fiction, poetry & more


by Susan Bryant

“Well, hi there! Welcome aboard.”

“You? YOU? Good heavens!”


“I mean, how did you, of all people, get up here? With the life you led! I mean…”

“Yeah, I know. But you’re going to find out that everybody gets here. Everybody. No matter what. And by the way, it’s not ‘up here.’ It’s sort of everywhere. All over. Up and down and in and out and around. It’s just different, hard to explain. You’ll see.”

“Everyone? Are you trying to tell me that even Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Joe McCarthy made it up here? I mean, here?”

“Yup, all of them. Of course, they’ve been put in special Learning Centers, but they’re here.”

“And do they work? The Learning Centers, I mean.”

“Sooner or later, apparently. Hitler’s doing better than the rest, but it’s slow going for all of them. Naturally, time is not a factor.”

“Naturally. So, what about Learning Centers for adulterers and philanderers?”

“Ah, yes. I was wondering when we’d get to that. I’m truly sorry—very, very sorry—to have caused you so much pain. I never wanted to hurt you, believe me. It’s just that I couldn’t seem to help myself.”

“So I noticed. Over and over again. But I blame myself too. Why in God’s name— whoops, sorry, guess you can’t say that here—”

“Oh, sure you can, nobody cares.”

“Why the hell didn’t I leave you? I just stuck around, letting it happen, hoping things would change but knowing they wouldn’t. What an idiot.”

“Change is hard. Most of us find it easier to stick with the ‘devil you know,’ so to speak.”

“Oh, for God’s sake—damn, there I go again.”

“It’s okay.”

“Well, for heaven’s sake, how did you get to be so sanctimonious?”

“It happens very easily here. Something you have to watch out for.”

“I see. Anyway, though I hate to admit it, one reason I didn’t leave is, we did have some awfully good times together. Let’s face it.”

“Oh, we did. We certainly did.”

“Funnily enough, I’m beginning to care less and less about all that other stuff. Even just a few days ago, before I—well, you know—”

“It’s okay. You’ll start caring less about that too.”

“Even a few days ago, if anyone had mentioned your name, I would have told them how much I hated you. Now, I don’t really mind you at all. Really, not at all.”

“That’s the way it goes here. You’ll see. Things that seemed all- important just begin to drop away.”

“Do they? Well, I’ll miss it. Hating you, I mean. It was almost like a hobby.”

“You’ll find other things to replace it.”

“Are you serious? I find it hard to believe! One of the things I’ve always wondered about was— assuming I’d ever get here—the boredom. Day after day after day, forever. Good behavior all the time.”

“No, it’s not like that, either. But speaking of good behavior—or, rather, bad behavior—do you remember the time we snuck into the Chamberlains’ cottage after skinny-dipping in their pool?”

“And raiding their bar, and then making love on their living room floor?”

“And they slept through the whole thing!”

“Oh, God, yes! (There I go again. Ah, well.) It was a trip, wasn’t it?”

“The Chamberlains are here, by the way. You’ll see them.”

“Do they know?”

“Probably, but it really doesn’t matter. To get to the boredom thing…”

“Oh, yes.”

“I’m going to give you a little tour. And you’ll start to get the idea.”

“So, where do we go?”

“Nowhere. Look down. That’s it. Now look up, slowly. Look all around you. Look at everything that’s going on, everywhere. Take your time. And listen to what’s happening.”

“I don’t see much, and I don’t hear a thing.”

“Keep trying. It takes concentration, and a little practice. Little by little, you’ll start…”

“Oh, my God! I do, I do! It’s beginning to—oh, my. It’s all so…so incredible! It’s…fascinating! Oh, dammit, I can’t find the right words for this. So this is what it’s all about! Who would have thought?”

“Well, what could we have even guessed, in that little place?”

“Nothing. Not a damned thing.”

“We thought it was all the beginning and the end, didn’t we—when it was just the beginning, my love. Just the beginning.”


Susan Bryant’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, No Experience Required (2001 short story contest winner), Compass Rose, The Griffin, RiverSedge, The London Evening News, The Tusculum Review and elsewhere. She lives in Gettysburg, PA.