In exactly 100 words, I will tell you how the world will end. You probably already have questions, but words are running out. Think of it as Hangman. Except with real men—and women and children. Of course you may already be counting my words instead of listening. That’s the trick with Hangman, you have to read people. When you’re counting, you don’t know what’s happening. Which is how it’ll happen—people like you will go around counting—counting your steps, Air Miles, sheep wearing bow-ties, how many times your neighbor’s visitors don’t leave until morning… The word is surrender.
What I was really wondering is this: am I really an asshole for not getting my dog neutered? I’m working on a novel where the narrator is castrated and it’s hugely sad and elicits all of the normal empathic responses. Only at the end do you realize that the narrator is a dog. You’re probably wondering why I even have a dog, guessing that I’m the type of sick antisocial fuck who should have a cat, or no pet at all. Perhaps you’d like to restrict my liberty to have a dog. You’d like to be that Bobby. That’s the name.
In exactly 100 words I will tell you how I was right. This postcard is dated exactly 100 days after the end. How did I know to address it to prison? How will it reach its intended destination? One word: connections. I gave you plenty warning. I even sent a gift-basket to your (now ex) wife. I even went through your garbage. Why would I waste time on a word like “even” when I’ve only got so many? I told you the trick to Hangman. Your son is looking disheveled, like he’s lost faith in humanity. The word is corrections.
It was Bobby’s fifth birthday. He blew out the candles except for one, which he then proceeded to throw in my direction, being that he thought that I had stolen his Special Day. When Bobby blew there were several moves that could’ve been made. Perhaps I may have otherwise had a dog. Perhaps Bobby would have realized that Special Day doesn’t actually make you a God—perhaps an adult may have had some concept of safety—the point being, after that I’ve always had my game on. Word: liberty. A writer is just making up for their lack of liberty in life.
In exactly 100 words I will tell you how to make things right. This postcard is dated for your parole hearing. Apparently nobody likes a snitchy, creepy, no-good neighbor. This is the digital age! You should know that you can be framed for anything. If you promise to never move back, I’ll put in a good word for you. You just have to guess the word first. You know the saying look both ways before you cross the street? There are more than two places to look, my friend. That’s another trick. The word is ___ (fill in the blank).
Have you ever considered why completely average people—writers but otherwise average—insist on writing stories where one horrible thing happens after the next? Do they think they’re making the world more empathic? Giving voice to the poor? Are they after the cash reward from trauma porn? A little jealous? Or are they just sadistic? Wanting to see somebody else suffer without the skill to cause the suffering consequence-free? Do they ultimately wish that they could just write a story about whether or not they should chop off their dog’s balls? Figure out the word yourself. While you count I’ll hide. Ready?
In exactly 100 words I will tell you the secret to life. People like you go around thinking you know-it-all, but you don’t have a clue. You drive your little Mercedes, you name your daughters after automobiles, you drink your expensive coffees, then you retire to your house to spy on everybody else—just for watering their lawn on the wrong day, or for having visitors. The secret is you don’t have a clue until you’ve spent a day in a cage. Your son still looks like hell but your (now ex) wife looks very happy. The word is karma.
Bobby the SmugglyPuff that he is, straight out of a cartoon, sobbing on the CBC about how rough his childhood was, about his “award-winning” memoir, his smug face all over the internet. He made some sad speech about the beauty of small towns and small things. He mentioned something about how he forgives me. He forgives me! That Bobby! My point is: in no way did this have to end up this way, regardless of factoring in skill, weather, acts of God or any other variable. His memoir only had one possible outcome. He got doggo fixed. That Bobby would.
In 100 words I will tell you how your obituary will sound. This postcard is dated a month before they hang you. This is it. This is your obituary. The secret to Hangman is being able to read people. You aren’t Walter White, nobody’s going to make a documentary about you. You are the snitchy, creepy, no-good neighbor. You were a husband and father. Maybe the world as-we-know-it didn’t end, but the trick is to read between the lines. Your password was the name of your co-worker. Right now you probably want the world to end. The word is justice.
In Bobby’s words “It took me exactly 100 words to find my brother guilty. He stole my childhood and I put the pieces together, one word at a time. It’s difficult to unravel the fabric of memory. One memory sticks out. My brother and I were watching Star Wars. Our parents were out of town. The neighbor tried to pull a prank on us, showing up at the door in a mask. I ran and hid but my brother just yanked off the mask and peed on it. I looked up to him then. Him more than anyone.”
About the Author
Jill M. Talbot's writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Geist, Rattle, subTerrain, PRISM, The Stinging Fly, and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award and the Malahat Far Horizons Award. Jill lives in Vancouver, BC.