A Shock by Davis MacMillan

A Shock

He’s a little shocked by how quickly he becomes the sort of person who yells at clerks. He would have been more shocked if he’d been less busy yelling.

He has ambitions for himself. For example, he wants to grow a bonsai tree – or at least to own a bonsai tree. He wants to try yoga again. He also has ambitions for himself that aren’t related to calmness or avoiding bad and embarrassing decisions. For example, he wants to make partner.

He grabs a display box of Hundred Grands off the counter and sends them aimless in a three-hundred-sixty-degree arc around the store. He has to spin all the way around to do it. With the box as a counterweight the spin becomes a twirl. The rest of the store, who are watching him through their phones, find this to be an almost joyful gesture.

Yes, he has ambitions and some of them he’s achieved and some of them he probably still could. The tree, for example, is still on the table. Partnership, right now, at this moment, is still on the table. Yoga is still on the table. Allison is still on the table. Really his options are limitless.

He isn’t thinking these thoughts though. And since he isn’t thinking them no one is. Mainly he’s thinking about the rage that sits, like a gust of thick, unbreathable air, somewhere near the top of his chest. The rage that is right this moment folding back in on itself (because sits is really the wrong word for something as active as this rage) turning around confused and angry as to its own provenance. He throws a pack of gum in the direction of an old woman. “Fuck you,” he screams. He notes afterwards that she’s not really involved in this conflict.

Does it make sense to ask where this rage came from? Is that a useful question to ask? No.

Later there will be a video which will have certain adverse effects on certain areas of his life. Certain people – social, professional, old and new – will stop taking his calls. After a while, they will forget why and then sometime after that will remember, or be reminded of, the video. That’s why.

He will ask where it came from. Not the precipitating event, he’s aware of the precipitating event, understands the precipitating event and understands it well enough to understand that it is, really, unmentionable as a justification. But that’s not what he means when he asks where it came from.

Really what comes after is minor too, though it won’t feel that way. It won’t feel that way not because of the shame, or the loss that we’ve mentioned, or the consequences: the moving, the less money, the name-calling. No, it won’t feel that way because it will seem that something fundamental has changed inside of him and that suddenly he can identify, or not identify but suspect himself of identifying, with all the great killers of the world. For a while after he will close his eyes and see something floating in the black. For a while he will hear about something someone had done, something awful, and understand that it could have been him. He will not be able to relate to the act but he will relate to the doing.

And what do you do with that? Do you sit in your house and avoid alcohol? Do you become a monk? Or do you just go along, worsened both externally and internally, quieter and weaker? Do you just muddle along somehow unable now to stop and give money to people begging on the street, or make sure that someone who has fallen is OK, or that the child who is lost is found? Do you end up unable to do anything for fear of what your hands and voice and legs and mouth and teeth might do without your permission?





Davis MacMillan lives in New York. His writing has appeared in Wigleaf.


We don’t charge submission fees, and the advertising you might see here is WordPress, not us, so we rely on donations from our readers to keep going.

Please give a little!


(Next: Ashwagandha by Dan Crawley)

(Previous: The Learning Game by Shome Dasgupta)

Feel like submitting? Check out our submission guidelines


Art Egon Schiele Public Domain