This story is by M Heyer and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
This all started with the new back-up sounds on the delivery trucks. It went from some kind of “excuse my dust” toot to the sound of crows hovering over carrion. If you have a car – I don’t: that was an easy choice – it must sound like the Amazon truck is coming to eat you. But it was time to start thinking about it. The big it. DQ.
Because you were shaving – and that nasty tug after 4 days. Like raking, getting some whole weeds, some tops of weeds. Partially hurts, but mostly just feels gross. And not leaving a clean line. The idea was a clean line. It doesn’t really hurt. The idea is what hurts. Peeling your skin off is probably the same – gross.
But keep at it, eventually you’ll get there. Or you could change blades. Or plan c – don’t wait 4 days. 2 or 3 days instead. Then you’ll still get the blade through and you won’t feel like you need to change it. That’s the plan. Plan c. That’s really how it started. Shaving. Blade at its end-of-life. You can get an extra week out of the blade, maybe 2. Then extrapolate.
How much time do you have left – actuarially? Actuarially actually. DQ Actually. That’s your movie. Not the other one. Nope.
Time remaining x blades kept for 2 extra weeks = DQ.
Starts to add up. And you have to put shaving in its proper perspective. Not what it was before, but suited to what you are now. It’s not unimportant. But not crazy-important either. Now extrapolate some more. What else could you get 2 more weeks out of?
There go the truck buzzards again.
It really started with that news report. The radio is right there on the back of the toilet. (Which isn’t a great idea, DQ-wise.) But the report said we are pumping out the aquifer. That’s the big underground lake your dumbass is standing on and using to make coffee and rinse out the toilet (again, move the radio). We’re pumping it dry. There’s models for it, when it’ll be gone. Golf courses in Texas were not a great idea. Big straw running from there to the lake. Schlllluuuuuurrrrrpppp!
“Depleted,” they kept saying with their NPR assuredness.
You, rake-shaving, asking the radio: How depleted? The radio: “Depleted.” You of course: How fucking depleted? They jump to a guy who measures depletion.
Maybe there’s enough water. Maybe all these things they keep saying – water, shoreline, forest, manganese, O2. Maybe there’s enough. Just enough. DQ. And aren’t they just passing the time making these reports, same as you listening to them? Filler?
Look in the drawer: 12 blades. Handled right, that’s like – a year? You’ve got, what, 10-15 years left? 20? If you hit a good sale you could get the rest. They’d fit in the drawer. No expiration date. If you still got a hand in, yeah, you’d need more. But you don’t. You shave because you look like shit otherwise. You gotta shave. A little.
You know when you go on a ride at the carnival? Ferris wheel for instance. You ride it for a while, and you get all these different views of the carnival, bottom to top. And then it begins halting. Rhythmically stopping. You’re on the back end. You can see them letting people off between your ankles. New people getting on to take their place. That’s where you are. Seeing the end between your ankles. You’ll be on for a while longer. But you can see it. Plan accordingly. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, Martin.
So you got a scratchpad and wrote, “Razor blades: Buy 13 boxes.” Split the difference. And that was the beginning.
What else? Socks! You might be there already. Write socks on the list and look in the drawer.
You got a lotta socks. Not out of any particular vanity, but so you didn’t have to wash them often. One whole bureau drawer-full. They don’t gotta match either. Matching is for before. Now they just need to be close. Dark with dark, light with light. True socks from true socks.
Dump them out on the bed and add the ones from the laundry pile. 43! Look under the bed. Another half dozen. 49! You’re there!
Go back to your list. This is a big moment. Write it. Next to socks write: DQ.
Take a few minutes. It’s ok to cry. You might cry for a long time. Fucking socks. Baby socks, junior high school socks, wedding socks. All the socks of life. Final socks. Here lies DQ. He leaves behind these socks.
Don’t get too distracted now. Back to work.
Do the same with jeans. How long do they last? By which is meant, how long do they last you if you don’t wash them too often because you really don’t have to anymore. You got 5, get 5 more. DQ.
Shorts. 9? What are you, a fucking professional volley ball player? DQ.
Underwear? Over-rated at this point. Probably DQ already. Count ‘em up on laundry day.
What will happen with your body? What needs to happen? The state will figure it out. Who the f cares? You’ll be dead.
Let’s just pause here and address the accumulation of elephants in the room.
“Oh look, he named 5 different ways that ‘it all started.’ What does that tell you? When someone doesn’t realize that they’re insisting a massive change in life direction has a specific cause and then keep coming up with a different ones. What does that tell you?”
Good for you! So clever. You literary analyst you! Will you write an essay about each of the 5 reasons? What each one tells us?
Yes! You caught it again! Only 3 reasons were given. Back up lights, shaving, aquifer. “He says 5 but there’s 3. What does that tell you?”
Is that your evangelical? 5 instead of 3? More than 1? Is that how you go around each day, looking for little mathematical discrepancies upon which to base your … reputation? That’s the nature of madness to you – substituting 3 or 5 for 1?
Run along. Go out and play. You’re relieved of duty. Our true audience is delighted by the economy of 3 reasons rather than profligacy of 5. 3 is DQ. Sell the other 2 for fuel.
Elephant 17. Romantic aridity.
His wife left him? Marcy? Lucinda? She’d/they’d had enough. “And then he just lost his bearings and started saying 5 all the time instead of 1.”
You’re starting to see, I hope, which of us “needs help.”
Or the end of romantic possibility as a function of time, i.e., Elephant 17.8?
“It cannot reach him anymore. It could at one time, but no longer, and he’s turnt his attention to DQ. Support for this view: these dark obsessions.”
That’s circular, but ok.
You believe romance only fails in time and not because it is hopelessly limited to begin with. Not dissipating like a puff of smoke in consequence of its absence of weight. It was supposed to save you?
Suddenly anxious, you reach for your wife, husband, lover, comfort animal, giraffe. (“He said giraffe was a comfort animal – did everyone see that?”) They provide sustenance. “He wanted too much from it. Lacked balance.”
You have balance. Husband + comfort giraffe. Completely balanced. Balanced enough.
The exhaustibility is managed (concealed). Of course, one needs other great loves. Family. Community involvement. Charity work. Volunteering. “Giving back.”
You “give back” owing to your lauded humility concerning material possessions. But what about your romantic possessions? How do you “give back” for those?
I’m just curious. And not that curious.
So let’s just leave it at this: If you want to ride the train at midnight and feel completely free -which is to say, completely DQd- then you have to make a few discoveries. You can make them yourself now or let time make them for you. I’m suggesting you, as they say in the big office where I still work (barely), “get out in front of it.” It is going to run you over anyway. Maybe you’ll catch a break by getting an early start. Also, they don’t mean “get out in front of it” that way. But that’s their problem.
But think of it. You could be 80-90% ready-to-die in 2 weeks! That’s pretty damn good.
But why is it good? Why, Martin? Answer me, not them. What does it give you? Peace? Tracing to the logical conclusion? What will be better? Aha! Nothing will be better. Being better is the antithesis of DQ. DQ is for when you know there is nothing better and can’t wrap your head around other options. It’s your clean but not too well-lit room.
Enough for now. Tomorrow is DQ Shopping Day. Heady stuff. I can’t wait to say things like, “I need exactly enough 40 watts to last 13 years. H’many would that be?”