“Helpful Notes Regarding Your Purchase” – Fiction by Brandon Barrett

By David Shankbone from USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by David Shankbone [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Should you dare to sample a sneak-peek of the extraordinary weirdness that awaits in FLAPPERHOUSE X, our Summer 2016 issue, please help yourself to Brandon Barrett‘s flash fiction “Helpful Notes Regarding Your Purchase.” Our 10th issue officially flies on June 20 and is currently available for pre-order in print for $6 US, & in digital (PDF) edition for $3 US.

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  1. DEAR (REDACTED): Congratulations on your purchase!
  1. Please understand that once the device is activated, refunds are impossible. All of us here at (redacted) realize that you paid a considerable price–both monetarily and otherwise–and so please read all notes below prior to activation.
  1. Assembly is required. It shall be no easier but also no harder than it appears on first glance. We recommend setting aside 2-3 weeks of vacation to dedicate to this project, assuming productive 10-hour days. The time commitment may be less if you possess a strong background in the Classics and/or quantitative eschatology. More if this does not describe you.
  1. If you are currently employed in such capacity that vacation time of this sort is inconceivable or financially inviable, then educational retraining and vocational placement programs can be facilitated. Please call during regular business hours.
  1. The set of assembly manuals are shipped separately as the crate requires special handling by experienced movers.
  1. Take a deep breath. You are no doubt still apprehensive about the financial outlay that this purchase represented. Pause for a moment to appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the storage box, which is hand-carved from a single large piece of lignum vitae. They used to make turbine bearings for hydroelectric plants out of this stuff.
  1. The device itself will have no worth after activation (see #2 above) and in fact will have lost all structural integrity. This is the “brown goo” stage of the device’s lifespan and it marks the end of your time together.

  1. The remnants should not be disposed of at your local landfill. And while the remains are highly flammable, we do not recommend incineration as the fumes, if bubbled through an aquarium, have been demonstrated to produce blood cancers in fish. Our post-marketing surveys show that many customers have spontaneously chosen to bury the remains in their backyards. (Interestingly, this is also a frequently encountered cultural practice with respect to placental disposal. We do not presume to suggest there is a Jungian collective unconsciousness at work and the customer is free to draw their own conclusions.) Please check with local authorities for locations of water or power lines.
  1. The storage box takes three months to carve. We have a guy, that’s all he does. There is no doubt it will be a treasured family heirloom for generations to come. If you have no next-of-kin, we would advise that you reconsider exactly what you’re doing here. Start with a dog, something low-maintenance like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Then maybe get the device insured, put it in storage, and advance your life until you have successfully procreated. If reproduction is not viable due to biologic issues, or profound lack of physical and/or social attractiveness, adoption services can be facilitated. Please call during regular business hours.
  1. It might be a good idea to turn in for the night and sleep on it.
  1. It isn’t as though we’re making a huge profit on these. Our CEO drives a hatchback. Do we sound defensive about this? For us, it isn’t about the money.
  1. For your reference: on completely flat terrain, the distance to the horizon (in kilometers) is equal to approximately 3.57 times the square root of the height of your eyes (in meters). So for an average human being, the device will remain above the horizon–and therefore visible through a telescope, assuming no visual obstruction–up to 4.7 kilometers away. Round it to 4.5 kilometers and you’ve got an easy-to-remember rule of thumb!
  1. The Company holds an annual retreat in Cabo San Lucas for customers who have purchased and assembled the device, but have lingering reservations about activation. This is usually the last week of November, toward the end of hurricane season. Your expenses will not be covered, but several area hotels will offer a special rate. A hand-picked team of tenure-track psychologists and semioticians will be at your disposal. (It should also be noted that several marriages have resulted from the retreat…)
  1. We recommend leaving your device at home if you choose to attend the retreat, although we did have one customer arrange to have his shipped down in a gyroscopically-stabilized train car. Such arrangements are infeasible for the average customer. But please bring that handsome storage box! These make excellent stools for long, contemplative stares into the Pacific Ocean. And if you bring your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, they love that salty breeze.
  1. This isn’t easy. You thought it was a hard decision to buy it in the first place, but that was just the beginning. You see that now. It’s sitting there in your living room and your hair is falling out. You bought a dog but he won’t come inside. We understand, and you aren’t alone. If it makes you feel any better, there are a lot of really smart people who doubt the very existence of free will. They say that we are deterministic beings in a purely physical world, that there is no such thing as a “decision” and there is only one possible outcome from all of this. You just don’t know what it is yet.
  1. At this point in the brochure, we used to include a short story about a sad guy who thought his yard was haunted by the ghosts of dead leaves. Most people found it unhelpful, but you can still hear the story by calling during regular business hours and choosing option 3.
  1. Nobody can tell you what to expect on activation. Nobody should even try. Imagine us shrugging our shoulders. You will still pay taxes and you will still die someday, and cogito ergo sum. All else is speculation.
  1. Don’t be afraid.

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BBBRANDON BARRETT is a practicing cardiologist originally from the Oregon coast, now living in rural Virginia with his wife and son. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Literary Review,The Carolina Quarterly, Folio, Passages North, Tahoma Literary Review, The Cossack Review, and elsewhere. He has a minor web presence at www.brandonbarrett.net.

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