The Bad Thing
by Nancy Stohlman
Once a bad thing happened, and the people were horrified and cried, played the details over and over like a particularly painful heartbreak. And someone decided that a memorial should be built and everyone should wear red and once a year everyone wore red and remembered the bad thing and it seemed right.
The next time a bad thing happened people decided it was only fitting to designate another color—white this time—and people wore white and some people wore red and white together to show how the two bad things were connected and that also seemed right.
But the bad things kept happening. Soon the primary colors were gone—then the secondary colors. The newest tragedies had to come up with creative coloring like teal or lavender and soon it expanded beyond colors—people in mourning for a specific tragedy could either wear the color or buy a bracelet made of that color and some people had 10-15 bracelets going up their arm until it was pointed out that the bracelets weren’t produced in an environmentally friendly manner and then people got rid of all the bracelets and tried to go back to the colors, but even the colors didn’t work now, because every color was affiliated with a tragedy and if you were wearing, say, lime green pants, but you didn’t know which bad thing was being mourned in lime green, then you might be called a poser and accused of trivializing other people’s suffering.
And still the bad things increased until there were several bad things every week, and new symbols had to be devised to express your horror: praying hands and beating hearts and hugging arms you could send electronically or made into magnetic bumpers stickers for cars or bicycles and you could also swap your electronic picture frame to one specially made to announce your devastation at the new bad thing, but sometimes another bad thing would happen on that same day and you would not know if you should keep the original picture frame to mourn the first bad thing or if you should update to mourn the most recent bad thing and those who updated would be called insensitive by the ones who had not yet finished mourning the first bad thing.
It got to the point where the bad things had to compete with the other bad things, and a thing that would have been pretty bad back in the days of the primary colors was now almost ignored. And people abandoned the picture frames but they didn’t know which symbol to use, now, which led them to create new symbols, like baking cakes in the shapes of tragedies that needed to be mourned and sometimes they traveled to the locations of the bad things just to feel the awfulness more acutely and they became jumpy like children in volatile households who are trying to read the signs and see the next bad thing approaching and so sometimes they would see regular things as bad things and jump at the sight of prayer hands or beating hearts or hugging arms until they became numb and the bad things kept happening but they were out of colors and out of ideas and so, eventually, they did nothing.
*Compressed Q&A with Jonathan Cardew and Nancy Stohlman (6 words max)*
Q’s: Jonathan Cardew
A’s: Nancy Stohlman
Q: Earliest memory?
A: Waiting for the Oz ruby slippers
Q: Some writers you love?
A: Saterstrom, Svalina, Hemingway, Garcia-Marquez, Atwood, Geisen,
Q: How to write flash?
A: Let go. Then let go more
Q: How NOT to write flash?
A: prose poem, vignette = flash fiction: no
Q: Favorite recent story read online?
A: I can’t keep up. In awe.
Q: The problem with politics?
A: Too much emotion; no strategy
Q: Finish this: “I woke under stars…”
A: with pierced bellybutton, *Sturgis circa 1994*
Q: Finish this: “I write to…”
A: know myself/ stay out of therapy
Q: Pen your epitaph:
A: What the hell was that about?
Q: What’s sexy?
A: Mutual adoration.
(Two words says all.)
Q: What’s NOT sexy?
A: People who don’t read / can’t spell
Q: How you feel when you sing:
A: First naked, then clothed, then awesome
Q: Perfect dinner?
A: Adventurous and ethnic, outside seating cafe
Q: Now for something completely different?
A: Fried chicken and cheesecake. Avocados.
Q: Favorite six-word story ever?
A: I still make coffee for two
Q: Strangest experience?
A: Pick one: hitchhiking, Miss Nebraska, car-crash
Q: One song you love now:
A: “I’m Still Standing” stuck in head
Q: Something no one knows about you:
A: Renaissance Festival gypsy: 4 years
Q: The meaning of life?
A: Pick your avatar—now play!
Q: NOT the meaning of life?
A: Is this the real life? just fantasy?
Q: City to lose yourself in?
A: Barcelona, Kyoto, Kathmandu, Berlin, (old) San Juan
Q: Country to lose yourself in?
A: Nepal, Spain, Puerto Rico, Spain, Germany, Spain
Q: Memory to lose yourself in?
A: Living in a van with a cat
Q: _ _ _ _ _ _?
A: Of course not, that’s f-ed up.
Q: Show us a picture with words:
A: I’m 7, blue eyeshadow, Wonder Woman
Q: Flip the Q&A:
A: Don’t tell me what to do.