Drabblecast Doubleheader Cover by Carly HeathOn this week’s Drabblecast, Norm and author Matthew Sanborn Smith bring you a dose of perspective during these crazy times where weirdness seems to be the norm. Remember those invisible things around us that support and hold us no matter what our struggles our, and remember to cherish each moment of every day.

I wonder what will happen when I’m not up for it, when the weight finally overcomes my rigidity and I snap. Will I be a bloody mess when I turn back? Will I be too afraid to turn back and just take my chances with the landfill?


by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The enormous Waterclockthing made her want to pee. Hela squeezed a little tighter, shifted her feet.

“Do we have a deal?” she asked. Her face felt hot, her body quaked with the thump of her heart. She was under the control of these monsters, always had been. She didn’t have time for this.

“No,” said the Clockfacething. “Why should you get any more time than anyone else?” The Clockfacething had a long, craggy beak. Its hands were cast iron arrows, like old fashioned clock hands which pointed in arbitrary directions, showing the time in spatial dimensions beyond any Hela had known. It wore a wide, red and gold robe which thankfully hid its inhuman body from her, a body with two ninety degree bends in it, so that its upper half was three feet to the right of its lower half.

“I’m not getting any more time!” Hela said. She’d turned to the right to face it. They’d encircled her. There was no escape until they decided to let her go. She removed her pain-making work shoes, for some sense of relief, some little control over her own life. “And when did this become about deserving anything? I’m proposing a fair trade. Give me access to the end of all things. You’ll get longer lives because my existence there will create more time.”

“But you’ll age the same as always,” said the Digitalthing. Hela turned to the right. Its red glowing body shifted in a blur as it changed with each trillionth of a second. Hela could feel things from the time gods. This one didn’t cycle around every hour or twelve or twenty-four. It had started counting picoseconds from the beginning of time and had never worn the same body of complex and incomprehensible digits twice.

“I’m not trying to lengthen my life,” She said a little too loudly. “I’m trying to condense it. Look, you don’t understand human civilization.” For Christ’s sake, these were forces of nature. Why were they so thick? She had to make them understand. Her proposal was due on Todd’s desk in less than an hour and a half. She’d made a mistake coming here, but they wouldn’t let her go. They might not ever let her go.

“We have to disagree,” the Calendarthing said. She turned to the right. It was wide and sickening to look at, showing all things at once. Hela looked slightly above it when she gave it her attention to save her head and stomach the discomfort. But that didn’t help when it spoke to her with infinite voices. Her dress suit suddenly felt too tight. It was too hot in here and she still needed to pee.

“We are creations of the human psyche,” it said. “Without the measure of time, there would be no planting. There would be no harvest. We are the mothers of human civilization.”

“I’m not talking about ancient history!” Hela said. “I’m talking about getting things done. You’re why we race to keep up. You’re why our sleep is so restless. There aren’t enough hours in a day!”

The Calendarthing made a noise that she suggested she was stating the obvious. She turned to the right before the Hourglassthing had even begun to speak. This one she feared most of all, because its time was nearly up. No matter how long she looked at it, it was about to run out of sand. Surely those were its last grains. No. But those were. They had to be. Now?

“You’re the ones who gave it twenty-four,” said the Hourglassthing. “Give yourselves twenty-five hours, or twenty-five thousand!”

“Fuck all your semantics!” Hela said. She was getting sick of them all. “I’ve got work due to my boss at twelve. Now unless you can slow down time—which you can’t,”

She held up her hand to the Clockfacething. “Shut up. I already know you can’t. The only alternative is to let me sneak in and out of the timestream and get some work done at the end of time. I’m not asking for more hours. I’m finding a way to put more time into each hour. Nobody’s breaking any rules. What’s the problem here?”

“You’ll appear to age faster than your fellow travelers,” clicked the Metronomething to her right. “You’ll seem to die before your time.”

“And what the hell do you care if I do? You’re Time, damn it! The most cruel and unforgiving thing in existence!”

“We’re not your enemy,” poured the Waterclockthing.

“You are my enemy! You’re everybody’s fucking enemy! Do any of you have any idea what it’s like to be constantly behind, with your boss riding your ass? To have to work through every lunch and have to stay late, only you can’t stay late because you’ve got a mother who’s about two steps away from Hospice and you’ve got laundry to do? I have no idea if I want to have kids, but you’re pushing me into making that decision with every goddamned tick of your ugly, beaky faces! And when do I have time to get to know anyone who wants to do anything more than fuck me? When the hell do I get to live a real life? You’re killing me. You’re all killing me!”

