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A Phoenix Fiction Writer Rising From The Ashes of Nonfiction




The Great White Shark 
by Michael T. Martin

I wondered what it would be like to be swimming in the cold Pacific off the coast of California just beyond the breakers like I usually do on a casual day at the beach, when a ten-foot leather-skin shark erupts from the depths to rip an entire section of my abdomen away while tossing my body into the air with flailing entrails and spurting blood flying momentarily before I fell back splashing into the water.

I wondered if the sudden incredibly intense flash of pain pain might so shock my body that then nothing would be felt, leaving my mind in a sort of suspended state considering the consequences as if in an out of body experience. There would be this grey consciousness of disbelief, regret, and a distant awareness of being alive but in a pointless existence.

I wondered because I felt that way now after reading a single page of my wife's cursive handwriting, a love letter to a man I didn't know telling him how she longed to be back in bed with him and how repulsed she was having sex with me. After an initial intense flash of pain and nausea my mind froze in a sort of suspended state considering the consequences as if in an out of body experience

It was a love letter; she was in love with him and regretted being with me. Everything I thought we had between us had now been ripped away, leaving the carcass of all of my dreams, feelings, memories and emotions flailing disconnected from reality like entrails after a shark bite.

We were going out for dinner, a casual evening and while she made a quick trip to the bathroom before leaving, I had accidentally knocked her purse off the table onto the floor, spilling its contents. As I was putting the contents back, I noticed she had addressed a letter to a strange man. I was curious and the letter was unsealed.

Thoughts of going to dinner had no meaning now that my stomach was gone, replaced by nausea, replaced by this grey consciousness of disbelief, regret, and a distant awareness of being alive but in a pointless existence. It was pointless to be angry, pointless to do anything since obviously everything had already been done.

She came out of the bathroom and saw me holding the white paper in my hand, probably saw my face white, drained of blood, and knew immediately that I knew. She ran to grab the paper from my hand.

“What are you doing reading my mail?” she said angrily.

“I read it.”

“You have no right to be in my purse,” she screamed at me, her body shaking, “I can't believe you violated my privacy …” continuing to berate me with vehemence.

Moments ago I was in love with her, now I stood in shock, looking at the shredded entrails of my married life like it had been disemboweled by the jaws of revealed truth. It felt worse than that, as if my entire life was over. The fool I was died a horrible death.

When Shakespeare wrote “What's past is prologue” he meant that things which have already happened create a momentum in events which comprise the future events of our lives, in the way William Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” We expect the future to be a continuation of the past. But it seemed my future from this point had no past.

In my grey consciousness I watched her screaming at me that I was wrong because I wasn't supposed to know that everything I thought I knew about the past was wrong. All I felt was emptiness like I had been hollowed out. I had become a superficial reality, a superfluous reality, flesh with no feeling, muscles with no ability to tense, living a reality that wasn't real.

She started crying and ran into the bedroom, locking the door, leaving me isolated. There was a finality to that isolation, a clarifying coldness. It was pointless to try and talk with her, reason with her, over what no longer existed. She was in love with, for how long, another man. She was gone and I realized that she had been gone for a long time, only I hadn't known. I wondered how long I had been a fool living in a world that really didn't exist.

I remained dazed while the remnants of my consciousness flailed among an endless stream of options that were rejected as pointless until I felt my car keys in my hand and stepped toward the front door to escape, but I stopped. I realized I could escape, but I couldn't come back. When you escape from a place that doesn't exist you can never go back. Never.

I rushed into the den gathering my laptop, its ac adapter, mouse, my booklet of passwords, and then grabbed the backup drive on the bookcase. I went to my car carrying my digital life with cables and wires hanging and swinging like electronic entrails and drove toward the freeway in the dimming sunset's blazing orange light. An oldies CD began playing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” when I started the car.

I accelerated down the freeway onramp, hurtling onto the freeway at 80 mph, slowing then into the middle lane to cruise while I thought about some strategy of becoming undead. The fundamental ambiguity of the superficial unreality created by the betrayal of her adultery meant I might as well have been struck by a Great White shark. That man was now dead.

The abrupt leaving released my mind from its suspended state of an out of body experience. The nausea subsided, I began to feel again, cold at first but slowly becoming body temperature. The smell of leather seats began a new reality. My consciousness began enjoying the music.

I felt emboldened fleeing the horror of my predecessor's death in a newly reconstituted body lacking the grey consciousness of disbelief, regret, and a distant awareness of being alive but in a pointless existence. The pointless carcass of my old life sank below the superficial surface of the nonexistent past I abandoned. A past now truly gone, fuck William Faulkner.

The environment of my old life dimmed into darkness save for the sinuous separate streams of white headlights and red taillights extending far into the distance in front of me. I hummed about my new life in Phoenix, 300 miles away. Maybe there aren't any sharks in the desert.


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