Michigan Gothic by Vivian Trutzl
Editorial intern Zoe Maki on today's bonus short: In “Michigan Gothic,” Vivian Trutzl draws the life of downstate Michiganders through nightmare doctors, Vernors, potholes, and unpredictable weather. With a dash of magical realism, this story draws an unexpectedly comforting yet troubling description of life in the mitten.
a man says ope, just gonna scoot by yah & accidentally knocks the vernors out of your hand. the man always looks vaguely like your best friend from childhood’s father.
your friends go up north during the winter. & summer. & spring. & fall. no one can tell you where it is exactly but they say they’ll die if they have to spend one more minute at this latitude & you believe them.
your doctor says he is your doctor. your parents say he is your doctor. your coach says he is your doctor. none of them seem to see the claws snap through the latex gloves, the tail knocks over the metal table of gauze, all his teeth are pointed. you think they might all suspect he is not human but silence echoes off the linoleum tiles and metal table, cold biting your back. everyone is watching.
work is the same day, over & over. your ceiling at home looks like cubicle fabric. your bedsheets are id lanyards sown together. you don’t remember ever signing a contract but you keep getting congratulated on facebook.
you turn the tap on the sink & blood pours out. it is the wrong color & diseased. the government inspector sips it, licks the rusty bloodmilk mustache off his upper lip & does not die.
there is a knock on the front door. it’s two teenage boys from the local sports team. they say this year, the boosters are accepting donations of souls and mortgages. how would you like to contribute? you extend thirty years on the mortgage (& thus ten off your life). they say friday’s are for the boys! you thought it was saturday. every day is for the boys!
you ask someone where they’re from. they point to it on your hand. that’s the vein where i live, you say. they repeat the name back to you, but it’s just the sound of a car bottoming out through a pothole.
the snow accumulation is four feet. you wish for a snow day to break up the winter monotony. you get two in a row & time is altered, cabin fever sinks in. you are consumed by blankets & your own mind. on day three, you wake up to spring tulips and a runoff river through the backyard. for sale signs go up on the other side of the bank, which is still your backyard. your neighbor chisels & scrapes your car pulling into (your) their driveway. ope, thought i could just scoot by ya.
Vivian Trutzl is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She is a slam poet and competed with the Ann Arbor team at the 2016 National Poetry Slam. In 2017, she performed with the UM Slam Poetry team at College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, and coached UM's team in 2018.