The Iowa Review

Finkle, Frigup (Part II)

     After polishing Arnold, Finkle returns to Flood Geology. Inside the diorama: dunes of white, glittering granules—sharp to touch, which must violate some dogmaticol. Still, Finkle rakes it into mimetic landscapes, placing model trees and toy dinosaurs into what he believes resemble prehistoric hunts and migrations and matings. Raking, he unearths a tube of white rock as big as his forearm—a branchy, knobby paper-towel roll.
     Looking through it: light and color kaleidoscope off its glassy inner walls.
     Another troop of Little Geneses arrive. Finkle floods the diorama. The Little Geneses don't become impatient, antsy, or flash-mobbish. Sometimes he floods the exhibit for nobody, sometimes for freckle-nosed Charlotte from the Tabernacle Café & Gift Shop, or Lydia Lake from the Homological Vertebrae exhibit, or Len who eyes the tremoring event as if he'd like to press his junk against it. The lights flicker. More sparks fizzle down.
      "Is that dangerous?" a Little Genesis asks, swatting a spark from her hair. Finkle recites dogmaticol: "Nope. It's just simulated fire and brimstone."
     The A/O/A/V/PA booms: "'This is the way, walk in it,' Burt Finkle and Charlotte Knot."
     Charlotte is already in Sneidlinger's office when Finkle arrives, holding a bag of stale chips. She throws it out. It makes a biscuity thud in the bottom of the trash. Sneidlinger is still shredding concerns in the Strategic Vision Box.
      "Like the new beach?" he asks Finkle with a wink. "Knot: fresh chips are also en route."
      "The heck is that stuff?" Finkle asks.
     Sneidlinger pauses, mid-shred. "Sand."
      "No, it's not. It's shiny and poky. Kids can't be walking barefoot on that."
      "So we make them keep their frigging shoes on," Sneidlinger says. "It's silica sand. Pulverized limestone and quartz. The quarries donated a mound. A buddy of mine made a case of chips fall off the back of the truck. I even got ministerized on the Internet. Look, don't make me a Cain here. Don't reject my offerings. What's that passage—something about if you reject God's gift—not that I'm God, just doing His work, of course—and you get all righteous through what is lawful, then Christ died in vain? I'm not one-hundred-percent sure about the exact quote since Galatians is one of the books missing from the Kiosk."
      "So we're up to Code?" Charlotte asks.
     Sneidlinger shreds another concern. "Yes and no. Turns out the Adam and Eve mannequins have been defiled. A Little Geneses troop drew genitals on them being crudely manipulated. Except the little twerps drew the frigging hands backwards! What is our country coming to when a kid can't even defile with diligence?"
     Finkle would laugh except for the heart-wanting-to-birth-from-his-belly-button feeling.

      "You want us to bathe the mannequins?" Charlotte asks.
      "No," Sneidlinger says. "It's permanent marker. Pull non-expensive leaves and flowers from Botanical Eden, fashion some conservative biblical attire, and pose under the Tree of Knowledge. It must be you two. Len's too willing to de-pants, Sally's an intern, and Lydia's a prude. Albeit an attractive prude. If I wasn't now a celibate minister, ha!"
      "I want overtime," Charlotte says.
      "You'll both get time and a half," Sneidlinger says.
     Finkle sulks back to Flood Geology. The white rock sits on his stool. Maybe it's an elongated asteroid? Or a fossil? Why take lacking diligence so personally? It's just constructive criticism, which he'll be getting tons of in cartooning workshops. He'll just trace his own hands until he gets it right. He'll also need Ma to get high-speed Internet again, and he'll promise to keep the door open this time when he's on the computer. His thumb-error drawings will probably be worth big bucks once he's a famous cartoonist. Some fan with a thumb defect, her opposable digits Picassoed, will tell him those early works speak to her. Like Finkle totally understands the weighty weight of her plight. They'll hump in the basement and make mini-Picassos, and Finkle will teach them to thumb wrestle. The cute deformed girl will gather them all up, this one big fist. He'll buy Ma a pair of dentures for every day of the year, including Leap.
     He floods the diorama for the hell of it, letting it crash and applaud.
     The lights flicker, the A/O/A/V/PA whistles. More sparks fall and fizzle.
     Somewhere in the rafters above: "Ouch!"
      "Len?" Finkle says, looking around. "What're you doing up there?"
      "Wrapping the sparking daisy chains where they spark so they won't. Over here."
     Between the dark rafters and braided tangle of wires, Finkle spots Len, teetering on thin scaffolding, sucking a finger, then shaking it out in front of him. It smells like burnt hair. Len gives Finkle a thumbs-up. The tip looks blackened.
      "Len," Finkle asks. "Did you really get a fruit fly to live a week in the HBB Chamber?"
      "I don't know," Finkle says. "I've just been thinking a lot about time today, I guess."
      "No," Len says. "It was the regular kind. Good thing it wasn't a fruit fly. Imagine that? Living seven lifetimes longer than you should?"
      "Noah lived for nine hundred and fifty years," Finkle says.
      "God, that Kiosk is going to fry your brain."
      "I was bored. And you're not supposed to take You-Know-Who's name in vain."
     More sparks, more electrical tape. "We're twenty-five, Fink," Len says. "We're supposed to take everything in vain." More sparks, more tape. "By the way, you should see what I found in the HBB Chamber today. It looks like a fly, but it's not."
     A tap on Finkle's shoulder. It's Charlotte.
      "You're going to have to hustle over to the hardware store for some plastic ficus," she says. "Codes is ahead of schedule and thirty out, and I can't tell which plants in Botanical Eden are non-expensive, or ones that will leave a rash on my harp."
      "Your harp?"
     Charlotte looks up to the rafters. "You know? My mimsy, my bubblegum, my foof?"
      "Your foof?"
      "We're supposed to have cute names for it or never speak of it."
      "What's wrong with the V-word?" Finkle says.
      "That," she says. "Nobody wants to say it. Makes people uncomfortable."
      "Say, Char?" Len says. "How often do you practice the ole freckled harp?"
     Charlotte's cheeks sunburn; her nose freckles darken. "You're both gross."
      "What did I do?" Finkle says.
      "You're gross by association," she says. "Vile by gender. Men are all daisy-chained."


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Zachary Tyler Vickers is the author of Congratulations on Your Martyrdom! He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where he was the Provost's Fellow. He is the recipient of the Richard Yates Prize and Clark Fisher Ansley Prize for excellence in fiction. His work has appeared in numerous journals. He can be reached on his website, linked below.

This short story was originally published in The Iowa Review 46/1 (Spring 2016). Today we present Part II. Part I was published on February 6th, and Part III will follow on February 10th, so be sure to come back!

Zachary Tyler Vickers's website

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on February 08, 2017

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