FICTION: Good Idea by Isaac Mitchell Simons

Had no intention of letting the kids stay up ’til ten, but his intentions carried minimal influence these days. Kids will be kids and all that. Can’t control a flower, can you? You can only water it.

That was pretty good. Hang on —

Struggled through the bulging pockets of his jacket but couldn’t find his little notebook anywhere.

“Guys. Dyl, Will. Dammit, boys. Siddown.”

Intended on asking them if they’d moved or buried or burned his little notebook, but we’ve gone over the influence of intentions already. Minimal. Nearly nil. Besides, the thought had slipped away. As the best ones do.

That’s the charm of them, isn’t it? Good ideas. Their immediacy, velocity. Come rocketing through the atmosphere, fully formed, to swing around the brain in some gravity-assist maneuver and launch themselves back out into the ether.

Dammit, that was good too. Had to write all this down.

“BOYS, SIT.”

Slapped the side table harder than expected, jostling the bible and knocking the receiver to the floor.

(Had to control himself. Sorry.)

The red light beneath the plastic square was blinking.

There. Is. One. Unplayed. Voicemail. In. Your —

Hung up the phone. Absolutely insufferable, these answering devices. The autistics of the robot world.

But it might be Louis.

Dammit, that’s true. It might.

Threw his coat onto the bed and shouldered the receiver again. Irked to discover he couldn’t pick up where he’d left off.

There. Is. One. Unplayed. Voicemail. In.

          Your

          …

          …

          Mailbox.

It was Louis, after all. His agent spoke to him via the autistic robot with a great economy of words: Had a bit of news. Was waiting downstairs at the bar.

No intention of trying to coax the time of Louis’ message from the inbred machine. Better to just assume it was recent and head on down.

Smacked the table again to rouse the boys and gave Will’s shoulder a heavy tug, harder than expected.

(Control. Sorry, Will.)

Was exhausted to depletion by the time the elevator arrived.

#

THE THING ABOUT RAISING CHILDREN

is it’s always too late to start again.

#

Dylan was deep in a game on his cell phone, leaning against the service rail and whispering encouragement to his avatar.

Will sat rigid at a table beside him, cradling his arm.

The boys situated, he turned his attention to his agent Louis, but felt it coming on fast: the immediacy, the velocity. Waved him silent and grabbed cocktail napkin and pen from the caddy. Began to scribble–

GOOD IDEA:

Then sat, staring at the words, waiting. Remarkable penmanship, but nothing came.

Damnit.

Nodded, as though pleased with his work, and folded the napkin into his pocket. Intended to throw it away the moment Louis departed.

“After your reading tonight, the hollywood reporter is gonna interview you at the tavern.”

“Which hollywood reporter?”

“The magazine, The Hollywood Reporter.”

“At which tavern?”

“The Tavern. It’s the name of a tavern called The Tavern.”

Decided to write all this down. Went rummaging through his carnival pockets. Came up with two matchbooks and a Jolly Rancher. A scrap of paper that read,

GOOD IDEA:

It was the cocktail napkin again. Goddamnit.

Dylan wanted a Pepsi. Will wasn’t thirsty.

That kid was never hungry, never thirsty. Hard to get anyplace in life without making some demands.

Two Pepsis, and he’d make sure Will downed the thing, ice and all. Just as he’d done his own first Pepsi. Still remembered it, clear as day…

#

DAD SITS WITHOUT SITTING

remains somehow standing

at the threshold of the tiny vinyl booth

bent knees and arched feet, every piece of him

readied for launch.

#

Hated bookstores for their lack of ventilation. Sure, loved the books and loved the smell of the books, but hated the smell of the people that loved the books and the smell of the books.

Made eye contact with a point of air two centimeters beyond the sweaty woman’s earlobe. Happened to be right in line with Will.

“I teach Comparative Literature at Paul Revere, and my tenth graders just love your writing.”

Watched Will pick at something on his sneaker as the woman’s face swallowed his periphery. Beet red and beaming.

“I’m a bit of a poet myself. Well, aspiring poet, really. Not like you, I mean.”

