by Engram Wilkinson

BWR 49.2 Flash Contest Winner

He sat, experiencing the familiar itch in his brain along the edge of a lobe whose name he could never remember. A body is a simple disappointment. He used it to look at his co-workers, who looked at each other and back at their laptops, during a meeting he would soon interrupt. Someone explained a concept—his supervisor discussed changes to their leave policy implemented because, she said, someone had taken leave without understanding what was required under the policy. You have to make sure your work is complete before you leave, even if your leave is pre-approved. It’s not enough to have a plan.

A few heads nodded, some still looking down at their laptops, hands moving. Nine bodies seated around a conference room table, eight listening to the other. For three, the new concept was confusing. He looked around and the movement of his head created the impression he was one of the confused bodies. But there was a certainty to his movements. He clenched hands that he decided should still be his own. His legs wrapped around one another and it began: he heard—somewhere nearby yet unfamiliar—a small pop that caused or was caused by the opening of his mouth and its infinitely unfurling tongue pushing something up from the place where the muscles constituting his face converged and now begged to leave, twitching away from his whitening eyes. It was bright and warm, he would later recall, this room of explanations. He pushed a boulder out of his mouth and his body shuttered as it fell into his lap then rolled onto the floor. Seven bodies blinked. Two stood up. After blinking, his supervisor told everyone to stay calm. He was an emergency. Something that was happening to them. He tried to expel something else—it was heavier—from inside his body but the thing would not come and his body writhed in its efforts to push it out. Then writhed in frustration at its failure. His right leg pressed against the floor, moving his chair away, and then he was on the floor, where he spent the remainder of his time trying to push each muscle from the skin that constrained it. His eyes wrinkled in a final effort. They were the heaviest. And gradually, as the remaining bodies stood, nothing began to happen.

During some events he can hear himself. It sounds like gargling. Once he watched a video clip of a dog having a seizure. A dachshund, specifically, falling down in a field and convulsing for fifty-two seconds on his back while his belly—a lighter fur than the remainder of his body—twisted side-to-side. Two big ears rolled across the fluttering eyes and a tightened, black-tipped nose moved into and out of the grass. The dachshund eventually stopped and, still on its back, began breathing.

Whenever this happens he imagines he is a small dog. It’s a beautiful day. Wind swaying the trees, but look. Watch what the eyes do.

Engram Wilkinson is a poet and lawyer living in Denver. His poetry has appeared in The Columbia Review, Lana Turner, The Offing, and elsewhere.