Michael Grant Smith ~ Scraps

we sang as we loaded the cat­a­pults and launched new days. the pay­load was potent and we aimed for the hori­zon.
          ~ Graffiti at the Municipal Government Center ruins

Franklin Ritter slept beneath a blan­ket of bees. He curved his back until it fit with­in a toe­nail moon. Tonight all the water in the world drummed on his shed’s sheet met­al and played a lul­la­by. Miniature water­falls framed the inte­ri­or; sur­face ten­sion pro­duced upside-down rivers along the ceil­ing until they obeyed grav­i­ty. Franklin won­dered what he could barter in exchange for addi­tion­al roof pan­els.

He’d queued for five hours, wait­ed to receive his restruc­tured-pro­tein rations. Government issue suits me fine said the ancient man one place behind have you seen the black-mar­ket prices? Next, a ser­pen­tine pro­ces­sion for six ounces of sorghum flour and a pint of diesel fuel. Some words, spray-paint­ed on a wall:

amer­i­ca is a super­pow­er
x‑ray vision is a super­pow­er
hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty is bet­ter than
non-essen­tial activ­i­ty

Rolling brownouts knocked the fight out of refrig­er­a­tion. Fifteen min­utes of gen­er­a­tor run-time could­n’t even cool a hard­boiled egg. Spoilage is an abstract to any­one in a chron­ic state of want.

A younger Franklin had found and brought home a rab­bit sav­aged by fer­al cats. In a grass-lined box crouched the rab­bit, its ears tilt­ed back­ward and eyes alert. The ani­mal’s sides heaved. Franklin’s touch and the fur were as soft as cot­ton­wood fuzz. Father car­ried the box out­side with­out speak­ing.

Seeds, greens, legumes, and roots. The plebian diet. Meat was a side prod­uct of good for­tune and more pre­cious than cur­ren­cy.

Rabbit stew; the caramelized flesh ren­dered to steam. Franklin’s mouth watered and tears dripped into his bowl while he ate. His father packed a ruck­sack and said he was going out to look for Franklin’s moth­er, adding kind­ness is no crime as long as you don’t get caught. If the search was suc­cess­ful, Franklin nev­er knew.

Another day in the queue. Again in front of the chat­ty old-timer. Heat rip­pled from crushed lime­stone and Franklin bare­ly noticed the announce­ment: one last allo­ca­tion was avail­able. It’s mine cried the elder­ly man this one jumped the line! Compliance Associates wear­ing black caps threw Franklin face down. He was too sun-fad­ed to deny their shout­ed accu­sa­tions. They stood on his out­stretched arms and the crowd jeered.

Right or left the CAs demand­ed which is it? A feck­less ques­tion — you did­n’t know if they’d spare the favored one, or tar­get it. I choose nei­ther said Franklin. They wrapped a rag around his right hand. A ham­mer rose and fell, and again, and once more. Blood filled the cloth the way Franklin’s screams pen­e­trat­ed the air.

Waves of pain broke against him. The CAs pushed back onlook­ers. Franklin’s with­ered accuser, clutch­ing three yams, was the last to leave.

Franklin did­n’t open the bloody rag; he want­ed only to rest for a few min­utes. His shed promised scant com­fort. He shut his eyes and imag­ined bees. Licked their hon­ey from his lips. He’d be lucky not to lose his right hand alto­geth­er but did­n’t doubt he could still spray paint with his left.

~

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeve­less T‑shirts, weath­er per­mit­ting. His writ­ing has appeared or is forth­com­ing in eli­mae, The Airgonaut, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, Okay Donkey, trampset, Tiny Molecules, and else­where. Michael resides in Ohio and is nei­ther aero­dy­nam­ic nor buoy­ant. He has trav­eled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. Find more at www.michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.