“A City of Hall Monitors” by J. T. Townley

	Then they slam on the brakes and drag me out into the snow.  I slip and slide in my Italian loafers.  An icy wind cuts through my clothes and blows flurries down my neck.
	“Perambulate inside, scofflaw.”
	“You must un-lollygag.”
	“Principal Monitor dis-appreciates waiting.”
	They push me into an enormous lobby.  When they mentioned the principal, I was expecting a dingy, cramped office with stained carpet and too much furniture, but this place couldn’t be more different.  The walls are made of frameless windows, and the ceiling can’t be less than fifty feet up.  The air smells of lavender.  I whistle.  “Nice digs.”
	“Shhh,” say the Monitors.  
	“Zipper your lips.”
	We stop at an enormous, oblong reception desk, the only thing in the room.  It seems to float above the polished concrete floor.  A receptionist in a familiar crested blazer and gold armband greets us with a glare.  A brief conversation ensues, none of which I follow.  The vowels sound squashed.  The consonants click.  The Monitors usher me into a glass elevator, and we blast up to the top floor.
	The doors open directly into a penthouse designed much like the lobby.  High ceilings, walls of glass, minimal décor.  I expect the hardwood floors to creak, but I hear nothing but a faint sound of blowing wind.  Despite all the windows, there’s no view, just the gray swirls of snow clouds.
	The Monitors announce my arrival, leading me into an adjoining room.  A fire blazes in a floating fireplace.  A tall woman with lots of dark hair perches on a chair that resembles stainless steel origami.  A guard at the door steps in front of us.  He’s sporting the same outfit as the Monitors, though instead of a bowl cut, his hair’s cropped short, and his muscles bulge beneath the crested blazer.  “Her eminence,” he declares, “Principal Monitor Salka Eftirlitsaðili.”
	I step around the guard, padding over to where the beauty sits.  She has big brown eyes and porcelain skin.  I kiss her hand and say, “Enchanté.”
	“Hmmn,” she says.  Then: “Monitors, report.”
	They follow orders, recounting, for my benefit as much as their boss’s, the twenty-odd infractions I’ve committed in the twelve hours since I arrived.  It’s all nonsense, of course.  Not the writs:  I’ve got a pocketful of them.  It’s the charges I take issue with—what they call, at high volume, “why-olations!”—from over-crinkled clothing to mouth stink, non-couth language to un-polite comportment.  
	I grin.  “They tell me I’ve set a new record.”
	The Principal Monitor gives me a slow head-to-toe.  There’s a glint in her eye.  She un-crosses, then re-crosses her legs, mulling something over.  “Leave us,” she commands.  
	The Monitors goggle and grimace in protest, but her personal guard shows them to the elevator.  

	The Principal Monitor studies me in silence for a while.  Then she asks, “Do you know who am I, Mr. Yak?”
	“It’s Jack,” I say.  “No, but I can take a guess.”
	She gives me a studied moue.  “Why you are here?”
	“Truth is, I shouldn’t be.”
	“You claim non-guiltiness?”
	I chuckle and poke a Gauloise between my lips.  “Hardly.  I was en route to Paris.  Emergency landing.  What’s this place again?”
	I nod.  “The pilot wasn’t specific, and I can’t make sense of the signage.  Weather suggests North Atlantic somewhere.”
	The Principal Monitor gives me an inscrutable smile.  I glide over and ease onto a sofa near her.   We listen to the fire crackle and sputter.  
	Soon I light my cigarette with a strike-anywhere.  “Smoking is very verboten,” I say, exhaling blue smoke.  I pull a wad of citations from my pocket and splay them out on the steel and glass coffee table.  “I’ve got the writ to prove it.”
	She blinks and blinks again.  The snow clouds pile up against the windows, then tumble away.  I keep forgetting we’re in the penthouse of a very tall building.  
	“Libations,” she announces.
	Her manservant materializes a minute later with a bottle and two small glasses on a polished silver tray.  He sets it on the coffee table, then vanishes.  The black label says Brennivín.  The Principal Monitor pours.  We clink our glasses, then drink.  I hack on the anise-flavored jet fuel, struggling for breath.  
	“What is that?” I wheeze.
	She eyes me over the lip of her glass.  “Black Death.”
	“Sounds about right.”  I pour us another.  “Thought booze was off-limits?”
	We clink again.
	“It is,” she says.

