shoes for me, and hire a private detective who dug up so much dirt on Grandfather that he was sent to prison for ten years.
William (Bill) has had over 120,000 words of short fiction published, although, to be honest, he’s used some of them more than once, especially “the”, “and”, and “armadillo”. His novel, “Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep”, will be published in late October 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing.