Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 14
Spring, 2014

Featured Novel Excerpt
New Works

Rory Fleming

Pride & Disappointment

Grandma? I am able-bodied but I don't want to touch my feet against the carpet. Don't wake me, because I'm dreaming. Though your shouts are reaching me—my antennae pick up the signal. Bee-boop-bee-boop. My feelers connect with space abounds. I spring up, remember, there is school—business school starts today! I will sit, and envision sustainable economies; the kids in Africa will sit and sing, and I, with my bonnet! They will have the water that is clean. I will fly there and I will sing. I like to dream.
I thought I told you to leave me alone!
The birdie flies out by my window and takes a big white shit there. I would never be so vulgar in communication, but this is my mind, mind you, and I'm allowed to concoct what I want. I tap the window while still in bed and it flies away. There is snow, it is January, and in the window there are little cracks. The tree outside is frozen and there is a dead possum in the road.
I go shower, washing the speckles of sleep from my long, brown hair. The soap is quiet against my skin. The lavender smell paints an image on the wall. I jump out, draw an orangutan in the mirror's fog. I throw a pencil skirt on in my room.
Grandma, don't speak, for if you get started I will be late to school. I'm going back to school! No more boring office job for me. No more administrative assistantship. I take my waffle and go.
(But I love you, don't forget.)
I kiss her on the head goodbye.


When I get sick, parts of my stomach explode, but there is no debris. I simply leave the classroom, or doodle in my notebook, or gaze out the window where it is still snowing heavily. Luckily, this does not happen too often today, on the first day, but there are times when it does. For instance, the arrogance of the some of the people who are here. I wish they would just go away. I don't care that you or your dad went to Yale, Stanford. What I do care about is what is here, pointing at my chest, right here in your soul.
I'm a strange one, they say.
But it's a thing that means a lot to me. I could have just stayed at home with Grandma all day, cooking her mild chicken soup, watching looping clips of the Challenger explosion, but I figured. I waited. I made a decision after she held my hand and told me to come here, to this school.
Where are the people like me, I wanted to scream!
Professor B asks a question of me, about supply/demand charts. I say that, today, and today only, it is snowing. She asks what I mean, and I tell her. No one day is exactly the same.


It had a nice courtyard, this school, filled with nestling squirrels. The hum of beetles under the ground: hibernating and waiting to strike.
I thought your answer was cool, the wind blew.
I sat there eating my lunch in silence, despite the winter cold. In fact, there were voices behind me. I wanted to join them. I also majored in that thing they were talking about, and while my answer was cool, I could have given an informed one. Include me in your charts and graphs, I wanted to say. When would the ground defrost, I wondered, giving us grass again?
The man with the chocolate covered nose approached me. He informed me that there were many flavors of chocolate in the world, and fair trade chocolate was what he wanted to do with his life.
It takes all kinds. I asked him why and he told me his father was a chocolate salesman who worked himself from nothing. Literally nothing, as if he had no body, lacking realpolitik. I asked if he admired his father; he agreed. He nodded with reverence. Did he actually have no body? I asked. He offered me chocolate instead.
Milk chocolate.
But I'm trying to keep my weight down, and I'm trying to save the children, and I don't want anybody to think I am greedy! I know we're in America, but . . .
Maybe I do love you.
Winter is a good time for love, generally speaking. It takes two to warm up. I've denied myself the comforts of artificial anti-cold—it stuffs up the nose.
Maybe I don't love you, but will you take me? On a date? Back to your castle?
Lucky it is cold, because it is melting, day after day. Southern money.


You have to define your terms, he tells me! You have to, he shouted!
What are we even talking about?
Are we talking about us?
But you just have to! You have to define your terms!
No, we are talking about something he really cares about, but I can't hear him, as if he's far away.
You just . . . have to . . . he sighs, exasperated.
I am tired, hungry. Feed me with your kiss. Confusion. Bliss.
This is only our second date. I am not ready. Do you want to run away to Africa?
Mixed feelings.
He takes me by the hand, outside the restaurant where we were watching the game on TV, the orange ball game. A lot of people here like the orange ball game, but we don't have that where I'm from. We just have Grandma. Grandma is enough entertainment for all of us.
"Remember when I told you the story about how your dad was in the war?"
Shush, Grandma, it's too much. I am flooded with memory, mourning, doubt.
And I am upset you didn't teach me the game with the orange ball, which was not there where I'd come from.
Define your terms!
It's a game, with an orange ball, and dad is dead. I am sad that dad is dead.
Here, can you pass the shoulder?


It was actually a plane crash. Grandma kept it from us when we were kids, and that is why I'm so used to telling stories to lie to myself. I ultimately cannot define my terms, for it is too scabbed up, the skin underneath too raw.
It's me in the pencil skirt! Look at me presenting! I'm talking about sustainable economies, doing what I'd come to here to do. They are sending me to Africa.
Define your terms!
On scholarship.
Define your terms!
It's the peace corp.
It's free!
Will you be lonely?
I might be lonely.
Will you?
Not any more than I am with you. Now if I could just shut that phone.


I wrote him a letter there, once.

Dear Steven,

Do you still keep your face unshaven? Do you still forget to iron your collar? Those are the things I like about you. Like when I trace the contours of your face with my index finger. I remember those days, those were the days that my feet felt cold no matter what I did with them, and I was so conflicted and so confused. I don't hate you, I just need to erase you. It's really hot here, I sweat a lot. That's what I was missing in my life—the real need to wear deodorant.
I know you still think I'm spoiled. I'm just doing what I want to do.
You're the one with the inheritance, anyway. Tell my Grandma I said hello. Sorry she didn't want to meet you. It was for the best.
Good. Bye.

Then I forgot him and disappeared into the deadening sun of the great plain where the gazelle endlessly run, play, and time finally,

Rory Fleming is a writer and law student living in North Carolina, where he has spent much of his life. He has previously made himself known in Gone Lawn 9 & 12, and was recently nominated by Bartleby Snopes for the Pushcart Prize.