Out the Middle of a Donut

M. Thompson

M. Thompson

You think: I want a flathead screwdriver. You imagine a large hardware store by your house. You are dragging this man by his ankles, through sliding glass doors down wide empty aisles, his pinkish, chewed down nails clacking against gray tile and his mouth still flapping though not saying too much of anything useful. In a word, blathering. Yammering. Prattling, etc. An unending tape loop of your yadda-yadda-yaddas.

I tell them, yadda. And I’ve been trying to yadda. From the yadda I’ve been saying, yadda yadda yadda.

I see.

But nobody yaddas.

They don’t.

No. See. You yadda. But yadda—

Remember, he’s a thin and featureless thing, made of empty bones like a bird. Only rarely will he grab at passing objects, knock over a snow shovel or unspool a length of rope. This is to be expected and, anyway, the blinking red security cameras installed along the ceiling aren’t actually recording anything.

Yadda yadda. From the beginning I’ve been yadda.

The hard part is putting up with the noise. This store is enormous. Silent. Vast. Echoes will emerge. The kahhuffff of his body being dragged across tile, that rattling nonsense streaming out from his mouth, all bouncing off distant cinderblock walls and returning in waves of unintelligible static. This can quickly lead to distraction, or, what’s worse, disorientation. Without focus, you may find yourself lost in a corner, quite far away from where you intend to go.

So. Continue down an aisle full of front doors. Pass by a pyramid of opaque plastic containers labeled: blah blah blah. A white cardboard arrow is hanging down from the ceiling. Follow where it’s pointing, past rows of unlit floor lamps to a sweaty, fat-backed clerk hunched over a bin of old light bulbs. He’s shaking the half-eaten donut in his hand toward the end of the aisle, at a brightly lit wall.

Screwdrivers. Hundreds of them, hundreds of hundreds, arranged from ceiling to floor in a symmetrical pattern appearing as wallpaper. His legs fall away as you approach the display, a hollow thump at your feet. Straight ahead, a shiny and silver long-necked instrument dangles at eye level. Take it by the handle and turn to see him lying there, arms stretched out, swimming in place.

I yadda yadda to yadda. I yadda, yadda me, is what I yaddad.

Get down on your knees and straddle his chest, smooth the pale skin of his forehead and gently remove the glasses from his face. His eyes become tiny and seem focused on nothing. He says, through squinting lids:

No. This whole time yadda yadda you. I say, yadda. You yadda and that means you see what I mean.

Nod as you stretch out your shoulders. Arrange the instrument against the empty space between his tiny eyes. Say: Yes. I do. I see what you mean. And, for a moment, he stops. So you breathe in. And then you press down.

Not too bad. In a word, satisfactory, acceptable, etc. And most days are acceptable, etc. Only rarely are there days when he squirms and struggles and you’re forced to be severe, more mean and disgusted. He, on the floor, begging to be listened to and you having to hit him and yell at him: No. I don’t see what you’re saying. I see yadda. I see screwdrivers. I hear all of your words and not a single idea. Still, each day ends as the day before. This man with his arms swimming slowly to nowhere, a steady stream dwindling down to a sigh as the tip of your screwdriver finally taps against the tile. He keeps talking while you work. There’s very little resistance. As if his head was a pastry, a lump of white dough, soft, slightly clammy. Like punching out the hole from the middle of a donut.


M. Thompson was born in northern Michigan and now lives in Seattle. His work has previously appeared in places like Unsaid, Everyday Genius, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Spork, among others. He is concerned primarily with fiction writing and running long distances. www.m-thompson.net.


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