Weekend Out by Kyle Ellingson
Associate fiction editor Ben Kinney on today's bonus story: Kyle Ellingson's "Weekend Out" isn't a word longer than it needs to be, but the story is stunning in the sheer scope of what it manages to deliver in a few hundred words: characters that seem real, jokes that land, and images you will think about for the rest of the day.
With Dad: Walked out of potentially sexy film, at Dad’s behest. He intuited approach of soft-core denouement and swept us out “just in time.”
Napped on enormous L-shaped couch, head to head on long wing, plus Dad on short wing. Awoke when Dad gagged, bitten by own cat, likely in prompting of feeding hour—though really nowhere close to feeding hour. Cat is senile incontinent, name of Hucky, with drooling condition. Learned noun: feline macular degeneration. “Why can’t you be courteous, like my daughters?” Dad, dribble of blood and drool from ankle, said in style of cursewords at Hucky, who flattened ears, aggrieved.
Trod on already kinked tail of Hucky. Whiled night handling raw salmon scraps, coaxing Hucky out of nook of towel cupboard, so Dad could administer vital insulin shot.
Chaperoned to sex talk for adolescents, hosted by open and affirming unitarian church. Lectured to by “loving” couples in sexless chevron shawls, holding hands: man + woman; woman + woman; man + man; amputee + intact; Russian + Somalian; blind + dwarf. Learned adjective:
Afterward, scolded with frown for asking whether handicapped + 180 IQ is acceptable pairing. Learned catchphrase: gray area.
Up late with flashlight, temple to temple in top bunk, snickering at homework pamphlet of mating techniques of diverse species:
Cats—Linked together during sex by male’s barbed penis. Dogs—Linked together during sex by ballooning tip of male’s penis. Humans—Linked together during sex by desire for stimulation or by various senses of social or financial obligation.
Breakfasted with Mom and Mom’s significant other, who kept wondering aloud if Mom would like to sit on his lap. Polite, as if lap were platter of hors d’oeuvres: “Lap?” Watched blushing Mom issue same excuse over and over: couldn’t get up with kitten dozing in lap. When kitten stirred, Mom clenched forepaws until, tired from much writhing, it again dozed off.
Sat at picnic table in park without picnic. Grandma proffered rerun analyses of demise of our parent’s union. Listened with abiding interest as lifetime subscribers to Grandma’s penchant for explanation.
“Your father is afraid of intimacy that results too regularly in hippity dippity. As in, Does she love me or love the hippity dippity? Your mother is afraid of aging and disease and confuses a profusion of hippity dippity with youth and health.”
Cat below, harnessed at end of leash. Munching grasses. Empty-headed bovine calm. Turning head to snack on fronds. Occasional regurgitation and resettling in grass away from unwanted cud.
Elbow to elbow, bowed heads at foot of sunken patch of soil. Greener grass on patch than around it.
Beloved son, father, grandfather, lottery winner.
Grandpa there below, with cat decaying in sphinx pose on stomach, the spot it slept on so decisively in life, through nightly tosses, swattings, and turnovers.
Kyle Ellingson lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he works for Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books. He held a few moderately physical jobs before sitting down to sell books: raking sand traps at a country club, policing the mist button of the bearded dragon coop at a pet shop, bathing fruit in a university kitchen. His favorite recent reads include Elizabeth McKenzie's The Portable Veblen, Greg Jackson's Prodigals, and Teju Coles's Every Day Is for the Thief. Kyle's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as The Carolina Quarterly, Hobart, Redivider, and Chicago Quarterly Review.