two shorts

by Aaron Burch

You Think About That Or

You’re staring at the wall of books.

You want to leave them all, everything. Move on, wipe the board clean, start anew.

“What are you going to do with them?” you ask, though you know.

You also want to take them. Because you’re you, because it’s your nature. Because she wants to get rid of them so you want to do the opposite.

You hear her ridiculing your desire to hoard, to hold onto the past, though she isn’t. You’re unsure if this makes you want to take everything or none of it. It makes you want to do both.

“Is it because you’re sentimental? Or thrifty?” she asks.

You look left to right, up and down. A wall of bookshelves that visitors have mistaken for built-ins, but you bought and put them together when you moved in, one standing next to another next to another, corner to wall.

You’re not sure what you are.


Something About Patterns or Habits or Grooves

I get on the wrong bus. It’s been a long day, I’m tired. And it’s cold out—colder than it was when I left my apartment this morning, colder than I’m dressed for. I’m ready for the warmth of that dry, stale, shipping box air of the bus. Ready to be home.

* * *

When I moved into the apartment, I brought my records. I brought the record player my parents gave me for Christmas a few years ago that had been sitting on a shelf, unused, in our basement storage room. I took a big comfy chair—my favorite to read in, to nap in, to curl into and have a drink at the end of a long day. I didn’t take a TV. I didn’t get internet, I don’t have anything that can play a DVD or CD. I listen to one band, one album at a time, no shuffling, twenty minute increments until I flip or change the record. It feels a little different, new. Purposeful.

* * *

“I got on the wrong bus,” I text a friend, walking home in the cold.

At some point, I’d opened my eyes and the view outside my window didn’t look familiar. Or, it looked familiar, but not quite right. I knew where I was, but it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I walked to the front of the bus and—because I don’t really like asking for help, don’t like letting on that I’m confused, that I don’t know where I am or what something is—I looked over the driver’s shoulder at his screen. Route 5. I grabbed a bus route booklet and returned to my seat. The view out my window still wasn’t right—we’d turned and were traveling even farther from my apartment. But the 5 was my bus. The 5 is my bus. The 5 is the bus I take home every day.

“What happened? Where did you go??”

“I got on the bus line I used to take to the other house.”

It’s cold out, but I’m walking fast. Even though I’d gone the wrong way, I found a stop not too far from where I was headed.

“Overwriting default settings is a…chore?” she texts back.

I walk in the apartment and put on a record. I make a drink and slump into my chair. I spend the next week thinking about a misremembered version of her reply.

Aaron Burch is the Founding Editor of Hobart, and the author of the criticism-turned-memoir Stephen King’s The Body and the story collection Backswing.

Artwork by: Benjamin Wagner