Stuart

Written by Tony Fragale and Jack McCoy

 

 

There’s only one library here.

 

One librarian.

 

I wonder if she knows the Dewey decimal system?

 

Does anybody actually know the Dewey decimal system?

 

If this library used a different system for organization but called it the Dewey Decimal system, would anyone actually notice? What if the elementary school kids were taught this fake system as the truth, would it be a different system in the end? Or would the new system then, after generations of acknowledgement, be considered an evolution of the Dewey Decimal system, the next step as time allows? Is the original and the end result the same, in the end?

 

Would any of that even apply to this library? It only has 178 books.

 

They don’t have the budget for it. Hell, most of these books are just on the history of the town. That’s all anyone ever seems to be interested in.

 

People come in packs and rent apartments for a month. They go to the library and read. Once they finish all the books they are never seen again. ‘

 

I work at a McDonalds. I never touch those damn books. I live and die for Mcflurries and fries.


I heard a rumor from a passerby that the Salem Witch Trials happened here. We’re over a thousand miles away from Salem, so I just took it in.

 

Lots of people come here. Usually just to talk to me as they go to Des Moines. Mostly not to talk to me, I don’t know why I lied. I get silly sometimes. Egotistical. I’m not worth it most of the time, people just want their Mcflurries.

 

Last night we sold seven Big Macs. We sell more McFlurries than any other McDonalds in the Midwest. We’ve won the McFlurries Award the past seven years. Oreo, of course.

 

Most people you only see once, unless they’re a new resident. Then they last as quick as they can read. I’m illiterate. I can only read the menu.

 

My dad started this McDonalds. It has everything I need. Pickles, mustard, onions, straws, bread, Coca-Cola (fuck that Burger King-Pepsi propaganda), lettuce, tomato, fake beef, chairs, tables, three employees, and McFlurries (I don’t know what’s in them I just push the knob that says “Oreo”).  Not much turnover; since my family disappeared McDonalds is the only safe haven for the rest of us; Ronald is looking out for us, our corporate God; we’re safe here, but not outside, not in our houses, not in our churches, not in our graveyards, not in our fields, especially not in our goddamn library. No point in school. The quicker you learn the quicker you die. Or disappear, I don’t know which. I’m alive for as long as I’m ignorant. My life was constructed this way. I don’t know that word. Constructed. I will never use that word again. I’m sorry.

 

Ian has a habit of going to the cemetery at night. Claims that’s the one place for miles you can see the stars. I’m too scared of the aliens eating all the cows. Americans are cows, right? Aliens eatin’ Americans, eatin’ em up like grass in a grinder.

 

I’m scared for Ian. Him and Marge are all I’ve got. That and the disappearin’ drunkards. Alcohol is a sin in McDonalds. Marge drinks Fireball behind the counter, but no one cares. Just want her to be safe. We’ve got the privilege of ignorance and shouldn’t rile Ronald’s feathers, but what’s there to do? Can’t eat McFlurries all day. I’d say I want more out of life, but I don’t. I just want to be here. A survivor in a town of the dead.

 

Ronald talks to me sometimes.

 

“Comeeerrrrr spoort!!!! Let’ss make maggiccckkkkksticks!!!!!!”

 

We’ve been told to ignore the Ronald on the walls. More witch tricks.

 

Anytime something happens we’re told to hide in the freezer. We’re safe there. Can’t read us from the skies. Too thick of walls.


We’ve been told that in case of Nuclear Fallout to hide in the freezer. It doesn’t function, we have to preserve meat in the refrigerator via herbs and antifreeze. Keeps the fake beef moist and the fake customers happy. The real ones order McFlurries.

 

Ronald sends drones every day. They hover outside the window and keep tabs on us. Sometimes they deliver Lunchables with carrots and ranch. I think I got radiation poisoning from the Lunchables. This must be a sign from the Ronald in the Sky.

 

Don’t Eat Lunchables.

 

They’re building a wall around the McDonalds. One way in, no way out. It’s seventy-two feet high and have drones flying around the perimeter to keep the commies away. They keep expanding the wall to enclose the town. Ronald watches. Our TV only shows Ronald. Ronald speaks in iambic pentameter. I can’t speak in iambic pentameter so I am not allowed to speak.

 

No one says anything to the customers anymore. They order McFlurries and pay. Everyone knows the price now. They only pay in exact change. No cash in the register. We have to put the money in a drone that flies to the top of the walls by the throne.

 

We had a bank in town once. Ronald told us to stay far away.

 

A man came in and didn’t pay in exact change. He was the owner of the bank. The man was escorted to the top of the wall immediately. The bank closed down the next day.

 

Ronald says he doesn’t  belong here, that we’re safe now. We don’t have a response.

 

Ian was the first to go. He was the first to speak. Security blared the Red Alert. I heard he went to the cemetery that night to see the stars. There were no stars.

 

A dome has been placed over the wall to prevent commie light. It is now soundproofed. Everything is soundproofed. I hide in the freezer for thirty-seven minutes, but have to return to the register. Everything is registered now.

 

Marge was next.

 

Ronald found out that she had been drinking in his presence. He did not like this. Nobody likes it when Ronald gets angry.

 

When he gets angry he makes us go sit in the tunnel slide. The one with the lights.

 

The last time I went in the tunnel slide I gave a customer one too many fries. Ronald doesn’t like it when food is misplaced or given away without  additional charge.

 

He put me in the slide, and said to make sure everything was even from now on. When things are odd the lights turn on.

 

Marge has been gone for two weeks and I am afraid. Ronald doesn’t talk anymore, only whispers. He said his batteries were AA instead of AAA and the early procedures were almost done.

 

I decide to have a McFlurry. We’re supposed to take injections but I don’t like the feeling. Too cold.  It isn’t Oreo this time. This one says “Reese’s” and I’m not sure what it is because I have never seen it before, but I like how it tastes. This is the first time anything appeared ever. I like the way the chunks clear up my throat after not talking in four years. I let out a tiny sigh when I finish it.

 

That was it.

 

Ronald came on the intercom and said it was over, and the system would shut down. I serve my last customer and lock the door.

 

I sat in the freezer for 2 days 3 hours and 47 minutes. There is a loud laughter and then this light came on me. I squirm and think of the slide. I notice an audience of people in lab coats standing outside the McDonalds.


 

The wall was gone, and was replaced with a thin sheet of glass. There everyone was: the librarian, Ian, and Marge, on the inside.




We Ascend.

 

Fragale, Tony and McCoy, Jack went to every McDonald’s, church, and synagogue in the Midwest in search of the American Dream. These are the stories from their travels. Contact Tony by email at tonyfragale4@gmail.com, or Jack by email at john.mccoy@loop.colum.edu