RYAN RIDGE & MEL BOSWORTH
The Prisoners All Got Puppies
It was part of a new initiative unimaginatively called Puppies for Prisoners, and all the death row inmates at Polunsky Unit were picking puppies in the yard. Mad Mike got a Shih Tzu. Bullet Proust got a Great Dane. Squeaky Clean got a Bloodhound. Weird Phil got a German Shepard. Fast Frank got a Puggle. Apple Ed stood in the corner watching the sharpshooters on the catwalks watch it all go down. Randall the guard approached him with a Pitbull in one hand and a Chihuahua in the other. “How about it, Ed?” said Randall. “Take your pick.” Apple Ed reached out and took the Pitbull and looked it over carefully. Then he looked over the Chihuahua. All around him the other prisoners were laughing and cooing like fools. He passed the puppies back to Randall. “We’re still in Texas, right?” asked Ed. “Duh,” said Randall. “And we’re still gonna die, right? We’re still gonna get the stainless-steel ride?” “Of course,” smiled Randall. “I’ve always been more of a cat person,” Ed winked. Randall shrugged. “Suit yourself.” Later that night Ed liquidated his assets, cashed in all his favors, downed three bottles of sleeping pills, and folded himself into an enormous pie crust with two hundred pounds of apples. The Baker Boys in the kitchen took care of the rest the following morning. Ed’s sickly-sweet stench in the prison lasted for weeks. His legend as the Pie Poisoning Vigilante who died inside an apple pie lasted twenty consecutive lifetimes.
The Night Critical Healthcare Workers Accidentally Ate Pot Brownies
A strange sound came from the ICU. It sounded like a prog rock band: analog synth, drum machine, and a bass guitar—all bleeding together like a blood transfusion. I went to investigate. The hallway had a funeral glow. My hands looked blue in the LED lights and I felt like I might die right there on the cold tiles. What was I doing on the floor? I picked myself up and put myself into a vacant wheelchair. “Doctor Albemarle,” Nurse Nikki said, “why are you in a wheelchair? And what’s that racket?” I said, “I don’t know and I don’t know.” And I didn’t know. I didn’t know anything. My mind was messier than my ongoing divorce. “Will you roll me into the ICU?” I asked. “You want me to roll you into the ICU,” she said. “Yes,” I said. “I need to get a handle on what’s happening in there.” “Roll yourself,” she said. “I’m on break.” “Speaking of breaks,” I said, “there are some phenomenal brownies in the breakroom. I don’t know who brought them, but they’re fantastic. I ate like three or four earlier.” “All gone now,” she said. “I just had the last one.” Now an even stranger sound came from the ICU. It sounded like a theremin playing the guitar solo from “Stairway to Heaven.” I’d heard enough. “Enough is enough,” I said, “Come on, Nikki. Let’s roll.” Nikki rolled me into the next room and the scene was more inexplicable than I’d expected. A team of interns had set up a makeshift stage in front of the nurses’ station. On stage, they had an arrangement of musical instruments scattered about. I said, “You folks are using the wrong instruments. This is a hospital!” “Here,” one of the interns said, tossing me a tambourine. “Music is the best medicine. It’s why they call it ‘playing.’ Pretend we’re children, Doc. It’s time to play!” And so we played. We played all night. Between songs, the patients clapped and coughed. Coughed and clapped. The coma cases slept. After we finished a particularly raunchy rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” Nurse Nikki flicked her Bic lighter for an encore but she held the flame too close to an oxygen tank and blew us all away.
The Morning Our Fists Turned Into Bricks
Recent news had turned our hands into fists. Everywhere you went everyone was walking around with clenched fists. Then, one morning, we woke up and our fists had turned into bricks. This was getting scary. How would we eat? How would we function as people in our day-to-day lives? We stood naked in the kitchen, unable to dress ourselves, and stared at each other. Then we stared out the window. The neighbors smashed through their windows and clobbered through their doors to get outside. They had bricks for hands, too, and they meant business. Seeing them take to the streets like this fired something in our guts, something more than before, something timeless and forever now. We quickly learned to hunt in packs, chasing down deer in open prairies, mindful to keep them flushed from the forest and away from the tree line. We ran them to death. Then we devoured them raw using only our toes and teeth to tear through the hide. As a race, we were reduced and elevated simultaneously. We became true servants of the earth and sky again. Our children were born without eyes or limbs. They slipped cleanly from the women like bowling pins and hovered soft and bobbing on electrified air. We could smell the ozone. We could see the storm clouds coming. We stood to meet them, then fanned out to gather them.