This is a Thing You Think by Ben Slotky
There is a scene that you think you remember but can’t remember from where. It is in a book. Something you wrote. Something you will write. Something you imagined, something that happened or didn’t, and in it a man is walking up a long driveway. It is in the forest, the driveway is. The man is a man or a crocodile. The driveway is gravel. Steep and gently winding. Up a hill. There are trees to the right of him. There is a house to the left. It is further in the distance. He is walking toward it. A goal, a destination. The ground is made of pebbles. The ground is made of pieces. There are cars parked alongside the road, alongside the driveway. The driveway is gravel. Loose pebbles and stones. Aggregate, you think. There is a word for this, you think. For what this is. For what that is. Specific. Precise and clarifying. You wonder where you are thinking this. In the scene or where you are now. There are cars on the right of the crocodile. He is walking up the hill, up the driveway. Walking on loose stones, millions of them, you think, walking to a funeral. You remember this. Somebody has died, you think. He is walking up the hill to go to a funeral. To pay respects. Reverence and remembrance. His feet clacking on stones. On pebbles and pieces. He is walking to a funeral. He is walking past cars. He sees himself in the mirrors as he passes. A reflection, a glimpse. He is there and he is not and then he is back again. Back in another car, back in another mirror. It is different and it is the same. It is hot and the crocodile is sweaty. The back of his neck itches. Bumps and beads, and this isn’t a part of it, not anymore. This isn’t from the book or the movie. This isn’t from whatever this is, you think. This is something else, something different. You are projecting, deflecting. You are thinking this now. The wall in M looks like stone. Tiny pebbles. Rough and abrasive. You touch it when you pass. With fingers, with hands. You look in the mirror, at the reflection. Your hat is tilted to shade your eyes. You look down at the stones, the pebbles. Your clawed foot presses down on the pebbles. Now you are a crocodile, a crocodile detective, and this isn’t the same anymore. This isn’t what it was anymore. Not at all. It is new, this thing is. It is right in front of you, right in the mirror. It is there and then it is gone.
Ben Slotky’s first novel, Red Hot Dogs, White Gravy was published by Chiasmus in 2010 and was re-released by Widow & Orphan in 2017. His work has appeared in Numero Cinq, The Santa Monica Review, Golden Handcuffs Review, McSweeney’s, Hobart, Juked, Jellyfish Review, Barrelhouse, and many other publications. He lives in Bloomington, IL with his wife and six sons.