The father never had to ask why he scattered his offspring around the great country. He understood how it happened: first there was the dream of it in the night, a visage on a mountain; then there was the act of it, the dynamite fingers in the rock. He never had to wonder who the children were because he cleared his browser after every dirty thing he did. What came before the Internet was never clear, and after Its birth out into the world, no one knew where It lived. These are the questions we are allowed. These are the answers we are given. Where do we go when don’t go anywhere? What will become of America? Who are the people we never see, and how do they live when we’re not looking? Why do forget the truth? When America caught the Internet in the forest, they tried to type these questions into the search engine, but the auto-complete function ruined them. Why am I so tired? How do you sleep? Who is God? What does my dream mean? Where am I?
When Wal-Mart was born, all of the local papers wrote stories with words like wowza and printed pictures of smiling geriatrics holding cotton candy. The reporters ate complimentary hotdogs and spent a week living inside the camping section. When they came out, their towns were gone. So the reporters handed each other the stories they’d written on red, white, and blue napkins taken from a 1,000 pack they’d bought for $1.96. Each story ended, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! except for one written by a high school girl in Tecumseh. Her story was on a white napkin. There weren’t any words, only a ketchup stain that looked like Lake Michigan. It was all America could talk about until Wal-Mart began to sell t-shirts with screen-printed ketchup stains that looked like Lake Michigan. Then America decided the stain wasn’t cool anymore so it conquered Prince Edward Island and used the dirt to fill in Lake Michigan which was so terribly lame. Everyone started to spell ketchup catsup. The girl disappeared and no one looked for her except for Wal-Mart who issued an Adam Alert. Every day they would lock the doors from 4:00p.m. to 1:00a.m. and have a doctor perform a physical to identify the girls. Then a lawyer would compare the girls to a picture printed on all the milk cartons. They could not find the girl—mostly because everyone, even the dairy farmers, had forgotten what she looked like—but the doctor found so many diseases that Wal-Mart invented medicine and sold it at a reasonable price. America was still sick but death was more profitable than before.
-- Adam Peterson is the co-editor of The Cupboard, a quarterly prose chapbook series. His series of short-shorts, My Untimely Death, is available from Subito Press, and his fiction can be found in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Indiana Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.