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Minding the Gap

I feel satisfied, triumphant, knowing I have loved the original donut well, though maybe it was only its glaze that I recognized.

Fiction | Flash Fiction
July 16, 2021

One dawn I become so startled while eating a donut that I forgive myself for everything. I spit into the blue water bottle I am holding and watch the glaze float, then bike quickly to the donut shop I went to every Sunday as a child. The strip mall has been razed entirely, but there is a supermarket across the street where I buy a dozen boxed donuts.  

In my apartment, I display each donut in the mirror to find the right one, settling on the fourth from the front of the box. I must then find the right angle: holding it up with my two fingers looks intriguing but the best is a casual clutch, the donut flat on my palm and my fingers gripping the sides. The grip must appear indifferent but deliberate.  

I carry the chosen donut and sit very quietly, waiting for something to startle me. I do not remember what startled me the first time, so I recreate the conditions hoping to invite a second startle: the fold of blanket, the breeze from the window. After two days of keeping still this way, I finally fall asleep and wake up to see the ground by my bed scattered with glaze and urine. So I walk to the nearest art store, which takes all night. I steal white canvases in a variety of sizes and paints in a variety of colors and carry them home on my head, which takes long because the top of my head has never been very flat.  

I lay the canvases out across my bedroom and paint every image of the donut I can remember. Each angle I saw it from, how the shadow landed differently on the bed. What the glaze looked like in the bottle, and then on the floor. To ensure that this is not motivated by catharsis, each image must be physically accurate in terms of lighting, proportion, and color. Because I have never painted, this takes days. It takes days and nights, but I take naps in between paintings, usually on the ground near the growing stack of canvases because the bed has some donut crumbs I need to save to compare my color swatches.  

At the end, I go to bury the paintings, but the woods I know look different and crowded. I remember a childhood friend whose parents did not allow us to have any baked goods. Nights I spent at their house I became convinced that there were baked goods hidden on some tall shelf whose contents I could not see on my tiptoes. Walking into their backyard, I recognize the same white sedan in the driveway that used to pick us up from school.  

I find a shovel and uproot some smaller plants (herbs, maybe) in the corner. I switch off between widening and deepening the hole until a body could be buried comfortably. I feel satisfied, triumphant, knowing I have loved the original donut well, though maybe it was only its glaze that I recognized.  

Read more flash fiction, including stories by Jemimah Wei, Promiti Islam, Kyle Lucia Wu, and more, here.