Fiction · 09/18/2019

Dolores Watches a Documentary

1.

Dolores adores ice cream; she even sports a Rocky Road tattoo on her right butt cheek. But after watching a food production documentary on PBS, she becomes aware of the plight of the dairy cows. How they crowd together in their airless pens. How the babies are torn from their mothers’ teats. How the mothers’ blistered udders cry out for salve.

Also, consider the farts. The methane. Dolores does, for the first time. How she and everyone and everything are wrapped in a bag of flammable gas. The very air itself is a potential firestorm.

That night, she leaves a blob of salted caramel melting at the bottom of her bowl. Her dog, Supra, finishes it after she goes to bed.

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2.

Drought. Eight months of it. An endless rabbit run of brown canyons; hillsides limned in fire. All of this makes bathing seems bourgeois.

What are a few dead skin cells in the face of such thirst? Her cells are more of her. They are accumulations of her self. Herself. Her aimless DNA, her unimpressive helixes of average humanity. Is it necessary, or even advisable, to rinse all that away?

She turns off the tap and lets the soap stiffen on her skin. When she steps out of the shower and looks in the mirror she is crusty-white, like a salt flat in a national park. She believes she looks better now. Ancient. Layered. Crinkling with wisdom.

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3.

At the office, Dolores ponders paradoxes. She begins with tongue twisters. She sells seashells by the seashore. But the seashore is full of seashells already. Ergo, the “she” in this scenario is either brilliant or stupid, and whichever one you choose tells you something about yourself.

Dolores asks a customer: What kind of person sells that which is available for free?

You do, the customer says. In a sense.

Oh shit, Dolores says. You are so right.

She sells extended refrigerator warranties to people via the telephone. She peddles confidence to people who’ve purchased a box full of cold air.

Midway through the call, she hangs up and exits her cubicle. She stuffs her customer service trophy into a unisex toilet tank and goes outside to smoke a fatty.

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4.

Her boss fires her after lunch. In spite of her trophy. In spite of this being her first mistake. He fires her for bad language, and abruptness, and because loyalty is dead in corporate America.

You know what else is dead? Dolores shouts as she walks outside and boards a bus. Fossils. For fossil fuels.

Long dead beings, shells or bone or ancient peat. Dinosaurs. Whales. Cows. Men.

Through some pulverization she doesn’t understand, some crushing — she pictures dolphin bones pinned and ground between two iron pilings — these ancient things are made into liquid. This liquid feeds the cars and trains and busses. Their emissions feed the sky full of animal gases. The sky becomes toxic, and so on, and so on: more death.

She cannot participate in this injustice any longer; history becoming grist for its own erasure. She shoves down the top half of the bus window and squeezes her body through the gap, dropping into the center of an intersection.

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5.

Bruised and sore, she stumbles to the ATM five blocks away. She deposits her final paycheck. When it slides halfway into the slot, she realizes she is spoon-feeding the Bank, a creature with tentacles that’s siphoning the honor from human enterprise.

She pulls hard on the check until her knuckles whiten and the machine gears wheeze.

She loses. The check vanishes.

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6.

Her stomach growls. She remembers, she’s out of groceries. All she has at home is dog food and ice cream, a moldy loaf of cracked wheat bread and a nearly untouched jar of almond butter.

She hates almond butter.

Inside the organic superstore, she fills a basket with items. Eggs and sprouts, tofu and artichokes. Free range. Local. Non-GMO.

And then she remembers a scientist from the food documentary. What did she say? Organic is a lie. The soil is tainted. The wind carries pollutants from field A to field B. You can’t stop the wind.

She leaves the basket on the floor. Everything except a pint of non-dairy vegan ice cream. She imagines she might get hungry again someday. On that day, she will need to change her tattoo, from Rocky Road to Coconut Cardamom Hemp.

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7.

The next morning, Dolores doesn’t wake. Why bother? She is an extra body, eating up resources. Instead, she sends her spirit into the void. It’s like diving into black silk sheets. The backs of her eyes are the bottom of the ocean; they are outer space. All the colors of creation are coming alive behind her eyelids. Why leave now when stars are going supernova and the earth’s plates are spinning in place for her? Bursts of incandescence collapse inward, endlessly consuming themselves into an infinite matrix that folds and folds, pinning her in place. Including her in infinity.

She sighs.

At the side of her bed, Supra licks her hand, making plans for a feast.

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Kristen Havens’ poetry and fiction has appeared in Bending Genres, PANK, Phantom Drift, The Fourth River, and Slipstream, among others. She lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she works as a nonfiction book editor.