Micro Prose: Two pieces by William Hoffacker

Will the Circuit Be Unbroken?

Of course, as long as we play by the rules of a game, then really the game is playing us, and we say no to manipulation and yes to control, but you say we risk alienating our friends, the other players, the rule-followers, but we know better, because we’ve all seen Raiders, and we remember the scene where Indy—who is the roguish hero, by the way, whom we’re meant to root for, and indeed the audience whoops and cheers when he commits the brutal act we’re about to describe—rolls his eyes and shoots that guy who waves his sword in the air like he’s the ultimate warrior, when in fact he’s a punch line dead in seconds, which is why so many people in movies are chastised for bringing a sword to a gunfight, which made us wonder when exactly an altercation qualifies as a gunfight, asking questions like, “Do the guns have to outnumber the swords, or is one gun the proverbial trump card?” and after long lines of deep thought, we came to the conclusion that yes, superior firepower changes the rules, and brute force almost always guarantees victory, which is why we brought a flamethrower to your fencing match, and why we placed a pistol on the table beside the chessboard, and why we ran your Sudoku books through the paper shredder, and why we hired a programmer to create an artificial intelligence that will beat any video game for us, and we won’t hear how any of this is cheating, because we have also seen Air Bud, and Racing Stripes, and MVP: Most Valuable Primate, so we know to ask, “Where exactly in the rulebook does it say we can’t…” etc., and someday you will carry us on your shoulders, like the Labradors and chimpanzees and Harrison Fords of the films before us, as the heroes we truly are: heroic for cutting through the bullshit, for refusing to let our minds be enslaved, for burning the rulebooks and showing the world that no game is more fun than asserting your will and flouting the designer’s intent, like a machete through a hedge maze, like a hammer to a puzzle box, like bullets fired at the Sphinx.


Excerpts from My Catalog of the Types of Lightning

Artificial lightning: Created in laboratories around the world by scientists who have trees for surnames.

Bumblebee lightning: Naturally occurring when thunderstorms form inside honeycombs and beehives; rarely witnessed by humans.

Crackerjack lightning: Those charges which falls from the sky in little, sparkling clusters the size of raindrops; mistaken for snow by many children, now deceased.

Drunken lightning: Bolts that walk a wandering line and miss their targets by miles.

Electricity: Lightning that has been captured, forced into unpaid labor, and imprisoned within walls, wires, and sockets.

Feral lightning: That which cannot be tamed by even the most experienced electricians.

Group lightning: Converges only in the forested areas least touched by men and machines, where the largest quantities of psychic energy gather.

Heat lightning: The opposite of cold lightning, which is only theoretical, never observed.

Ice lightning: see “cold lightning.”

Imitation lightning: Term used by poets alternately to mean thunder, sunlight, lust, etc.

Job’s lightning: Any flash that strikes and burns the crops of a pure-of-heart, God-fearing man, soon to be shunned by his neighbors, who believe he is being punished but know not why.

Kite lightning: [the editors find this entry to be self-explanatory]

Lovers’ lightning: Felt in the brain, the heart, the gut, the loins.

Mouse lightning: A form of non-verbal communication between small mammals, consisting of painful shocks transferred between skin pouches and cheek sacs.

No lightning: The absence of.

Other: Lightning recorded but thus far unclassified.

Polar lightning: What turns the icecaps to waterfalls.

Queen lightning: The rumored source of all lightning; dismissed by most academics, but widely prayed to in times of drought or boredom.

Red lightning: Its crimson color is due to a solar eclipse or a sharp increase of lithium in our atmosphere.

Strobe lightning: Intermittent, entrancing blasts; known to cause seizures and/or blindness in the weak-willed.

Tube lightning: Available at your local grocer’s freezer aisle or wherever fine, tubular products are sold.

Undercover lightning: Have you ever seen a streetlight that clicked on at the precise moment you drove under it? Or a cat whose eyes glowed green on a moonless night?

Vascular lightning: The original species that carried the spark of life from the heavens to the earth.

Womb lightning: In one out of 10,000 pregnant women, when the unborn baby kicks, something kicks back.

X-Ray lightning: Any jolt that makes its victim’s skeleton visible to the naked eye; also called “flesh-stripper” or “window-maker.”

Young lightning: The most dangerous variety because it has not learned how to control its movements or moderate the release of its venom.

Zombie lightning: Reanimated, through science or voodoo; sluggish but indestructible; a horrific mistake.

William Hoffacker grew up in New York City and lives in Tucson, AZ. His work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in NANO Fiction, Cartridge Lit, matchbook, The Mondegreen, and others. He also interviews contributors to The Collagist for the journal’s blog. More information is at williamhoffacker.com.

Photo by John Fowler

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