Jay had a new app on his tablet called Bacon Man, and it was basically a game in which you fed a rather skinny guy bacon. The guy would walk along a forest and you’d have to dodge falling branches or pinecones or crazed-looking squirrels to get the bacon near his mouth. When it was close enough, Bacon Man would gobble it up in one gulp and make a noise that sounded like a groan. He always looked so pleased to have the bacon. Sometimes, it was Canadian ham. With his index finger, Jay would unhook the bacon/ham from a flying fridge (for some reason the various cures were flapping from a stretch of wire on the side of it) and he’d carefully maneuver the realistic-looking meat towards Bacon Man, who tracked the movement keenly from the corner of his eye. There was something odd about Bacon Man, something not quite right—what that something was was never clear—and besides, you were too busy hunting down the bacon to read too much into it.
Jay’s life was crumbling—it was literally falling apart. It was a given that he’d hit hard times. He couldn’t remember an easy day. Easy days were for other people, and other people were tricky to come by, being so wrapped in their own unique sets of problems. During this period, he often thought about his Grandmother’s saying, “Time is just an envelope,” which didn’t make any sense, but still had a ring to it—at least it was nice to say out loud. His grandmother was already ten years dead.
Bacon Man never gave up. He just kept on walking through the forest, his nondescript waistcoat and pants fluttering in a breeze that would’ve gotten on anybody’s nerves. Bacon was his existence. His aim. Without bacon, Bacon Man would be just a man. Like Jay—only two-dimensional and slimmer. Without it, there’d be a massive chasm in his pixelated chest, the feeling of sheer unworth, of having no real objective. As long as the bacon kept coming, though, Bacon Man kept truckin’. Jay appreciated his level of commitment.
“Bacon is, and always will be, my favorite food,” his grandmother had once told him.
He remembered it vividly because she had been eating a plate of eggs at the time, scraping her knife across his mother’s expensive china to scoop up all the yolk.
“Without bacon, there is no joy. And without joy, well...” she’d added, vowels mushy from all the egg in her mouth.
Bacon Man would’ve backed his grandmother all the way.
He would’ve worked hard for her bacon.
In the end, though, it runs out for him—both time and bacon. There just isn’t enough floating down from the tree canopy. The squirrels, too, have turned violent, with red eyes and manic teeth, desperate for a bit of salty meat, wherever they can find it.
Bacon Man uses up the last of his streaky energy bar, his legs go weak, and he fades from view like a ghost, slowly becoming air and the backdrop of pines and conifers so tastefully rendered behind him.
A single squirrel moves from one end of a branch to the other end of a branch, back and forth, back and forth.
It just never stops.
Jonathan Cardew edits fiction for Connotation Press. His stories appear or are forthcoming in JMWW, Superstition Review, People Holding, Atticus Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, among others. He was a finalist in Best Small Fictions 2016 and received a Pushcart nomination in 2017. Visit him here: jonathancardew.wordpress.com.