by Joseph Quintela

Jonathan Belkin had roughly 14 minutes left to live and that was fine by him. He was a believer in just two things. The first was that all things being equal, they aren't. The second hardly mattered after that. Still, he knew he had to do something so he started to make a sandwich. The refrigerator was a sleek stainless-steel number made somewhere in South Korea that klaxoned like it was armed with a live nuke anytime you left the freezer door open longer than 30 seconds. It was a behemoth and wondrously stocked.

Bread: he wanted Wonder bread. Desperately. He remembered the somewhat gooey texture of his childhood with fondness. The perfect golden brown that his mother would coax into either side of a sizzling grilled cheese sandwich cooking in the pan. She would cut them in triangles and as he drew the two halves apart, watching the cheese dangle as it stretched into thin tendrils, he would know that he was loved. Sandra had been on a health kick for about a year now. Yoga. Spinning. Multi-grain. That was all there was for bread.

Mayonnaise: no, just Miracle Whip. For a moment he thought about beating a fresh batch of his own but 14 minutes, no, now 12, didn't really allow for such luxuries. And besides, somehow, there wasn't an egg in sight. He pulled out the slightly crusty jar, slipped off the lid, and slid a silver knife into the soft, squelching spread. There was no resistance.

Ham: organic. Lovingly sliced from the hindquarters of some lucky free-range pig. He knew because the package told him so. It was like this more and more. The contradictions were everywhere, perhaps they had always been there, but now he saw them as a programmer scans code and sees the bugs that you or I would have to stumble upon playing. The game was ruined. He saw that too.

It wasn't a perfect sandwich but Belkin ate with slow relish.

With the last bite, his attention was suddenly caught between two things. The first was a newspaper, scattered across the kitchen counter, discarded without even one headline read. He chewed one now: "The Aral Sea Disappears in a Single Generation". He tried to think of where the Aral Sea had been. How can you miss something you never knew existed in the first place? It lingered in his mind as his attention shifted fully to the second sight unfolding before his wary eyes: the slow turn of the lock on his front door.

Sandy Belkin walked through the door with her typical air of disaffected grace. She took in the sight of the floor with a gasp. It was strewn with sudsy bubbles. She looked at the dishwasher and the liquid dish soap lurking on the counter. He had erringly thought it a fine substitute for the absconded detergent--she'd switched brands, he hadn't recognized the unmarked, organic substitute made by displaced subsistence farmers in Mexico--that usually scoured their dishes.

"Jonathan Belkin," she screamed at her husband, "You are a dead man."

BIO: Joseph A. W. Quintela wrote this bio between the lines of Virginia Woolf's Orlando with the hope he'd be transformed. He wasn't. There's just no magic left in the world. So he began to search. One night he closed his eyes and flung himself to sky and didn't open them again until his feet sank into alien soil. The first world was rocky. Barren. He left. The second was made from the tears of his father, shed alone in the night and spun into a planet. He took a breath. Dove into the briny water. Became a golden fish. (http://www.josephquintela.com).