Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in KNOCK, 2 Bridges, and Moon City Review, among other places. His first book, So Anyway... , was published by Robocup Press, and his short story collection, In A Family Way, will be published by Fomite Press.
The Cheerleader’s Eye
Her eye didn’t bulge so much as it drooped out of the socket. As she flipped and twirled, it would bounce, then jiggle a bit. It was mesmerizing. The crowd would clap and cheer. And it even matched the school’s colors: white and powder blue.
But the other cheerleaders were jealous. They called her “Blueballs” so the boys would avoid her. Not that she was desperate or lonely. Away from cheering, she was reserved. She’d sit quietly and droop. Nobody liked to sit by her in class. There was talk that she had some disease.
In her cheering, though, she was vibrant. Beautiful, even. She died in a car accident, of course. People say she didn’t see the car coming, but that’s just mean. Her vision tested fine at the DMV earlier that year, and the driver was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. It wasn’t her fault.
Sadly, small towns have a way of boxing folks in. And the only thing everyone really knew about her was her eyeball. Maybe that’s tragic, but maybe it’s the most interesting thing about her anyway.
The Human Condition: A Parable
They had done most of the work of burning Adam at the stake by noon. They’d tied him high up on the tall post, piled paper, then twigs, then branches, then large chunks of wood. They’d also poured gasoline on the wood and paper, as well as most of Adam. There was even basically a trial. By that day’s noon, it seemed like everything was set. They were just about to light a match and toss it onto the pile when Adam said, “Wait.”
He’d been silent up to that point, so they stopped, looking up to him. Nobody said anything, so Adam said, “You’re using a book of matches?”
They looked at each other and shrugged.
Adam shook his head and sighed. “You’ve gotta use kitchen matches,” he said and, after they stayed quiet, “duh.”
That made them look at the ground. They weren’t prepared to say that they were wrong, but Adam might’ve had a point. Something about being tied to the post and decorated with scars made him seem like he had perspective.
“Look,” he said, “you’re going to burn your fingers. What if the first match doesn’t take?”
They all scratched their arms and mumbled a little. One of them poured more gasoline. Adam shook his head. “Can one of you scratch my nose?”
There was a little talk about bringing the ladder back to scratch Adam’s nose for him, but that was quickly dismissed, and a chant arose. “Burn him! Burn him!”
Shockingly, Adam didn’t seem afraid, tied up there and listening to everyone chant for someone else to set him on fire. “Not with those matches, you won’t,” Adam said.
It went on this way, chanting and taunting, chanting and taunting. In fact, they continued to argue for some time, well after the lightning struck, lighting Adam’s post on fire and, when the gas and flames spouted out, several of them as well. Still, they debated the merits of kitchen and book matches. Nobody pointed out that it was thanks to the lightning that neither had to be struck.