Ass. You smell like it. So does she. So does the whole damn expedition. Sometimes a valley is just a valley. Other times it’s an enormous ass. You’re fifty days into it now. Supplies are low. So is morale. Obviously. You’ve grown resentful of your team leader, Tom. Tom’s an alleged genius. He smells like ass. Geniuses like to read in their spare time. They know Thales is the founder of Western philosophy, Thales who said the world comprises five basic elements: fire, water, dirt, clouds, and shoe leather. Or sandal. There’s a translational issue about that last one you don’t fully understand. Only geniuses do. What you do know is the equator is made of it, some kind of leather. That’s how Tom determines the expedition has crossed into the southern hemisphere. Now it’s all about geothermal disturbances. Seismic activity. Geysers. These are the terrifying buzzwords. The sun never rises. When nap time comes you shove earplugs up your nose and sweat all over the place. If the Northwest is due for the Big One, a nine-point-niner, what about the Deep South? Better if you never learned to write your name. At least then the enlistment papers would’ve gone unsigned. Be a genius or be illiterate, that’s your motto now. Your grandma always told you to follow your nose. Fifty days too late you realize her advice also works in reverse.
Dan Tremaglio teaches creative writing and literature at Bellevue College where he is assistant editor at Belletrist Magazine. Lately he’s been writing flash when he needs a break from the novel he’s been working on forever about a Dead Sea scribe who becomes radicalized at the start of the Jewish-Roman War. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cease, Cows, Jellyfish Review, and Tammy.