"Asphyxiation": A One-Sentence Story

On March 3rd, 2014, I performed this short piece as a spoken-word story at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village. The story is a part of an ongoing collection of work I call "One Sentence Stories." Look for most posts about them in the coming future!


A majority of his social anxieties could be traced to a recurring dream that had been plaguing his sleeping hours since he was no more than five years old, it a series of images and transcendent emotions that painted an image of him with the head and mind from his conscious-world attached to the body of his two year-old self as he gazed out his bedroom window from beside his crib, and—after a few times of this dream occurring—memorizing the flight patterns of planes departing from JFK as they glided ethereally with the coordination of a well-trained dancer across the outer boroughs’ sky and lost in an endless cauldron of East Coast haze, while he lied there pretending to sleep, as his father--slugger muscles bristling, all five tools in sync, sights set on another 40-40 season, this guy already a shoe-in for Cooperstown as the crown jewel of his generation, as baseball analysts would consistently say--crept into his room, under the pretense that his son was in fact sleeping and not memorizing flight patterns, muttering something in a crazed voice glazed with a butterscotch accent about, “fathers and sons,” and, “ungrateful male next of kin,” and what had happened to the likes of “other guys,” such as, “Bobby Bonds, Ken Griffey Sr., and—may God bless him—Cecil Fielder” and the many others who dealt with a tormented and pernicious sociopathic paranoia that the historical value of their well-groomed abilities to hit and throw and catch and run and “keep their eye on the ball” on ninety-by-ninety foot diamonds would be overcast by their male next of kin in some passively spiteful way years down the proverbially road after a failed formative father-son period during which the father had neglected to embrace the spirit of his relationship with his offspring in favor of greedily furthering his abilities to churn out demigod-like results; and while he (the father) mumbles a roughly paraphrased version of this, beneath his butterscotch breath now embossed by the high proof of scotch whiskey, it is all the son can do to pretend to remain asleep by intently focusing on flight patterns and not the kitchen rag that hangs from his father’s left hip pocket or the plastic wrap hidden precariously behind his back, as he has come to know by now that these murder implements of choice will be used to gag and asphyxiate him, in that order, even if he begs for mercy; so by this point he has matured enough in his dreaming life to figure out, at least, how to avoid being killed, making note of the third-to-last bar on the window-side of his crib, complete with a beveled and lusterless brass knob toward its base that serves as a makeshift bludgeon of sorts, as it has stubbornly—and most frustratingly, if you ask the building’s superintendent—remained loose in what has now become some thirty years’ worth of dreaming; so that when his father begins his merciless descent with the Reynolds Wrap, he can turn from memorizing flight patterns to springing into action as a tough-as-nails toddler with a brass crib bar that will be so choicely aimed, almost with deft precision, at his father’s left jaw, which always seems to stun him (the father) as he recoils in searing pain and the son makes way for the door on the other side of the room; and though a fractured jaw is painful for this neglectful and, now homicidal father, he is still a man upwards of 220-pounds of slugger’s steal, and it buys the young boy of no more than two years of age below the neckline roughly ten seconds to scamper to the room’s only escape exit until, of course, the next part of the dream occurs inexplicably: a rush of cold ocean water comes crashing in, completely saturated with foam and salt and totally unexpected, as always, flooding the room within the amount of time it takes to labor a handful of breaths for air, tops, and so now it seems as both father and son share some bizarrely similar fate of asphyxiation, only this time with water and not Reynolds Wrap, but only until this scrappy little child discovers a skylight down the hallway outside illuminated by the pale glow of a waxing gibbous moon, it dangling like an ornament of hope or life or some other abstract and cliché image that, regardless of its embedded meaning, is bright and luminous and clearly the only beacon of hope should the toddler ever dream of breathing again; though, as he butterfly strokes upwards to the light, along with the other buoyant materials in the apartment—blankets, light furniture, etc.—that drift ever so serenely in the cool ocean blue, he can’t help but notice the beauty of it all—the ambient light and the now foamless and crystal clear water that suspends the typical motions of an air-saturated world to near indifferent inertia—and as an afterthought, for just one moment in the depths of his rapidly pulsating heart, that if he must die, this is surely a more pleasant way to go than death by Reynolds Wrap, and when he finally reaches the latch to the roof and the sky beyond, he becomes blinded by the sheer intensity of the moonlight, and at this point the dream doesn’t really end, rather, it oscillates and warps like the light refracted by a black hole as his mind drifts backward into another stage of subconscious slumbering.

—© Nick Reale, 2014