You Can Touch The Map
closer to terrain modeled than terrain massive. Paul the tour guide
cannot stop hitting on Paula the tourist. The halls are color coded.
You can't be disoriented if you try. Paula pulls two clementines from
her purse and shares with Paul. Because the U.S. is so small beside
you, you run your fingers through the Rockies, massage the Mississippi,
draw circles around Hawaii. The buttons trigger voices: “This
is California, the anxious state. This is New York, the anxious state.
This is Kansas, the anxious state.” There were moments when
Paula could have come home with you. Tour love is abrupt. In Paula's
mouth, the tongue slaps the roof. She says, This place makes me sleepy,
and her tongue slaps loud the roof. Even if Paula had offered you the
clementine, you hate citrus. You think maybe her tongue-slap is
applause. You think maybe in this place, where the carpets are
hide-the-stain black plus zigzag greens, where motion activates not
just light but brilliant exhibit voices and clacking plastic on tracks,
maybe children with packs and sandwiches have known what you're
touching, heard histories, ate cold cuts and fruit in syrup. The lights
over the map dim and a voice says from obscured speakers, Get out in
five minutes or we are locking you in. Paul and Paula glance back like
please don't follow, and Paula stumbles into the five-foot Mount
Rushmore. The monument splits at the figures' necks and flakes plaster
dust on the carpet. You pull the base upright and hope hard security
can't see. Paul and Paula are gone. You are the straggler. You lift the
mountain's lid above your head. In the walls, the vents cut out, and
the thick quiet claps your ears. You step into the base and squat. You
wonder if the break line is visible from out there. There is movement.
Ryan Shea is currently working on a novella. This is his first published fiction.