	After we lose our shirts, then have a dance-party singalong to the best of Bzörk, I don’t remember much.  I wake up with my head in a vise and a cement mixer churning in my gut.  I squint and blink and try to focus.  The light is dim.  The sheets are silk.  The bed’s so soft it feels like I’m floating.  I sit up, feet on the hardwoods, trying to get my head around the whole thing.  I rub my face and take a few deep breaths.  “This ain’t Paris,” I mutter, my mouth full of cotton.  
	“Góðan dag, lover-man.”
	“And that ain’t Claire.”
	I smirk despite the throb at my temples.  “Your henchmen don’t find me nearly so charming.”
	The Principal Monitor gives me sultry eyes.  As the sheets fall away, a smile tickles her lips.  Her porcelain body is beautiful.  
	I’m stark naked, too.  I’d look for my clothes, but my head hurts too much.
	“You now feel fragile?”
	I rub my forehead.  “That stuff packs a wallop.”
	She watches me scanning the room.  “You will stay,” she says.
	It doesn’t sound like a question.  I lie back against the feather pillows.  She wraps herself around me, promising breakfast in bed with coffee and mimosas.
	“Forget the O.J.,” I say.  “What we need’s a good Dom Perignon or Krug Grande Cuvée Brut.”
	“Say this to Gunnar.”
	As if summoned, the guard appears at the bedside.  I give him our order.  He’s back in less than five minutes with champagne and coffee, fresh-baked bread and pönnukökur.  I go straight for the bubbly, pouring us both a glass.
	“Hair of the dog,” I say.
	A shadow of confusion flutters across her perfect face.  “We shall toast?”
	“Why not?”
	“To non-planned encounters.”
	I grin through my hangover.  “To chance.”
	We clink and drink.  The champagne is crisp and dry.  After my third glass, I start to feel normal again.
	“For a nation of teetotalers, you sure have ready access to booze.”
	“Power gives privilege,” she says.
	“Such as what else?”
	She pulls me under the covers and shows me.  When we’re worn out and breathless, we lie there, sharing a Gauloise.  
	“We must address soon your non-transigences.”
	I roll toward her and give her a wet kiss.  “Let’s put that on the back burner, okay?”

	The Principal Monitor takes a shine to me.  It’s not uncommon.  Claire feels the same way—as did my wife, once upon a time.  But the Principal Monitor’s head over heels in an almost desperate way.  Who can blame her?  All the Monitors are pudgy, androgynous types, and besides Gunnar, who’s her younger brother, I haven’t laid eyes on anyone not sporting a bowl cut.  The pickings are slim.  When I tell her I need to catch my onward flight to Paris, she gets dour and moody.  I decide to make the most of it.  Claire will understand.    
	“No need to sulka, Salka.”
	She gives me a look.  “No one may call me that.”
	“How about PM then?” I say.  “Principal Monitor is a mouthful.”
	She mulls for a moment.  “That is not dis-allowed.”
	“I’ll be your Associate Monitor,” I say.  “AM to your PM.”
	Her face begins to glow as the meaning dawns on her.
	“I can look after the Monitors’ day-to-day for you.”  I try not to look too eager.  “Who needs the headache, right?”
	She fakes a pensive look, tucking a strand of dark hair behind one ear.  “As AM, you shall manage the Hall Monitors.”
	I give her a mock-salute.  “Great idea, PM.”
	We chuckle in a self-congratulatory way.  Then she yells, “Libations,” Gunnar enters with a bottle of Black Death, and we’re off to the races again.

	The Monitors aren’t crazy about the situation.  I call an early morning meeting, assembling the whole lot of them in a gigantic office I’ve commandeered for myself on the fifty-seventh floor.  They slouch in, disheveled, disbelieving.  They grimace and grind their teeth.
	“You, scofflaw,” they say.
	“Clear at once your writs.”
	“Then un-enter from our fragile homeplace.”
	“That’s no way to address your superior,” I say.  I can hardly restrain my glee.
	They refuse to believe me, insisting on an immediate parlay with the PM.
	“No can do, ladies and germs.  She’s otherwise occupied.  Affairs of the city-state.”
	But they give me all kinds of hell, so I page Gunnar.  He appears before I can set the receiver back in its cradle.  The Monitors stand up straight, shoulders back, expressions neutral.  Naturally, he confirms everything I’ve said.
“This is the new world order,” I say.  “Get used to it.”

