about the author

Dan Lundin lives and loves in South Pasadena, CA. His short stories have been/will be published in H_NGM_N, Inkspill, Echo Ink Review, NANO Fiction, Black Heart Magazine, Everyday Genius, Monkeybicycle and elsewhere. He also writes the Web-comic Los Desperados.

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Melancholy Cure Prescription Strength

Dan Lundin

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The screwdriver fails to disengage the airbag, so Anders drives through the old neighborhood to his childhood home and plows into the apple tree in the front yard. His teeth rattle like dice and draw blood, but his head throbs no more, no less from the impact.

He’d planted the sapling with his father as a boy. It had matured, grown limb-sized roots deep enough to withstand a low speed ramming from an American-built sedan. It’s late in the season. Anders imagines the mealy apples that thump onto the hood to be the heads of the desiccated cats he had once strung by the tail from the tree’s low branches. The airbag falls flaccid and hangs from the steering wheel like a gigantic spent condom. In the creeping dawn light, Anders drives off, parting the wizened, mute faces that press against screened doors to see what the hell is going on.

Deciding on an outfit had been difficult. Though Anders is anti-note, he needs his act to be understood as carefully considered. The color that initially came to mind, white, didn’t stand a chance. Maybe for a drowning. Nothing involving split flesh. Black had been the natural runner up. But after assembling the pieces—polyester tux pants and hooded sweatshirt—it felt cliché. An old girlfriend, lazy and unimaginative but well-built and always tolerant when anger clouded his mind, had insisted that blue brought out his eyes, so Anders, having nothing else to go on, settled on a pair of navy workpants and a thrift store dress shirt with turquoise checks.

A block away from the head of the alley, he calls AAA to request a tow truck. Along with the plastic member card, he tacks five twenty-dollar bills onto the trunk with clear packing tape. A bell nags from inside the car. Grabbing the seatbelt, he stretches it behind his seat and feeds it to the latch. He removes his black leather boots, socks and black belt and tosses them behind him. No one dyes leather blue. No one right in the head, anyway.

It’s Sunday and save the scrappy gulls, the shipyard stands vacant. The gas pedal digs into his arch as he tips it toward the floor. At fifty MPH, he speeds past the first stop sign. At ninety-six, he blurs passed the second. Anders considers saying a prayer.

Over the sprawl of concrete that fills his windshield, images draw and quarter themselves to greet him: skinning opossums by the Dumpsters, fighting dogs in vacant office buildings, spraying gasoline on the ubiquitous homeless and setting them aflame. Childish and naïve. Counseled and forgotten. All counts served in full. Time has yet to quell the memories, however, and they flee into his chest, swelling it from within like an airbag. It’s not a prayer that passes his lips now.

“Dominion over every creeping thing that creeps on earth.”

Anders has no way of knowing the strength of the cinderblock wall.

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