Handed him his own volume to sign, which gave him another excuse to keep his gaze off her ruddy features.

The bookstore seemed even more hopeless with half the lights off, half empty. He found Dylan atop a step stool as Dylan found the pornography. Boys will be boys, and all that.

“Dyl, my god. Put that away, come on.”

Will wanted a toy car from the impulse bin at the cash register. A boundless reservoir of intellect and literature, and the kid wanted a plastic car.

(Had to control himself, now.)

Made his goodbyes to those who had promoted the reading and walked Will and Dyl around the corner. Will was crying: hand sore from where the plastic car had been torn away, shoulder sill aching from his lesson unlearned.

#

DISCIPLINE

is a tight-lipped lover

her assignations made in silence

a legacy recalled in whispers:

Son to Father,

Father to Son.

#

Ordered a beer at The Tavern.

The reporter arrived and ordered the same. Started in on him right away with a string of questions about his work ethic and artistic aspirations and on and on in an insufferable nasal register.

Mumbled a few inanities in response while squinting hard, sheltering his face, before loosing patience altogether and waving the reporter silent.

Ah, now this was the moment. Could sense the electricity tickling the air around him. The comet had rocketed forth, fully formed, and now must be snatched from its trajectory before lost.

Began to scribble–

GOOD IDEA:

Poem where each autumnal leaf is named, but neither leaf nor tree can speak.

Would the leaves tumble in agony, wanting nothing more than to hear their names once uttered?

And would the tree anguish, yearning to acknowledge it’s fallen offspring before watching them turn to dust?

Well that was dogshit, for sure. If he had his little notebook the words would come out right. That was the magic of such things. Goddamnit. Where was his notebook, anyway?

And where were Dyl and Will?

Nodded as though pleased and folded the napkin away. Used furtive movements to scan the room. Retained a casual posture. Professional demeanor. Mumbled through a few more questions and made a hasty exit, mid-interview.

He found the boys near the kitchen, huddled around a hostess who wore the aggressive makeup of a failed actress.

“These your kids, sir? You in the habit of leaving them unattended, sir? And what is this, may I ask? Can you tell me what exactly this is?”

Snapped his fingers hard to shepherd the boys out, but the hostess had Will by the arm, sleeve up. She gestured at the purple pattern. The archipelago of bruises.

“Can you tell me, please? This, right here.”

“Dyl. Will. NOW.”

Dylan scuttled toward his father. Will hesitated between. Made a high-pitched whine, an engine failing to catch.

The hostess kneeled before him, held him gently along both shoulders. Asked the boy some ridiculous question.

Then another.

And a third.

Will’s eyes got big. An eyelid fluttered.

No intention of letting the boy be traumatized by this half-wit. No intention of allowing his son be patronized by this drama-school dropout. By the back of the kid’s neck, he asserted himself, and with enough force knock the hostess to the floor.

(Control, now. Control.)

The little bitch. What did she know of the bond between parent and child? Probably raised some reject of the lower rungs. Some toothless junky whose parenting skills consisted of Corn Nuts and Noodle O’s.

Had the man no pride, raising a child so disdainful? And was nothing so important as a man’s reflection, as viewed in his child?

Are you okay?”

Are you scared?”

Do you need help?”

Who the fuck did she think she was?

Threw his coat across the room and the garage sale pockets emptied themselves midair. Kicked at the thing twice.

(Control. Control. Control.)

Breathed deeply to calm himself and took two candy bars from the mini-fridge. Sat the boys down on the carpet and turned the television to cartoons.

From his luggage, removed his slippers. Tucked beneath them: his little notebook.

Sat with it on the bed, crinkling his toes.

Checkered red leather. Gold tasseled bookmark. His favorite notebook.

Heaved a sigh of relief.

Then another.

And a third.

Flipped through the notebook with a careful hand, but there was nothing much of note written within.

Isaac Mitchell Simons

Simons

Isaac Mitchell Simons is currently living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter, where he spends his time sitting in traffic and directing commercials, though not simultaneously. Select work can be seen at www.isaacsimons.net

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If you enjoyed Good Idea, leave a comment and let Isaac know.

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