	To say that I set out to make the Monitors suffer wouldn’t be overstating the case.  I’m not the spiteful type, but this I simply can’t resist.  They wrote me up for dozens of dumb little offenses, from public smoke-breathing to sauna over-nakedness in a hotel where I was the only guest.  After a dozen infractions, they escorted me to the Chalkboard Room of Terror and Repentance, where they forced me to write sentences such as, I will brush my teeth, I will be polite, I will not blow smoke rings in people’s faces.  But the place bored me, so I broke every stick of chalk into tiny pieces.  They paced and made threats and shook red fists in my face.  
	But now I have them by the short and curlies.  “Karma’s a bitch,” I tell them.  They reach for their long, skinny pads and start scribbling:  Non-couth language.  I lean forward on the lectern and shower them with expletives.
	I’m getting in touch with my vindictive side.  

	Soon they come, one-by-one or in small groups, requesting an audience.  It’s not like I’m keeping regular hours.  The PM and I while the days away in bed, sipping Veuve-Cliquot and marveling at the endless snow swirling beyond the penthouse windows.  She mentions showing me around at some point, the geysers of Northland, the geysers of Southland, Westland’s glorious frozen beaches, but it never happens.  Maybe it’s my charm and the warmth of the floating fireplace.  Maybe it’s the fact that the city-state is long and skinny and only a couple kilometers across at its widest, so there’s not ever so much to see.  Instead, we sip bubbly, laugh, and burrow under the covers.
	When the Monitors come tap-tapping at my chamber door, I send Gunnar to run them off.  When they insist, I drag myself out of the PM’s arms, throw on a plush terrycloth robe, and meet them on the fifty-seventh floor.  
	Three of them slump, dejected, on a bench in the hallway.  I unlock my office door without greeting them and go straight to my desk, where I take a seat, light a Gauloise, and pour myself a shot of Black Death.  It burns going down.  In the meantime, the Monitors file in, cowed, and stand in front of my desk.  I have to shoo them aside so I can get the remote control to operate the fireplace.  “Well?” I say.  “You dragged me out of bed.  What’s so damn important?”
	They exchange pasty glances.  Their bowl cuts bob with the motion.  Their crested blazers need pressing.  
	“We wish to make apologies.”
	“From every Hall Monitor.”
	“We express sorrow for making you inconvenient.”
	I kick my feet up and blow smoke rings at their faces.  “Don’t like the taste of your own medicine, huh?”
	They study the shiny wood floors.  
	I chuckle, tapping my cigarette into a polished steel ashtray.  “Is that it?” I say.
	“We wanted also to congratulate you.”
	I peel the corner of the Brennivín label.  “What for?”
	“A well-done leadership.”
	“Powerful work.”
	“Flaw-free accomplishment.”
	I gaze at them through the blue smoke.  Outside, wind howls, snow blows, ice pelts the windows.  I shiver and turn the fire up to high, though sweat trickles down the Monitors’ foreheads.  “Surprised you’re fans,” I say.
	“Oh, já.”
	“Very so.”
	“Tremendous fanaticals.”
	I nod and grin.  Their faces fill with pallid hope.  I finish my cigarette and grind it out in the ashtray.  “Okay,” I say, “thanks for stopping by.”
	A sudden flurry of muted conversation among them.  Now one of the Monitors withdraws a sleeve of papers from the inside pocket of his blazer.
	“May we do a gift, Mr. Yak?”
	“Go ahead,” I say, “do away.”
	He steps forward and sets the papers down on my desk in front of me.  “Because your connection flight missed you.”
	“We have made measures.”
	“Everyone chunked in.”
	I study the packet.  It contains an itinerary and boarding pass.  Destination:  Paris Charles de Gaulle-Étoile.  “You’ve outdone yourselves, gents.”
	They share sly smiles, then file out of my office, tipping non-existent hats.  “Good day.” “Good day.” “Good day.”

