DeAnna Knippling

Don’t you hate it when the end of the story is, “And then he woke up”? Or “it was all just a game”?

“Trellafan realized that he was just a character living in some stupid computer game played by a twelve-year-old in Missouri. Trellafan was mad. No. He was… pixellated.”

I hate that.

But what about the reverse, when you think it’s just a game that turns out serious (imagine shutting off your video game only to discover you’re wanted for murder). You know what I mean? Life doesn’t feel real most of the time. Like it’s a game.

My dad called yesterday to say Uncle Derek was dead. Funeral, Wednesday, Catholic church, De Smet. South Dakota, you know, Little House on the Prairie. I grew up there.

I didn’t say anything. Eventually I hung up on him.

I made my excuses (to the people in my real life) and started driving. I drove across three states but it was too dark to make much of an impression.

Tuesday night was the rosary, which is like a wake, but without the relief of getting drunk. Middle-aged women gossip about the PTA while they serve ham sandwiches, macaroni salad–you can’t beat a church-lady macaroni salad–and coffee, coffee, coffee. He was laid out in the casket. The corpse looked like the guy that inspired me–if that’s the word–to slack off and enjoy the easier side of life. (He gave me my first computer and showed me how to program my first game on it. It was awesome. I called it “MazeMan.”)

(Ok, so what if it was pretty dumb?)

But I felt nothing.

We’d been close since I was a toddler. Everybody stopped by to offer their sympathy. After an hour or so Wednesday morning, waiting for the funeral, I blew.

“What do you have to be sorry about? What? Did you kill him? Did you strike him down in the prime of his life? Was it you that handed him one too many greaseburgers? You that punched a hole in his heart? No? Then leave me alone!”

Some poor church lady. Didn’t take it well.

They took me outside and let me yell at the parking lot for a while.

Dad stared at me like it hurt to watch his own son screaming out the emotions he knew he should feel. Mom cried with relief over the fact that someone was crying. Like some kind of permission had been given.

Then it was time for the funeral. On the way past the casket, which was open, I noticed that his kids had left little stuff in there with him. To get buried. Remote control. Couple of action hero figurines. Arcade tokens. Time to walk into the church, sit with the rest of the family in the front pews. I touched his hand, said, “Thanks.” He blinked. I could see his eyes, blue eyes like my father’s, full and round, sparkling with tears: full of life.

And then I woke up.


Ms. Knippling’s flash fiction piece, Love, was published recently at Her current projects include a novel. Doesn’t everybody’s? She can be reached at dust[at]