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I’m Not To The Bottom Of It by Jake Skillings

I will make Gary perform this task for me.

     “Gary,” I say, “get that shovel.”

     Gary is wearing cherrywood suspenders and a corn yellow shirt. “What shovel?” he asks.

     “That shovel.” I point to the shovel. It’s a five year shovel, the spade looks like a chipped front tooth. Too many run-ins with bedrock.

     “Dig Gary,” I say (to Gary). He bites the earth with my shovel. The earth is pink. It has the texture of tough noodles. “Dig, Gary, dig.” And then piles of rubbery earth pile on piles.

     “Gary, I’ve been having a problem even a pill can’t fix………Gary, what happens when I close my eyes?

     Gary leans on the shovel. “I believe when you close your eyes you turn into a cat, except to everyone else you continue to appear human.” Gary flings earth through the air and it throbs and shimmers in the sunlight before thwacking down into the plop.

     Gary reaches for a cig. I slap him with ultra violet rays. “Pay attention, Gary. You’re not Sammy Davis Jr. You are not the Entertainer. Or Scott Joplin. No Gary, I’m giving you a mustache to twist between your fingers.” Gary needles the mustache with his thumbs. Pointy.

     “Gary, what do you think of turning water into wine?”

     “I believe magicians have become exponentially underrated compared to their previous merit,” says Gary in a slow sigh, still stroking his mustache.

     “All right, all right. Stop twisting those greasy protein strands. Keep digging.”  The rolling of Gary’s eyes are uphill marbles.

     “Dig Gary Dig. Time’s running out. Gary: dig.”

     Gary digs, he digs. Gary does. The earth is a darker shade of pink, now wet. Dense as strawberry fudge. Gary’s lip trembles with sweat from Gary’s sweat glands. Gary’s sweat glands are sweaty. I drop an anvil of redundancy on Gary’s delicate paper head. It crumples. I smooth it out with hard skinned palms.  “Speak when I say now, Gary, but not just then, after this.  Gary what happens when your wife gets punctured?”

     Gary stands there. He stands. He’s standing.

     “Now Gary, now!”

     “Well,” Gary Gary’s, “I believe punctured wives are still wives. I believe the hole eventually fills back in a few months, like an ear-lobe after removing an earring. It will repair itself and the wife will be complete again. After some time it will be like the hole was never there.”

     “Ok. But Gary, what if I told you the sun is actually made out of rock candy and the universe is slowly eating it?”

     The shovel snaps down past the hilt. The now red ground is soggy and abstract. “I would say good for the universe. Its stomach looks empty from where I’m standing.”

     “Gary, keep digging. But I’m not going to mention that you’re digging anymore. I’m looking for something. You’ll know when you find it. I’m 100% sure it’s in a gold box….or a silver sphere….or a rusty can…or…or…or, DIG GARY, DIG!  DIG  GAR—.”


     “Gary, why do people smoke cigarettes? Gary, why do cigarettes dangle from pink lips like trains over an unfinished bridge?”

     He spits, Gary does. “Well, I believe smokers smoke because they are thrifty when shopping for danger and mystique. I also believe smokers smoke to get away from the non-smokers once in a while.”

     “Don’t get proud, Gary. I might not be nearly done with you yet, maybe.”

     Gary doesn’t get lippy, I don’t allow him to. Another question befalls Gary. “Gary, what happens to people in comas?”

     Gary bursts through a pocket of bubbling batter. It shotguns his face with clotty beads. He wipes his face, smearing it like poorly applied rouge. His shovel, my shovel, looks lost in the glop but isn’t. Gary looks for it anyway, making thick, lazy waves with his foot.  “Coma, huh? I believe that people in comas travel to a parallel universe where they forever run errands in mid-priced four door sedans covered in sea gull droppings (shit).”

     I place a red foam clown nose on Gary. It honks like that one bird that honks. A goose? Gary glares.

     Now: Gary no longer has the clown nose. He finds the shovel handle then pulls it out of the wet pink (already stated) noodle-like earth. Thwuck.

     “I’m tired of digging, this shovel might snap from the enduring efforts on my endurance,” whines Gary. “My abundance of fatigue is fatigued.”

     I drop a giant punctuation mark on his crinkled paper head.


     Now Gary has yellow stars circling his head. I grab one and pop it in my mouth. Tastes like an Easter Peep. Disgusting.

     “Ok Gary, knock it off and use that backhoe over there. Use this instruction manual.”

     I hand him the pamphlet, which is in Chinese. Gary climbs up and sits in the tattered cab seat, then looks over the pages.


     Gary pulls on levers, Gary’s biceps flex and burn. The backhoe splooshes into dense, pink folds of earth.

     Gary knows Chinese. Clever Gary.

     “Gary, maybe one last question, maybe. Gary, why do people tie their shoelaces and put on socks? Why are clothes baskets always full? Is it possible to pick up a bar of soap while blindfolded?  Do the frightening cracks of ice on a lake really refreeze and make it stronger as a whole, or is that just feel-good bullshit? Gary, why does Saran Wrap never seem to run out? Why doesn’t a fly see the flyswatter coming when it has, like, 600 eyes? Gary, why is the sky sometimes orange but not always? And why don’t monsters live under children’s beds and instead hide in the alleyways?  Why do some lovers pretend they are lovers? What happens to the thoughts I don’t think? What happens to the people I don’t know?  Gary— why did that happen to her, to her? She’s just so nice Gary…”

     The backhoe’s metal lurches whilst pistons whimper, the bucket digs in and strains then BLAM. Earth’s red spittle falls upward.
     The machine sinks
     Gary rubs his temples counterclockwise: still sitting in the cab: no expression: sucked down with the machine.

     I stare into the hole. The bottom gave out. No pink noodle earth, no red spittle. Just a clean round hole filled with black air like sleep.

     Now Gary’s gone, Gary is.

     And I’m still not to the bottom of it.

     But I know something is down there, in the void. Just needs a light: maybe a ray of sun and a mirror.

     I think I’ll make Mary perform this task for me.

     “Mary,” I say. “Grab that mirror.”

     Mary is wearing a cherrywood skirt with corn yellow socks. “What mirror?” she asks.

     “That mirror.” I point to the mirror. It’s a ten year mirror. Glass like a rusty lake—too many reflections in the rain.

     “Mary,” I say (to Mary).

     She looks up at me, cheeks round and glowing.

     “Light that dark, Mary. Shine, Mary, shine.”
Jake Skillings is a 29-year-old male from Minnesota. His work has recently appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He also has work published in The Ampersand Review under a pseudonym which may be condiment related.