BIG DINKY ENERGY by Josh Sherman

You really need to figure out how to stop drinking so much. You could ask your doctor to refer a therapist or join some 12-step program. But you’ve got a better idea. It’ll just have to wait until the weekend, when you aren’t busy writing marketing copy for real-estate developers.

***

‘The Mulberry Estates are a charming collection of spacious single-family homes in leafy Elgin County.’

‘Set to rise in Toronto’s vibrant Entertainment District, the Foxtrot is a luxurious 45-storey condo tower by the award-winning Mango Development Corporation.’

These are the sentences you’re paid to write eight hours a day, Monday to Friday, from an office downtown.

You wish AI would hurry up and make your job redundant.

***

Saturday morning you’ve got a raging headache. You don’t even throw up when hungover anymore. It’s like your body has tapped out from the constant abuse, or maybe it’s just your natural state now.

Though you’re resolved to stick to your plan no matter how shitty you feel, you’re also nervous and pace your apartment for an indeterminate length of time. A small part of you wants to back out while you still can.

***

It’s so bright out as you walk across a bridge to your destination. You want to capture the brightness — put it in a package like a light bulb so you can use it later. Someone has spray painted RUTHLESS LOWLIFE on a cement barrier. Seeing the graffiti tag, which is all over your neighbourhood, brings you joy. You consider RUTHLESS LOWLIFE to be your favourite street artist. You think of RUTHLESS LOWLIFE as a kind of light bulb.

***

Automatic doors usher you into Canadian Tire. You haven’t been in a hardware store in a long time — probably not since you were a little kid, when your mom made you wear that colourful leash thing so you wouldn’t wander away and get abducted. Recently, while helping your mom move, you found the leash in a box in the crawlspace of her old place. You wanted her boyfriend to take a picture of you two tethered at the wrists once again, but neither he nor your mom were willing to participate for some reason.

Weird.

***

It doesn’t take long for you to get your bearings. There’s a comforting logic to the store’s layout, and you sense intuitively where the aisle you’re looking for is located. Just in case, you’ve rehearsed a backstory for what you’re about to do.

And then you see it, what you came here for: the dinky-car display.

***

Suddenly you’re eight years old again.

You’ve never had alcohol.

Your organs are pink and healthy.

You wake up early to watch cartoons.

Your main concern is your Hot Wheels collection.

You are safe and secure on your leash.

If you could just recapture something of that lost time, even at 1:64 scale, you might find a way out of your predicament. These die-cast toy cars haven’t changed in decades. Something of your childhood remains static, sealed in plastic, and perfect.

So you flip through the packages, picking out a couple models: an ’85 Honda City Turbo, a ’68 Mazda Cosmo Sport, a Nissan Silvia.

You’re already making plans for an Instagram account to post pictures of your toy-car collection. You’ll create it when you get home. The username will be @bigdinkyenergy.

***

You stand in line feeling like you did the first time you bought condoms. You hope the cashier is an old person, someone whose judgment you don’t give a fuck about.

Instead, you end up with a hot 20-something ringing through and bagging your items. You feel totally castrated.

“Just picking these up for my nephew,” you say.

“He really… loves Japanese cars,” you add.

The cashier avoids eye contact when she hands you the bag.

***

As you walk back over the bridge on your way home, there’s a City of Toronto truck pulled up to the curb. Someone in a City of Toronto uniform is power-washing RUTHLESS LOWLIFE off the cement barrier. You just wish some things wouldn’t change, and you’re reminded of the versatility of grief, of all its variants.

Then you notice something else. The bag you’re carrying is so much lighter than what you lug home every day from the liquor store around the corner. And you think maybe you’re more excited to open its contents, too.


Josh Sherman is a Toronto-based writer and editor. His work has appeared in Back Patio Press, Expat Press, Hobart, Misery Tourism, Okay Donkey, and others. Read more of his work at neutralspaces.co/josh_sherman.

Art by Eli Sahm

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