Two stories by Gabe Durham

In Case of Emergency

Meet up in the mess hall. Put on your mask first. Pump your brakes and turn your wheel with the spin. Plan ahead where you’ll land the plane, then land it there. Build levies to hold then assume they won’t. Watch, in a windstorm, for cracking branches. When burdened, cut corners. Offer to strip for a search before they can threaten you with one. Consider that ticking bombs are slated to come back in style any season now. Escort the townsfolk one by one into the bomb shelter and turn the wheel until you hear a click. Plant your boots firm in the earth and let the tornado know who’s in control. Dive into the tsunami and swim like hell. In a doorway mid-earthquake, pretend it’s your might shaking everything, your mercy sparing what remains. Pretend to negotiate, then don’t. In peace times, look busy. In drought times, spit like you can spare it. In a fire, retreat deep within yourself. Find me there. I will be the one married to you.


How to explain this? If I felt how I feel now and this was a certain kind of story, I’d burst lasers out my fingertips and a calm man would take me to a secret school and show me how to burst my lasers to fight crime. But every calm man I’ve met in this place has held a paper plateful of Ready Whip behind his back, trying to catch me with my guard down, and I’ve never been told I have a special gift unless the speaker is addressing the whole group and singling me out as an example of someone who you might not think has a special gift. But something has begun to change this year, Sandra: I think I have a real shot at being the kind of girl who’s got it going on. I’ve begun to affect a walk that makes boy counselors’ eyes avert with effort. I’m perfecting a laugh to raise heart rates. I know the subtext behind twelve varieties of hug. I’m recognizing all time spent before a bathroom mirror as investment. I study you for new moves like I’ve never watched anyone older than eighteen, and I’ve begun to wonder if cool does not end at high school graduation as I’d once thought but in fact extends all the way into one’s early twenties. If I have what it takes, I owe it to myself to cultivate that potential. Teach me your secrets, Sandra, and I promise: whenever asked who gifted me my It Factor, I will forever cite you.

Gabe Durham is the author of FUN CAMP, a novel forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. Other writings appeared in Quarterly West, Mid-American Review, The Lifted Brow, The Rumpus and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles, CA, and holds it down here and @gabedurham.