i entered but did not win brandon scott gorrell's short story contest. my story was a "maybe." there is a lot of shit talking going on about this contest right now. if there ever exists a text book about the history of the internet, and there is a chapter on shit talking in the internet literary community, this contest might be mentioned.
after reading the winning story, i can see why mine did not win. overall i feel really good about the contest. i think it would be sweet if other contestants also posted their stories on their blogs or something. it would be sweet to read the other stories, "just for fun," i'm curious about what people wrote.
RIHANNA GOES TO THE HOSPITAL
Rihanna fell off Chris Brown’s fixed gear bike when she was drunk. She wanted to try riding it, and he let her. She landed on her left elbow. When she hit the pavement, the initial intensity of the pain was shocking and after its peak, faded to a stable and constant ache. She untangled herself, got up, and walked the bike back to Chris Brown’s house. They were hanging out with T-Pain and watching wrestling. Chris Brown and T-Pain were laughing at the television.
“So, I think I fucked up my arm,” she said.
“Oh shit, what happened?” said T-Pain.
“I just wiped out or something, I don’t know, I forget how it happened, but I landed on my elbow and it hurts a lot, I feel dumb,” Chris Brown looked at the television again.
T-Pain got up and looked at her arm without touching it. “It looks okay, can you move it?”
“I think so, yeah,” she said, and moved her finger joints. She looked at Chris Brown. “I didn’t fuck up your bike or anything.”
“Good,” he said, “sorry you fell down, newbie.” He smiled at her in a way that made her feel like he was vividly picturing her going down on him.
Rihanna laughed through her nose and wanted to think about things that were not her arm or Chris Brown. Their relationship was unclassifiable, she thought about it a lot, and was seventy-six percent sure Chris Brown did not. She finished her gin and tonic and began to feel very drunk. T-Pain said that everyone needed to shotgun a beer, which neither Chris Brown nor Rihanna had ever done. They stood in the kitchen by the sink listening to T-Pain give instructions and demonstrate the procedure. Chris Brown and Rihanna looked excitedly at each other and at T-Pain. Everyone was smiling. T-Pain took out another beer for himself. He poked holes in Chris Brown’s and Rihanna’s cans for them. They all put the beers up to their mouths and popped the tabs. T-Pain finished first, then Rihanna, then Chris Brown. Rihanna felt proud that she finished her beer before Chris Brown, and smiled a little bit.
T-Pain went out to the porch to smoke a cigarette. Chris Brown sat on a chair across from Rihanna, who was sitting on the couch. Chris Brown felt drunk, but wanted to appear in control. They were silent for twenty seconds. Rihanna was no longer conscious of her arm feeling pain.
“Your hair looks really good like this, by the way,” Chris Brown said.
Rihanna felt a surge of kindness and attraction towards Chris Brown. “Thanks, I like it too, I’m glad you like it.”
“Yeah, it’s looking good.” he said.
They held eye contact, stood up in unison, leaned over the table between them and kissed each other on the lips. It was soft and quiet and lasted for three seconds. Rihanna said “oh,” and Chris Brown said something that neither of them would remember. As they sat down, they both looked in the direction of the porch to see if T-Pain had noticed.
After T-Pain came back inside, time passed in an accelerated way. Everyone kept drinking and interactions were very clear in the moment, but their ability to be accurately remembered longer than directly after they happened diminished. Sometimes Rihanna would forget that her arm was injured, bump it against something, and feel a sharp pain. When she wasn’t speaking or about to speak, she was determining how she would need to maneuver things so that she could end up having sex with Chris Brown. She was fairly certain that they would have sex tonight, and that maybe all she would need to do is say, “I want to have sex with you tonight,” or maybe not even that, she could just pull him close to her when it felt appropriate.
T-Pain got tired and announced that he would be sleeping on the couch. Rihanna followed Chris Brown upstairs. They entered his room, he immediately shut the door. Without saying any words, they grabbed each other’s faces and kissed each other for what felt like fifteen minutes but were probably two. Chris Brown unzipped Rihanna’s jeans as she took off her blouse. She felt fulfilled. When she would later recall having sex with him, she would most fondly remember a series of images: the soft yellow glow of his paper lamp, his dick against his stomach, pieces of hair in her eyes and mouth, his face underneath her, looking at her calmly, his voice instructing her to kiss him when she thought he had forgotten.
In the morning, the pain in Rihanna’s arm was as strong as it was when she initially fell. She was alone and naked in Chris Brown’s bed. She was glad he wasn’t there because she could tell that her breath smelled offensive. She heard the television downstairs and fragments of conversation between Chris Brown and T-Pain. Outside, someone was shouting something in a voice that was neither angry nor excited. When she was a child at sleepover parties, she would pretend to be asleep until everyone left in the morning and her mom picked her up. Now, she felt the same strong desire to pretend to sleep. She imagined spending the entire day lying in bed, moving reflexively in a two foot radius. When Chris Brown would come up to his room at night, he would see her sleeping and shut the door quietly behind him. It seemed almost possible.
