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“What’s new?” she asked.

“The wind,” I said.

She asked the question. She made conversation. She offered a candy of talk.

I sucked. I savored the flavor. I bit right into the hardened sugar.

“Maybe,” I said, “my answer is wrong. The wind may be new. Maybe.”

She nodded her 65-year-old head. Not that her noggin was any older or younger than her body.

“I wonder,” I said, offering a statement followed by a question lollypop, “Do you think the head can be older than the body.”

“What?”

“You can say, ‘No.’ And what about the wind? Is it old?”

“I don’t know. The head? No.”

She attempted to fix her hair – a mess from the wind.

“I wasn’t referring to your hair.”

“I didn’t think you were.”

“I wasn’t.”

She began to cry. She stopped.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said.

“You can cry.”

“That’s not what I mean. My daughter, my life …”

“I didn’t know you were married.”

“I’m not. I’ve told you this.”

I’m not good at listening. I hate listening. That’s why I’m not good at it.

“I’m going to ball.”

I hesitated and finally said, “Meaning?”

Cry. What’s wrong with you?”

She became angry with me. I think I was angry with her first. She’d come in droning like an out-of-date machine, interrupting my typing.

I was working on a story. I decided to make it about her.

I wrote:

“What’s new?” she asks, trying not to cry.

“The wind,” I say, sucking her candy offer of talk, savoring the flavor, biting right into the soft goo. “Maybe I’m wrong. The wind may be new.”

She nods her 65-year-old noggin.

“I wonder,” I say, offering a statement lollypop, “Do you think the head can be older than the body?”

“No. Of course not.”

“What about the wind? Is it old?”

“Of course it is. Like me.”

She attempts to fix her hair.

“I wish I could fix the wind,” she says.

“What the hell does that mean?”

She begins to cry and succeeds at continuing.

“I don’t know what to do for you,” I say. “You can cry.”

“Of course I can. My daughter, my life …”

“I didn’t know you were married.”

I did.”

“Good point.”

I’m not good at listening. I hate listening. That’s why I’m not good at it.

“I’m going to hell,” she says.

I hesitate and finally say, “What’s wrong with you?”

She becomes angry with me, but I’ve distracted her from her balling and hell seeking and am no longer stuck hearing a droning, out-of-date machine like herself.

“Are you writing this down?”

“I’m working on a story.”

“Let me read it.”

“No.”

But I’d already sent the fictionalized dialogue exchange to the printer at her hip.

As if in slow-motion, the machine offered her the entirety of my work from its mouth.

“Thank you,” she said and read:

The 65-year-old woman entered, crying, and said, “What’s new?” The boy was sucking on a piece of candy, savoring the flavor until he impulsively bit into the hardened goo of sugar and said, “The interrupting wind.” She nodded her head, the weight seeming heavier than her entire body. He added, “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I can work on my story.”

The woman ignored the boy, fixed her hair, wishing she could adjust the wind’s direction, and wept. The boy ignored the woman’s droning, as the out-of-date machine printed this dialogue exchange.

“I didn’t write that.”

“What do you mean? Obviously, you did.”

“Obviously, I didn’t. To me, that’s obvious.”

“How can you lie?”

“You mean, ‘Why would you lie?’”

“Yes. Why would you? This is the dialogue exchange we just had.”

“Yes. But you changed it as you read it. What you read isn’t a dialogue exchange!”

“It says, ‘dialogue exchange.’”

“You put it in paragraph form, in 3rd person, and past tense.”

“Why would I do such a thing?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know how that’s possible. And where did ‘wept’ come from? I didn’t use that word.”

“How could you dismiss my feelings and my dealings with my daughter?”

“Your feelings, dealings, and cartwheeling?”

“Are you writing this down, too?!”

“What? No.”

“Get out of the way.”

The woman accidentally elbows the boy in the chin as she snatches away the laptop from his desktop area.

From the screen, she reads aloud:

“I didn’t write that,” the boy says.

“Obviously, you did,” the 65-year-old woman retorts.

“I didn’t.”

“Why would you lie? This is the dialogue exchange we just had.”

“Yes. But it’s different. You put back in ‘dialogue exchange’ and have returned it to present tense, which I appreciate, but it’s still in 3rd person. And thank you for getting rid of the paragraph form.”

“Why would you write such a thing?”

“Are you going to weep?”

“How could you dismiss my feelings, dealings, and –”

“Daughter’s cartwheeling?”

“You know she broke her neck doing a cartwheel, right?”

“What? No. I didn’t.”

She closed the laptop mouth as if in slow-motion.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know about your daughter.”

“Neither did I, until this morning.”

She dropped my computer, and it crashed against the floor.

I could have wept, for that was the only copy of my story – the true version.

I said, “I didn’t write any of that down.”

“Obviously, you did,” she retorted. “Why would you lie? I just read it to you.”

“Yes. But we are not speaking in present tense or 3rd person. I’m my person. There are no paragraphs in life.”

“You look as though you’re about to weep,” she said, smiling.

“How could you dismiss my feelings, my work, my laptop?”

“You know it could have broken in my daughter’s hands, right? If she were performing a cartwheel with your writing tablet in her hands?”

“What? Did that really happen? She broke her neck?”

