The Plan By B.R. Hostetter

February 6, 2012 Comments Off on The Plan By B.R. Hostetter

The plan is to kill Ben. At precisely 5 AM a 40 lb. microwave falls on his head – splat. He doesn’t know this though, not yet. At precisely 4 AM his clock radio blasts, and he rolls over. He scratches his belly, his backside too, and after, falls out of bed. The plan is, he wallops the clock because Soul Asylum is playing. The question “Are you up in the middle of the night?” isn’t something he wants to hear so early, especially not from any Grammy award-winning alternative rock band circa 1992 (how he knows this he doesn’t care to admit). So Ben slams the damn thing, and the words “There’s no way out” gurgles and then finally goes out. The plan is he rises and stretches and thinks whether he should shower – wash his face, scrub his rear – or not and go ahead and shave his craggy mug, brush his furry teeth, and comb the curly black mop that swallows his nut whole. He decides against the shower, but still cleans his face. He stares at the mirror: filmy eyes carried by two swollen bags; crow’s feet marching across a crater-laden forehead; complexion like a piebald cow – white while incongruent sun kiss splotches paint haphazard rings from ear to ear. And the plan is, Ben scoffs at his reflection, thinks, “Damn-it;” thinks also: Portrait of a failed artist as an old man – (he doesn’t care to admit his BA in English has gotten him nowhere, like the beginnings of every story he’d ever written) – and he takes a whiff of his underarm and thinks of the opening: “‘The dead smell,’ says the boy, pinching his nose at me.” Ben presses pause on the thought and imagines himself old and wrinkly: peepers gone cataract; skin loose and droopy like Play-Doh left far too long in the sun; thinning black strings, falling shy of a furrowed brow – hair that’s also found home to ears and nose. Ben shakes loose the thought and figures to go ahead with his tepid coffee and burnt toast. The plan is for him to check his wristwatch next, for him to read half past the hour. But he blinks and thinks he sees 4:29 rather than 4:30. He decides to shave his face after all, while the shower, he figures, can wait. He spends the extra minute picking at his face and popping zits at the mirror. He connects the mess with his finger and makes out constellations. “Cassiopeia,” he says, and after wipes away the muck with the back of his hand. Precisely thirty-two minutes go by, him measuring out his life in smeared zit goop.

Ben stares at the boy sweeping the mess.

“You’re late,” he says.

The plan is, Ben dies, but he’s precisely one minute late, so he stares at the microwave and its pieces.

“I’d rather die than spend another minute here.” – a good beginning, he figures, a new plan.

© 2011 B.R. Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

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