Story — From the June 2016 issue

Let’s Go to the Videotape

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The morning after the show aired, Nick’s inbox was full. He had 257 friends on Facebook and, overnight, 4,478 new friend requests. His timeline flowered with posts, half from women wondering where Gus’s mom was in all this. After she died, Nick had shied away from joining any support groups because they contrived relationships among people whose only shared interest was grief. He knew some of his resistance issued from ego and pride but that some of it was rooted in real suspicion of the premise that a shared problem is a problem improved, no matter whom you’re sharing it with. He’d have shared any problem with his wife, but that was because her bona fides had been tested and proven. After she was gone, he found himself unwilling to entrust his hurt to anyone but her. But now he was replying to these inquiries with the story of her death, and within a few minutes, he’d been added or invited to multiple groups having to do with widowhood and single parenting and dating as a single parent and head trauma and, by extension, a group advocating better helmets for high-school football players.

By the time Gus woke up, Nick had shucked many parts of his inner life and plated them with words he’d never spoken to his friends, let alone put out for public consumption, until it was no wonder his was a hugely appetizing page, not to mention his YouTube channel, where people had come to check out his other videos because “The Existential Biker” was no longer his to air.

Gus shuffled into the kitchen in his pajamas.

“Why aren’t you dressed?” Nick said. “Bus’ll be here in twenty minutes.”

“I’m itchy,” Gus said, and lifted up his shirt.

“Cream’s in the cabinet,” Nick said. They’d been through this before. Anxiety rash is what that was. Best not to be indulged.

“But I don’t want to go,” Gus said. “Probably they all saw the show.”

“I hope so!” Nick said. “You won ten grand. How many of your friends can say that? Is there anything you want me to buy you?”

Gus trudged off to the bathroom.

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is the author of the novels Last Last Chance and Woke Up Lonely. Her new novel, A Little More Human, will be published next year by Graywolf Press.

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