“Of course. Obviously.”

“Why did you say you didn’t know until this morning? I don’t think that makes sense.”

“How would I have known before then?”

“Why say such a thing? And isn’t it proper English to say, ‘Me neither,’ instead of ‘Neither did I?’”

I finished writing:

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t know about your daughter.”

She drops his computer. He weeps.

“I didn’t write any of that down,” he says.

“Obviously, you did,” she retorts. “I just read it to you.”

“But how could you dismiss my feelings, my work, my laptop?”

“You dismissed my daughter.”

I pick up my laptop. It works. It reads:

He closes his laptop mouth as if shutting it up for good.

“For the good of the world,” he says.

“For the good of the reader, at least,” she retorts.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t know about your daughter.”

“Obviously, you didn’t.”

She drops, crashing her 65-year-old body against the floor as if in slow motion. She cries.

The boy laughs.

“Sometimes, most times,” she says, “my body feels older than my head.”

“You should write that down.”

“I just read it to you.”

“Huh?”

“It’s in a single sentence behind your head. On the wall. On that poster.”

The boy weeps. The woman smiles.

“How could you dismiss my feelings?” they both say, simultaneously.

“My daughter broke her neck.”

“I broke my laptop.”

“No, I broke your laptop.”

“No, I broke your daughter’s neck.”

The 65-year-old woman interrupts the boy’s writing:

“What? Did that really happen?”

“What?”

“What you just read. Read it again.”

“I wasn’t reading.”

“You broke my daughter’s neck? This morning?!”

“I didn’t say or read the time it happened yet.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Neither of us do. But how would you know what happened to her if you haven’t spoken to her since this morning?”

“My daughter?!”

The boy attempts to continue the story as the woman purposely elbows him in the jaw.

As they struggle on the floor, laptop shattered in pieces, he writes on a notepad:

The 65-year-old woman attempted to interrupt the boy’s writing as they struggled on the floor, laptop shattered in pieces, as he wrote:

The 65-year-old woman shrieked, “What’s happening?! Why did you break my daughter’s neck?”

The boy said, “This morning?! I didn’t. That’s merely what I wrote. I killed her yesterday afternoon.”

The woman stood, her body appearing years younger than her face. “That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I spoke to her this morning.”

But how could she have known what happened to her daughter if she hadn’t spoken to her yet that morning? The boy attempted to continue telling the tale, when the woman elbowed him in the jaw for the second time.

“No,” she interrupts me with her 65-year-old voice. “That doesn’t make sense. I only elbowed you the one time.”

My paper story floats from her desk to mine as if in slow motion, shattering my hopes and dreams of becoming a writer.

“What’s happening?!” I shriek. “Why did you break my hopes and dreams of becoming a writer? I ought to break your neck!”

“Did you truly murder my daughter? Or is that merely what you wrote? I didn’t know that was supposed to be you and me in the story.”

“Of course you did.”

The woman stands, her body appearing years younger than her face or voice. “That doesn’t make sense,” she says. “I spoke to my daughter this morning.”

“How was it possible for her to talk if my fingers were gripped around her throat?”

“I thought you said you broke her neck?”

“After I choked her.”

I attempt to continue telling the tale, when she elbows me in the jaw for the second time, elbowing me once before this.

I’m on the floor, and she straddles me, shouting, “How long are you going to keep this up? It’s growing tiresome.”

“But I’m good at this, at keeping things going.”

“Making jokes about murdering my daughter? Not listening to me or caring about how I feel? Attempting to write a story about it?”

The woman hears droning. There, in my hand, she spots the out-of-date recorder. She snatches the old thing from my young grip.

She rewinds the machine. She presses play:

“No!” shrieks from a 65-year-old woman’s throat.

A struggle. Perhaps, an elbow connects to another’s throat. A piece of paper falls. A laptop, or some kind of outdated machine, shatters to the floor.

“You’ve broken my hopes and dreams of becoming a writer!” shouts the woman. “You’ve stolen my moment! My story! I ought to break your neck!”

“I didn’t murder your daughter,” a boy weeps.

“Is that merely what you wrote?”

“Of course. Please, don’t hurt me.”

“I spoke to my daughter this morning. You haven’t seen her?”

“Hold on. You spoke to her this morning? How is that possible? I thought you said she broke her neck doing a cartwheel. She can talk?”

Another struggle. Another elbow, this time to the jaw (remembering the elbow connecting to the throat).

The woman, sounding younger, shouts, “How long are you going to keep this up? It’s growing tiresome. You’re no good at this. Writing! Give it up!”

“I don’t care! I can make jokes about your age and your daughter if I want to. I’m the new age.”

“But you’re not listening to your elders’ feelings or advice!”

“You’re not making way for me!”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck the elders!”

“Fuck the young!”

They both hear a droning sound, a repeat of history, an old machine attempting to destroy pure emotions.

The paper and laptop and recorder are snatched from their grasps and …

The writer boy is choking the writer woman as the writer woman chokes the writer boy.

The daughter enters the office and rolls her eyes at the two: the cute, mysterious intern and her accomplished, clingy mother.

“Are you taking me to gymnastics or not?”

“Who?” they both ask.

THE END

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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