To Find an Alarm worth Waking For

His alarm clock used to sit in a box on a shelf in a department store that displayed mannequins that looked like high-end hookers. That was before he wore the wig. It was before he wore the stilettos too. And it was long before the lynch mob arrived at the department store to beat down the doors with their scythes, rape the mannequins, and make off with everything.

Now the alarm is plugged into his bedroom wall. It screams like a trauma patient every morning, while outside, car horns blow, soldiers surge, and empires rot.

The tumor is terminal. His alarm goes at 6 a.m., he stretches his fat hairy white legs out under the bed covers, and his wife turns off in the other direction, waiting for the ordeal to end.

Often, he almost smashes the alarm to pieces, but doesn’t—not quite. Today his paunch is tightly knotted, his eyes are wide open, the hair on the back of his neck is standing, and he can smell the spiders weaving their webs in the corner of the room. A neighbor suddenly hears him through the wall, pushing out piss into the toilet bowl, aiming it at the water, rather than the porcelain, and standing on his toes to navigate a tricky hard-on.

The alarm fills his ears like a cop siren does a bandit’s. It marks the years, days and seconds. It’s a crude brush stroke. Worse than a flash light on the bags under his eyes. Amidst this confusion, distress and perpetual state of alarm, he’ll peep through a woman’s blinds, vote for the wrong guy and crush a bug into paste. And how could he abandon the tight rope when the alligators are snapping their jaws in the pool beneath it?

“You think it’s any easier down here,” they say. “Just try it, mother fucker!”

No, the alarm clock stays plugged in. The mob beats down another door. And his wife doesn’t dare open her eyes.

Joshua Jennings works as a journalist in Melbourne, Australia. He’s currently writing a book of poems called The Shovel, The Grave and Us. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Word Riot, Sex and Guts Magazine, and a number of Australian publications including The New England Review and an anthology, Shotgun.