Abandon All Thoughts

by Kathy Fish

One morning in January, when all was lost, a man rolled himself up inside the braided rug of the foyer of his home. It felt good there. It reminded him of how the nurses taught him and his wife to swaddle their babies, for comfort. Tight, tight. Babies are frightened of their own bodies. Un-used to the freedom of movement. It’s like a new womb.

He heard the grandfather clock chime. He heard the refrigerator hum. But mostly everything was muffled. And dark. His limbs relaxed. The only thing uncomfortable was his breath, ricocheting back into his face. He wished he’d flossed that morning. He wished he’d thought to remove his clothes. He would meditate here for awhile, possibly forever.

Audrey Hepburn, the cat, leapt atop the rug and started pawing and scratching until she grew bored and went and found a patch of afternoon sunlight to lie in.

His son came home from school, nearly tripped over the rolled rug, swore, then walked around it. He came back and jumped up and down on it.

“Ouch.”

“Dad? What are you doing?”

“I don’t know.”

Silence

“Um. Okay. I have to go to practice. Bye.”

His daughter came home, too. She was a cheerleader.

“Pete texted me. He said you were acting crazy.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Can I bring you something?”

He said no, but she returned and he felt a straw scratch down the front of his nose.

“Take a sip.”

“I’m afraid I might choke.”

He heard her climb the stairs to her room, heard her backpack thunk on the floor above him.

His wife came home. He realized he’d fallen asleep.

“What’s all this?” she asked. Lila must have texted her.

“I lost my job.”

He felt her fingertips patting the top of his head. His crown chakra.

“It’ll be okay. We can live on my paycheck. We’ll just have to scrimp until you get back on your feet. Darling. Unroll thyself.”

She’d wanted to be an anthropologist but now she worked as a substitute teacher. Today she was wearing a fleece sweatshirt with bright yellow bees and the words “Bee Kind” on it.

Here she was, peering into the rug and touching him. It was not sex. It was not even affection. But it was something.

He shifted his weight, attempting to roll. Eventually he gained momentum. He felt something loosen, felt the rug unfurl, and found himself lying on his back breathing the cinnamon and cat pee smell of his home. He opened his eyes.

Kathy Fish’s stories have been published in Slice, Guernica, Indiana Review and elsewhere. She is the author of three collections of short fiction: Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2013), Wild Life (Matter Press, 2012), and a chapbook in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press, 2008). She has recently joined the faculty of the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver where she will be teaching flash fiction.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Abandon All Thoughts”?

    Regarding the story: Originally, I had in my mind an image of a man lying on the floor with his cat walking all over him. The man was despairing and I liked the cat’s disinterest in his despair, but I felt I needed more to convey the man’s frame of mind. I thought of how I feel, when I’m particularly sad, like I want to go back to bed and curl up in the blankets. So I had the man come home and roll himself up in a rug, seeking the comforting feeling of the womb. And then I wanted him somehow reborn, so at his wife’s urging he unfurls himself. A pretty plain and simple story.
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