	Imagine their surprise the next morning when I call an eight o’clock meeting.  Expected me to be on the first flight out, no doubt.  And things only go downhill from there, far as they’re concerned.  I institute a variety of Special Hours that no one seems to care for: Shoeless Seven O’clock, Backwards-Walking One O’clock. Also, Take a Car Battery to Work Day. Not that there’s much grumbling, since that’s not the Hall Monitor way. They pretend to be chipper, eager, ready and willing to do my bidding at a moment’s notice.  They keep dropping by to see me, too, offering apologies and blandishments.  But I can see the resentment in their bloodshot eyes, hear it in their deepening voices, smell it on their unwashed uniforms.  
	Then, in the deep of night, a cadre of Hall Monitors slips into our bedchamber undetected.  The PM and I are buried, half-naked, beneath a heavy down duvet.  Next thing I know, I’m being dragged out of bed, bound, gagged, and hooded, then spirited away into the night.  
	The icy wind bites.  The snow crunches beneath their hurried footfalls.  They cram me into a vehicle that stinks of sweat, socks, and salted cod.  Either it’s underpowered or overloaded or both because the getaway takes longer than expected.  We get bogged down in the snow.  They bicker until somebody opens the door and shoves a few of them out.  
	Now we’re lurching down the icy road in the middle of the night.  It takes a few minutes for me to work the gag out of my mouth, spitting and spluttering beneath my hood.  Somebody swats me in the temple.  Laughter.  They open a bottle of Brennivín and pass it around, singing off-key to the circus music rattling through the speakers.  
“Where are you taking me?” I insist.
	They laugh and laugh, splashing the Black Death around.  Their conversation sounds manic.  Maybe it’s all the cackling.
	“You’re besmirching the Hall Monitor code of conduct,” I say.  “I’ll have to make an example of you.”
	That shuts them up for a moment.  The tires swish along the snowy road.  The driver downshifts to ease around a bend.  
	“Why-olations!” I cry, mocking them, “why-olations!”
	“Listen to a kettle who calls a pot black.”
	I snicker.
	“You now go out of the frying pan into the fryer.”
	“Think you mean fire.”
	Their cackles grow louder and more sustained.  I wonder if the PM has sounded the alarm yet.
	After a while, they tell me these long, boring stories about the many geysers of Forstofa.  
	“They serve for final punishments,” they say.
	“Ultimate wrist-slappings.”
	“When all else makes non-successful.”
	“A guided tour of your geysers?” I say.  “You people really play rough.”
	Someone pours a couple shots worth of Black Death over my mask.  None of it trickles into my mouth, but at least it kills the stench of fish and feet.
	Now they roll the windows down, and frigid air pours in.
	“Geyser of Perpetual Un-discretion,” they holler.
	“Geyser of Non-Forgiveness!”
	“Geyser of Never Return!”
	A sulfur stink like rotten eggs mixed with something metallic.  A pop, whoosh, and splatter.  
	The driver slams on the brakes, and we skid to a halt.  “You choose, Mr. Yak.  We will make your honors.”
	They grab my clothes and shake me this way and that.  
	“Do a decision!”
	“Even greedy-eyed foreigners can one time boil only.”
	Somebody must waste half a bottle of Brennivín over my head.  The driver spins donuts, round and round and round and round.  Everyone’s screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs.  I just hope we don’t lose control and careen into one of those geysers.
	The car slides to a stop.  Doors open, and Monitors tumble out.  Staggering footsteps in the snow.  Sounds of retching.
	My head spins for a moment, but the icy wind brings me around.  I huddle and shiver.  We idle for longer than seems possible.
	“What is this?” I say.  “Amateur hour?”
	Muttered responses in the local lingo.
	“Come on, people.  Pull yourselves together.”
	More disgusted mumbling.  But they squeeze back into the tiny car, and off we go.  
	Maybe fifteen minutes later, we glide to a stop.  They pile out and drag me into the freezing cold, and someone shoves me down into the snow.  Then panicked voices and slamming doors, the driver winding out the gears as they speed away.  

	It takes longer than you’d expect to get myself upright.  They zip-tied my hands behind my back and my legs at the ankle.  Plus, the snow factor.  I almost make it a few times before my legs slip out from under me.  I’m colder than I’ve ever been in my life.  When the wind dies down, it starts snowing fat, wet flakes.  Although I have no sense of time, I realize hypothermia can’t be too far away.  
	But then a voice: “Mr. Yak?”
	Boots crunching in the snow.  Someone half-carrying me inside.  When the hood comes off, it’s Gunnar.  He’s green around the gills, and he has a woozy look in his eyes.
	“What happened to you?” I say.
	As he frees my wrists and ankles, he tries to piece it together.  He woke up on the floor, he explains, nauseous, head pounding, an acrid taste in his mouth.  Our bedroom door was open, so he looked in and noticed I was gone.  When he didn’t find me in my office, he checked the security feed.  That’s when he noticed a body outside in the snow.  
	“Thanks, Gunnar.  I owe you one.”	

	The security tape doesn’t help much.  The perps all sport balaclavas.  Even Gunnar can’t identify them.

