He rubbed his rosary and kept covered his stinking flesh. He curled on the bed while God sat cross-legged in the far corner.
I am God, God said. It’s time. You’ve wasted the gift of your life long enough in excessive pride and self-indulgence.
He did not want to die. He knew God was angry with him, and he was scared. He did not answer God when God introduced himself.
But God compelled the dying man’s heart to answer anyway.
I’m sorry, so so sorry, he said. He tried to make himself cry, but it was no use. Too afraid to cry, he curled more tightly into himself and turned his face from God.
I’m going to take you now, God said. It will be your most horrifying moment and it will last as long as I last. I will hold you there until the final second before darkness.
Now the man cried out into the room. Why! Why why why!
And God said, Because it is you who is smaller than me.
Sheldon Lee Compton is a novelist and short story writer from Kentucky. His work has been a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2015, Best Small Fictions 2016, and the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award, as well as nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. His collection The Same Terrible Storm was nominated for the Chaffin Award in 2012.
For a full year I wrote stories about booze while I was drinking the heaviest. I wrote this story called “Somebody Take Care of Little Walter” that was published in a journal called Monkeybicycle and then I posted it at a website called Fictionaut. Thirty-six people gave that story a “fav” and a lot of people said nice things about it, then I deleted it. I stopped drinking for three weeks and met my wife.
So I was sober for about three months because I didn’t want to tell her I drank every day. But I craved vodka and so finally told her I drank some through the week. I told her I was a happy drunk, which was mostly true. It went fine like that for some time. She even brought me a fifth of top shelf vodka back from Lexington after visiting her sister. She called on her way and said she had a surprise for me and I wanted to hold her so tight for accepting who I was and loving me anyway.
I drank it that night and we laughed and she helped me get undressed for bed. I remember saying to her, “Don’t take off my underlords.” I remember how she laughed when she realized I meant to say underwear. Every now and then I still call my underwear underlords and remember when it was funny.
Around that time I had this opportunity to stay home and write full-time. It was still good then. I’d put coffee on and have a cigarette and then get to work. My wife’s workday ended around 3 p.m., so I’d write until she got home and then we’d watch old Twilight Zone episodes and it was fine and good. That’s when I still poured my vodka into a glass and chased it with Coke or Mountain Dew.
I insulted her last night. I drank a pint and a half and then told her the house wasn’t clean enough. I told her she’d been sick for three weeks and that she was weak for letting it keep her down so long. She was throwing up from a stomach virus, and nothing I said was funny.
Sheldon Lee Compton is the author of The Same Terrible Storm. His work has been nominated for numerous awards and prizes and has won none. He survives in Kentucky.