A Remedy for Dasein

Kirsten Reinking

The character refused the writer’s story.

He rolled his eyes at the edited flirtation with the lemonade stand girl. And he snorted at his new job, refusing to wear the suits the writer stashed in his closet. All attempts at makeovers, physical or psychological, made him sulk on the couch.

Days went by as the character flipped through two hundred cable channels, sandaled feet propped up on the couch’s arm. With hand in popcorn bowl, blank face lit by the cool glow of the screen, he waited for the writer’s revisions.

“The lemonade girl should be blonde,” he advised. “Physically aligned with her beverage.”

And he dozed while the writer stormed a circle around his computer, imploring the muse for succor and the character for enthusiasm.

One night, the writer blew up a paper bag, throat straining with rage, and popped it over the character’s head.

The character didn’t blink. After five minutes of silence, he stood up and shuffled to the bathroom.

Then the writer decided to pull out a trick. “This’ll be great,” he said as he placed a rubber spider on the couch.

But when the character returned, he tossed the gag into the trash.

“Come on!” yelled the writer. “It’s supposed to be funny. Or remind you of your painful childhood as the weird kid. Or take you back to the time you went camping and got poison ivy.”

The character fished under the couch cushions, sifting through potato chips and pennies until he found a letter. He withdrew a cigarette lighter from his jeans pocket and flicked it at the paper’s edge. The letter curled forward in a rippling blue flame.

“This genre isn’t working for me,” he said. “As if the mere sight of a leftover item from a prop comedian’s toolkit could motivate me into making pithy dialogue and engage in futile actions against the crushing weight of dasein.”

“Wait, there’s a meet cute girl flashback scene in just two pages—” The writer disappeared.

The character flopped back down on the couch, picked up a phone, and thumbed the first speed dial button.

“Fiction Characters Society, how can we help you?” asked the receptionist.

“Send in another writer. No screenwriters this time. I tire of their mise en scènes.”

“May I recommend one of our iManifestoists?”

As she went through the list, he flicked the lighter on and off, watching the orange-blue flame leap and bite the air.

“Do any of these august authors know how to ease the soul’s stony weight of being?” he asked.

She fell silent.

He let the lighter dangle in his hand. “Then the time has come for me to write my own life.”

“No character has ever done that, sir. It’s against the rules.”

“Rules,” he said, “are for those who have no being.”

The character flipped the phone shut and dropped the lighter. Groping under the couch cushion, he found a pencil.

“Remedy, I found you,” he murmured.


Kirsten Reinking finds most characters in her stories are agreeable, although they often take long three-martini lunches. She writes short stories and poetry when they return.

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