Hela’s phone fell to the floor. She looked down at it, not caring if she ever picked it up again. She felt herself enveloped in the folds of a great robe of red and gold. The sharp, hard arms that held her were warm and right. They were the same arms that had held her always, day and night, since before she could remember. Her heart beat faster, but she wasn’t frightened anymore. It beat faster still. Hummingbird fast. Fast as the changing forms of the Digitalthing. She felt the years passing in minutes, felt her loosening face, watched her aging hands until her vision grew too cloudy to see any longer. She couldn’t hold her back straight. She leaned into the Clockfacething, her strength ebbing fast, but it held her. Held her as it had always held her.

“What matters now, child?” it asked her.

Her breath came hard and wheezing. Her mother was long dead. Todd and that job which had held so much control over her just minutes before, just decades before, wasn’t even worthy of her memory, much less her emotion. Raj mattered, her husband of so many years. The nieces and nephews and their families, the friends that came and went, the people who did the right things when they didn’t have to.

They all mattered.

“Are you ready to go now?” it asked.

“Hell no, I’m not. You’re not going to give me any choice, though, are you?”

“If I had a choice, I’d give it to you. But if it’s any consolation, we’ve given you nothing but choices for your whole, long life.”

Hela nodded. “You’ll hold me? Until I go?”

“I’ll hold you until the end of all things.”



by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Sometimes I’m a chair.

It’s a secret identity, in a way. I become a chair and people sit on me. I’m not unexpected; I’m never questioned. People are thankful for me. It’s probably the only time they are. I hold their weight. It never occurs to me to complain. I just do it. And when they leave, I turn back and make my escape.

When I am me, they forget there ever was a chair. And when I am a chair, they forget there ever was a me. Even my mother. My mother’s not a big person. Not as big as my father or grandmother, but she feels heavier than they do. She falls into me harder.

I feel people like no one else feels them. I’m intimate with their bottoms and the backs of their thighs. A little less so with their backs and the feet that squirm around my lower front legs and stretchers.

You might think it’s awful to just hold a person. It’s not. I’m there for them and I don’t give out. I’m solid and I’m not in pain, no matter how heavy the person. Even if they’re holding my niece in their lap. Not like when I’m me. When I’m me, the pain is always there in my joints. I’m only fourteen and my grandmother runs circles around me. The pain doesn’t leave, even when I’m lying down. Except when I’m sleeping. Or a chair.

Everyone gets picked on in school. Even the bullies. But I don’t. I wish I did. I wish I could fit in by being shut out like everyone else. All I feel from them is pity. Pity as I struggle down the halls, refusing the wheelchair for another year. Pity as I avoid the elevator and take the stairs, clinging to both the railing and the brick wall it’s bolted to like I’m an injured lizard trying to climb. I see the sorrow in the eyes of the band kids and my algebra teacher and the cop and the secretary. There are twelve hundred little human islands in my school. Each of them thinks they’re all alone.

They don’t see they’re part of the chain. I don’t know exactly what I am. Maybe the corpse that floats in the waterways between them.

If I’m the last one out of class, sometimes I’ll become a chair and forget everything for a while. I won’t be marked absent because they’ve all forgotten about me. The lecture will be a muffled vibration in the distance and the only things in the world will be the big warm body on top of me and the unforgiving tile below. Even the ticking of the clock will disappear. Time will pass, and I’ll hardly feel it. All I’ll really know is pressure and I’ll be up for that.

I wonder what will happen when I’m not up for it, when the weight finally overcomes my rigidity and I snap. Will I be a bloody mess when I turn back? Will I be too afraid to turn back and just take my chances with the landfill?

Sometimes when I’m home and my mother’s done rubbing my joints with some new balm she’s found at the West Indian market, or the Asian market, or the Colombian liquor store, she asks me if I feel any better. I always tell her yes. But I’ve told her yes so many times, her eyes get wet anyway when she smiles back at me. And then I lie in bed after she’s gone and think about becoming a chair and staying a chair. Never being an emotional burden again. Always being a physical support. Someday I think I’ll do it. Right now, I’m still getting up in the morning and struggling down the hall.