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The Sound of Success
by Terry DeHart

detail from "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso
ve fucked it all up. Then Iím in a car, and itís some kind of official car—a police car or a fire chiefís car. I am rushed to a scene. Itís an open, urban scene—the intersection of three wide boulevards, and there arenít any tall buildings close in. Cars are stopped at random angles on the streets, and thereís a traffic island with an ornamental sculpture rising above it. Itís a cast iron minaret, freestanding in the island, maybe 40 feet tall. Itís painted orange and green and someone has climbed to the very top.

Sheís up there when I arrive. I know her. I know her entire history and I love her and I know that she wants me to be there. The on-scene officials know that sheís serious, and thatís why I was summoned. But I donít see the sense in trying to talk her down. I know it won't work, in any case, but I know that I have to try.

I sit in the car for maybe 10 seconds, facing the sculpture but not looking directly at the woman. I donít want to see her and I know that she doesnít want to see me, not directly, but I keep her shape in my peripheral vision and I know that she is aware of my presence. I see her scrambling to stand up on the slick, painted iron, and she manages to get herself upright and then she kicks off toward the pavement.

The crowd is silent, respectful perhaps, and she hits hard, just as she intended. I hear the soft, corporeal thump of her flesh and then her skull and bones shatter with a single, damned snap. I feel as if my own bones have shattered with hers, but I manage to think Good for her, because it was what she wanted, and she got it perfectly right. I canít move or breathe but Iím also proud of her. I think Good for you, and thatís that, except for the grief thatís a bayonet now, a bowie, a claymore and a Marine officer's sword running deep.

The grief is a tomahawk and then itís a heavy war hammer. I remember something else. When she fell, I had been listening intently for something. When she first hit the ground, I worried that she might not succeed. The initial thump of her impact didnít sound sufficient. But when I heard that horrible snapping sound, I knew.

And I couldnít bring myself to look at her, directly. I could only witness her final performance from the corner of my eye. The blades had me then, but I also felt a small, somber pride at her success. I listened intently for the crack of her skull and when I heard it I was filled with grief and pride and I wished her grim congratulations because it was the sound she most wanted to hear in all the world, as she showed off for me one last time, saying Daddy watch me now. Look what I can do, now.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2015 by its authors.

Terry DeHartís stories have appeared in The Paumanok Review, In Posse Review, Vestal Review, The Barcelona Review, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly and other places. Three of his stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is currently working on a novel about a family, and other nuclear events.

Read the interview.
Issue Eighteen (September 15, 2007): When the Toasts Stopped Being Funny by Steve Almond «» Nailed by Robert J. Bradley «» Raymond Carver by Dan Chaon «» The Sound of Success by Terry DeHart «» Ethnic Lego Girls Carry Spears by Heidi W. Durrow «» Mole Man by Stuart Dybek «» Party by Emily Fridlund «» From Halliville To Grice's Town by Jason Jackson «» Starfish by Jeff Landon «» Insomnia of an Elderly French Designer by Sean Lovelace «» Display by Davin Malasarn «» Little Bones by Kuzhali Manickavel «» Stigmata by Susan O'Neill «» Inroads by Dominic Preziosi «» Bachon by Teri Davis Rouvelas «» Voc Rehab Vignettes by Jessica Schantz «» Neighbors by Curtis Smith «» Caging the Thing by Beth Thomas «» Interviews: Steve Almond «» Robert J. Bradley «» Randall Brown «» Dan Chaon «» Terry DeHart «» Heidi W. Durrow «» Stuart Dybek «» Emily Fridlund «» Jason Jackson «» Jeff Landon «» Sean Lovelace «» Davin Malasarn «» Kuzhali Manickavel «» Mary Miller «» Susan O'Neill «» Dominic Preziosi «» Teri Davis Rouvelas «» Jessica Schantz «» Curtis Smith «» Beth Thomas «» Cover Art "Repression of an Open Mind" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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