“Gilby, Later Than Now” – Short Story Fragment, Summer 2005


A year after college, I spent a few months living alone in an apartment in downtown Osaka. Having not yet succumbed to the nightlife and possessing very little Japanese for getting around, I spent a lot of nights drinking cup sake (always the red one with the calligraphy O on it) and writing short stories or scripts. This is a product of that, something I thought I’d revisit and turn into something very different but probably won’t.

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Gilby, Later Than Now

Gilby checked the locks on the house again, yanking on the handle until the wood groaned to his satisfaction.  All said and done, it would have been easier to kick a hole through the wall of the crumbling shack than to monkey with the locks but a fierce and abiding notion of the virtues of defending personal property prompted the locking ceremony every time Gilby passed the threshold of his tired clapboard domain.  Two ancient deadbolts and the click lock on the freshly installed brass handle were snapped into place.  Feeling the difficult bending of finger joints wrapped in a dirty t-shirt, Gilby vaguely recalled stealing the ornate door handle from a sedan parked outside the Home Depot.  It had been locked too, but who could tell a thing about what had or had not happened.  He shifted his gaze out over the gully where there were snakes and Tanner’s body still lay.  These were the things he knew for certain; everything else had its own rules.  The presence of the body and the snakes were checked upon three times a day on the long looping path back from the outhouse. This was where he was headed, for trip number two of this day with no certain name.  He began walking, accompanied by a shotgun marked with the letters “T.B.”
Gilby lived alone.  There was a school of thought that contended that this had not always been so, that the body of Tanner used to also occupy the shabby frame house, used to, in fact, prepare meals and converse at length about topics of debatable value.  This school of thought, in the face of the overwhelming evidence in favor of absolute uncertainty was pronounced heretical in the mind of Gilby and summarily sentenced to a drowning death, a punishment commenced daily by a generous ration of bourbon infused slowly and constantly.  All schools engaged in speculation about the alleged state change of the body from living to dead were not only executed but all friends, acquaintances and relations were likewise submerged by strong hands into an aggressive riptide of high quality distilled spirits.

The spirits came from the boxes, stacked to the ceiling and occupying a full half of the interior volume of the cabin.  Besides spirits, the boxes held bottled water, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, small packets of unbleached flour, and assorted dried meats, including ostrich and venison.  One box found this morning contained nothing but freeze-dried astronaut ice cream in official NASA silver packets.  There were four shipping containers of similar contents arranged around the house and a few more caches of the stuff out in the eight miles of swamp likewise arranged around the house.  Gilby spent the majority of his non-outhouse hours opening boxes and sifting through their contents.

Every day when the breeze shifted from the warming swamps to the dry areas beyond the thin pines, more boxes arrived from the sky, lobbed down to earth from the bellies of pearly airships.  Tanner had once shown him through binoculars the Japanese women who piloted these half-size zeppelins, with their brown-tinted hair, blue eye shadow and impeccable khaki uniforms.  These women stood at attention at the cramped front of the cabin, holding boxy microphones and smiling broadly while they ran through their daily monologue.  The words were most often lost to the breeze and the trees but ‘love’, ‘peace’ and ‘humanitarian’ were spread throughout like punctuation and were the only ones Gilby would usually catch.  There were never hands seen tossing out packages but rather they popped out like eggs from a turtles ass end, deploying a limp silver parachute behind them that quickly tangled in the trees after a half-hearted deployment.  After gathering the boxes, Gilby would climb the trees to slice the cords and gather chutes from halfway up a pine or cypress while scanning the heavens for any sign of the pyramid of three red diamonds that marked the airships.