My phone pings, an electronic ring, clear and sharp. Morning, afternoon, and in the still of night.
Ping, a father’s text lecture. What good is your writing doing? Show me proof. Would you consider law? You can make good money. Fatherly translation: Being a lawyer gives me status with my friends whose sons and daughters are not just lawyers, but doctors and physicists.
Ping, a reminder of another credit card payment impending, which is going to be late because I bought too many bottles of Merlot and high-end TV dinners and still went out to drink, things I thought I deserved. Who doesn’t need to drift on Merlot filled seas? Who doesn’t need the pulsating of jukeboxes, the smells of Camels, weed, and armpits? And don’t we all need to capture laughter on fall nights with sharp stars and a moon nowhere in sight?
Ping, there’s a truly odd power in not being content. Accepting a fait accompli. You know it’s stupid but you hold onto luxury, sampling its offerings before it comes apart. It’s a middle finger at the vast expanse called the world.
Cue that ping, a reminder of late payments. Remit immediately. Remit. A word that doesn’t understand futile efforts to budget, to add instead of subtract.
Ping, a reminder to sign up for health insurance, even though I don’t know if I can even get a lower-end plan. My liver probably looks like the Russian Revolution.
One good ping, older sister Nan with a “luv ya, Nicky.” A litany of emojis. How I need Nan’s dirty jokes and the scent of her lavender perfume mixed with weed, the firmness of a hug, the motion of arms.
Ping, I’ve let the battery die. Ping, ping, ping, a monster rising through a dead screen. Ping, turn on the phone, what if I’m missing something important? What if my father had a heart attack? What if I actually got an invite to a party, even though that hasn’t happened in months?
Ping, a sound from a different room while I try to watch That 70s Show and ruminate on how Red Forman is a softie compared to my father. Ping, a phone making itself known through a pile of Khakis, Polo shirts, and charcoal-colored Jockey underwear.
Here’s another ping, another reminder of card payments even when I start paying weeks ahead of time. Ping, sign up for this payment plan. No thank you for streamlining, downsizing, casting off HBO and booze for pragmatism.
Ping, another fatherly lecture after I explain the beauty of creating. Writing. A need to dissect humanity. And idiocy. A ping, after I ask him to respect, respect.
Ping. I told him to kiss my ass, words slipping from fragile fingers.
Bad son, selfish. You don’t know what your father did for you. The world is a jungle, son. Don’t trust people.
Ping, a reminder to upgrade my phone plan, which I sadly will.
Another ping thanking me for upgrading my plan. Followed by a ping to confirm my information. Confirm immediately, immediately.
Ping, the sound as I go to sleep, holding onto that fleeting promise. Ping, arms extended toward the phone, the electronic ping of impending future being fired. Maybe, maybe I can deflate it.
Ping. An arm that stretches into the world, fingers waving slowly, the bullet striking. Sinking. A numbed electronic wound. An arm bent, waving slowly, fingers drooping, not quite in surrender, but something very close.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His stories, “Soon,” “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work has been published or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Ariel Chart, among others.