Art: "Fried Egg" by Alexi Grojean (Hooey Doodles)
Fiction: "Extrusions" by Kati Fargo Ahern
On the basis of time, it takes less time to recreate the universe than it does to pick hardened playdough out of a high-pile carpet. It does help, however, if the playdough has been given a shape, like a dinosaur. That process of pushing the playdough through a shaped hole, called a “die,” is an extrusion. For our daughter, Allison, the preferred shape is a pachycephalosaurus.
Like a pachycephalosaurus, Allison prefers to hit us with her head. She screams in exactly the decibel range and pitch of something so high and so furious that its sound will melt your insides.
“Why did you punch me in the butt?” She asks me or my husband.
Her taps are punches, her cuddles are pile drives. She is desperate and sincere, and waits for me with outstretched arms, hands palpitating the air. The walls of our house have begun to crackle like fire.
I work in a lab that specializes in bio extrusions, it is kind of like 3D printing sphincters, but all the tissue needs to pass through the head of a pin, on the way to heaven, I like to joke, but my husband does not laugh. In our lab precision and accuracy can sometimes be forfeited in the interest of efficiency. We are not making brains.
Jeremy is one of the highlighted workers this quarter. He is officious, standoffish, and sometimes microwaves fish casserole in the break room. His paperwork is impeccable and he has a mug that says “Dr. Mr. Brooks, PhD in Biomed Materials, University of Sidville.” All I have is wanting to see the weather finally change. It’s been an icy spring forever and at this rate summer will drift long into October when Allison wants to pick pumpkins and trudge through corn mazes. We’ll all get sunburns while she attempts to rip my face off for demurring over the price of hot, mulled apple cider, which she will not like because it is sour and she is three years old.
My husband wakes up at 5am every Sunday for a seven-mile run before he teaches Sunday school. During the week, he is far more sluggish, and we all sleep till 8am. Before Allison was born he used to cheat on me. Now he has found “fierce compassion,” and a taste for the Eucharistic, guilt-free life. Also, his skin is pale and white like the underbelly of a slug and he makes snide asides that he hopes someone hears. That he hopes I hear. Sometimes, when I’m drinking coffee or bathing Allison I have a hard time imagining that he ever found someone else to fuck him. But I am also practicing “fierce compassion.” We read the same book in the bathroom. Our competing folded pages, holding our different places, are a form of intimacy.
Before Allison was born, Gary did not teach Sunday school. Instead, he would go for long runs and then come home and shower. We would go out for long boozy brunches, dipping waffles into the edges of oozing soft boiled eggs. The supermarket does not carry eggs anymore.
The bio lab is experiencing supply chain shortages. Nothing major, we still have tissue samples and petri dishes. We still have gel electrophoresis. But we have a hard time with small things—the designer grease to turn the motors of the centrifuges or latex-free gloves. It’s annoying at best and leaves us plenty of time in the break room. We’re like computer programmers constantly “waiting for our code to compile,” but really we’re thinking about who in the lab we’d like to kill first, if it ever comes to that.
In November of this year, the same particle physicists who were responsible for the Large Hadron Collider in 2012 built a new one, but this collider could move particles with an even more incredible force. It could push them through pockets in the x-axis. The particles could travel through time. At first nobody cared, but the tech developed quickly and soon CEOs were pushing themselves through moments. Nobody noticed much because the CEOs we only going a day or two back and forth, making a deal, anticipating a leak. But pretty soon the market was screwy, and the Super Rich were pushing through time like so many die cast toys. And they weren’t exactly the same on the other end. Next, came the lockdowns and everyone was starting home gardens and making their own candles for when the grid would collapse. Light a match and curse the darkness, I joked. My husband did not laugh.
At home we celebrated Allison’s birthday by making black paper cut outs of each of our heads. I took a glue stick and mounted them against white paper, against a flame. Allison took the paper off the kitchen table and ripped it to shreds. Immediately, she cried mournfully knowing that what was done could not be undone. Neither of us comforted her.
On the seventh day, or rather night, Jesus came back through time and made Gary lie face down in a mattress stained with pools of urine. Fire consumed every hallway in our house. A dog man with the face of a frog limped into my bedroom and trailed an Easter basket filled with intestines. Pink plastic grass rained down on the carpet softly through billows of smoke. Allison opened her mouth in a cavernous shrieking maw. A small hole appeared made of juniper and lemon-scented eye sockets. Surrounded by my loving family, I felt the squeeze on my own heart, as if it was lightly but insistently being pushed.
Published October 1st 2023
Kati Fargo Ahern is an Associate Professor of English in the Professional Writing and Rhetoric Program at SUNY Cortland. She received her MFA in fiction at George Mason University in 2007. Her other academic work on soundscape studies can be found in journals such as Computers and Composition and enculturation.
Alexi is a digital artist from Boulder, Colorado who loves to doodle his
strange shapes onto digital medias.