She stayed in bed for another six minutes, replaying the events of last night while keeping her eyes focused on Chris Brown’s dresser. A large mirror, an opened bill, and three pens were on the dresser. As she got out of bed, she realized her arm was swollen and almost unable to bend. She had to move differently to accommodate it. She stood up and saw that her bra was under Chris Brown's bed. She got down on the floor and reached for it. Chris Brown and T-Pain laughed hard at the television downstairs. She thought Chris Brown and T-Pain would hear her moving around and feel confused about what she was doing. She felt a mild panic which left as soon as she found something else to think about.
Rihanna approached the mirror on the dresser and studied her face for pimples. She only saw one small one that was ready to pop. She popped it with her right hand, it didn’t take much effort. It splattered on the mirror a little. She felt intensely satisfied. She looked at the splatter and thought, "that's right." She wished more things in life were as immediately rewarding as popping a pimple.
She walked down the stairs, holding her arm at an awkward but comfortable angle.
"Damn," said T-Pain, "that shit looks fucked up now," he laughed in a way that comforted Rihanna.
"I know, it wasn't this bad last night, I don't think," she said.
"That is one fucked up looking arm," Chris Brown said to T-Pain. He comically over-enunciated his words. Rihanna looked at him and shrugged. She attempted smiling, but instead her mouth just spread horizontally across her face. She thought her ears were pulling the ends of her mouth with invisible pieces of rope.
"Yeah, I think I should probably call out of work today, maybe go to the doctor or something," she said.
Chris Brown moved his eyebrows close together, "you actually probably need to go to the hospital," his voice had a seriousness that surprised Rihanna. She was not sure what to say, but continued looking at him. She pictured two Pokémon sitting on either side of him, trying to groom him. She worried that her face would somehow convey this.
"Yeah, well, maybe you're right. It hurts pretty bad," she said, still picturing the Pokémon next to him. She felt removed from this and all situations inside of concrete reality.
T-Pain offered to take her to the hospital on his way to work. Instead of talking, they listened to the Misfits, and sometimes sang along. The sun was very bright, and drew Rihanna’s attention away from her arm. She felt peaceful. Her right arm was resting on the unrolled window.
There were three spots of bird shit on the windshield. T-Pain turned on the windshield wipers and the bird shit became transparent and carried away by the fluid. Microscopic pieces of bird shit landed on T-Pain’s left arm and Rihanna’s right arm.
T-Pain accidentally dropped her off at the wrong area of the hospital. She walked past the desk receptionist and followed signs to the emergency room. A very dark-skinned janitor was about to pass her in the hall. She wondered if she should make eye contact with him or look fascinated at something on the floor. He started whistling, so it felt impossible not to look at him.
“Happy Easter,” he said. Rihanna didn’t know that it was Easter. She said, “oh, thanks, you too.”
Without looking at anyone else in the waiting room, Rihanna approached the receptionist and told her what happened. They were pleasant to each other. She received a bracelet with her name and birth date on it, and was told her name would be called soon. She had an overwhelming urge to drink a Fresca and an equally overwhelming urge to sleep. Both urges felt like they existed outside of Rihanna, if she was not feeling them at that moment then someone else would be.
She looked around the waiting room. A child was making high-pitched, meandering noises. His mother said, “just eat.” Twenty seconds later she said, “and stop stepping on it!” The child was silent.
Two obese people in sweatpants and shirts with Looney Tunes characters were across from Rihanna. One of them was in a wheelchair. They spoke loudly about kidney stones. Somewhere behind her, a man was humming atonally. She thought it sounded like he was making whale sounds. She felt afraid.
The child began making soft, rhythmic noises that sounded almost sexual. Rihanna uncrossed her legs and got a waft of scent from her jeans. First it smelled like warm bread, then her apartment, then her vagina. She used her peripheral vision to see if anyone was near enough to have potentially smelled her vagina. No one was. She began to read a book of poetry. For forty minutes, she only had thoughts about the poems, the pain in her arm, and wondering when a doctor would want to see her. She would start to have a thought about Chris Brown, but suppress it.
Someone called her name. Rihanna’s back straightened and her eyebrows moved up on her forehead. A light-skinned black girl got up and went through the doors Rihanna wanted to go through. The girl’s name was also Rihanna. Rihanna resumed comfortable posture. She looked around the waiting room and was unsure if new people had come in, or if they had been there the whole time.
She took out her cell phone and started deleting text messages. She selected “mark several” and deleted all text messages except those from Chris Brown. She re-read them and felt almost the same level of excitement as when she first received them.