	When I roll out of bed the next day around noon, I recount the whole thing to the PM.  She coos and fusses and shows me what I mean to her.  Then I call an emergency meeting, pulling the Monitors off their beats.  Everyone’s a Monitor, it’s a city of Hall Monitors, so all their asses are in a sling.  
	“The guilty parties will make themselves known, or you’ll all pay the price.”
	“Which price?”	
	“You will put garnish on our wages?”
	I shake my head, then order them to the gym.  Gunnar brings me a coach’s whistle, which I blow loud enough to burst eardrums on the Continent.  I force them to do pushups and sit-ups on that cold, dusty floor.  I have them run wind sprints up and down the court until their faces are red and they sweat through their crested blazers.  I make them run bleachers—up, over, down, repeat—until they lose their lunch.  A few keel over from heat exhaustion.  Most flop to the floor in pools of their own rancid sweat.
	Still, mum’s the word.
	So I bundle up, and we head out into the snow.  I hop into the PM’s limo.  She joins me.  Gunnar slides behind the wheel.  I make a hot toddy, pull on a furry hat, and pop out through the sun roof.  
	“Listen up, asshats.  For the time being, you’ve got one job, and that’s to push this car.”
	They stand there, shivering, snot dribbling from their noses.
	“I want to see thirty kph, got it?  So put your backs into it.”
	When they clue in, the Monitors start pushing.  Their footing is bad in those wingtips.  They’re soaked with sweat.  Still, they get us rolling, and their numbers are sufficient to generate some decent power.  We motor up the island and back down, then do it again.  Gunnar zigs and zags, just to give us some extra kilometers to cover.  
	You’d think the PM and I might get bored, but we make more hot toddies, then put up the privacy screen for a little alone time.  When I finally poke my head back out, the light has grown thick and dusky.  About half the Monitors have fallen by the wayside.  
	“Anybody ready to talk?”
	Huffing and puffing, gibberish insults, but not a confession one.

	It goes on like that for a couple days.  The Monitors aren’t as weak-kneed as I imagined.  Yet as Claire might say, I’ve got other cats to whip.  The PM’s getting clingy, including me in her royal we, alluding to honeymoons and bedroom sets.  I’ve already got one wife:  the last thing I need is another.
	So I ratchet up the intensity.  More than half the Monitors still left wind up in the hospital, some with torn ligaments or slipped disks, others with frostbite or pneumonia.  Rumors circulate about Monitors fleeing to Reykjavik and London, Oslo and Copenhagen, most of them smuggled out on illicit fishing vessels.  A couple of them completely lose it, swan-diving into the Geyser of Eternal Detention.  It’s all just scuttlebutt, but the fact is the Monitors’ numbers are dwindling.  Somehow, though, they haven’t turned on each other.  
	They’re tough nuts to crack.  

	This thing with the PM has been fun, but it’s just about run its course.  This morning she asked me my opinion on new drapes.  With three-fourths of the Monitors out of commission, I hole up in my office.  The plane ticket the Monitors gave me is still valid.  I make sure the hallway’s empty, then close the door and dial up Paris.
	“Hiya, sweetheart.”
	“C’est qui à l’appareil?”
	I force a laugh.  “I deserve that.”
	“Salut, Jacques.  T’es où là?”
	“Unexpected delay.  Excuse-moi, chérie.”
	“You come still?”
	“Expect me on the morning flight tomorrow.”  I don’t know why I say that.  It just comes out.
	“But finally,” she says.
	“Call you when I land.”
	“Viens vite, Jacques.  Tu me manques.”
	“The feeling’s mutual, angel.”
	Soon as we hang up, I’m on the horn with the airline. 

	Don’t ask me how she even finds out, but the PM goes completely berserk.  In the end, it’s probably the Monitors’ doing, tit for tat, quid pro quo.  What with the PM wailing and crying and throwing antique statuary at my head, I don’t have a chance to conduct an independent investigation.  
	“How you could philanderize on me?”  
	“Take it easy,” I say, sidling toward her.  “We don’t want anybody to get hurt.”
	She picks up a slender steel figurine off a side table and hurls it at me.  “Who this French floozy is?” she screams.  
	I sidestep the well-aimed projectile.  I want to tell her the situation is more complicated than she’s letting on.  Instead, I say, “How do you even know she’s French?”
	“Salted codpiece brains!  Principal Monitor knows everything.”
	I halve the distance between us.  She’s sobbing into a silk scarf.  “If you already know everything, why are you so upset?”
	The PM backhands tears from her cheeks.  “Because everything I know!”  She blows her nose into her scarf, then balls it up and chucks it into a polished steel trash can.  
	I step forward to embrace her.  The PM places her head on my shoulder, and I squeeze her to my chest.  She sniffles once or twice.  It’s possible I’ve salvaged the situation.  I’ll say nice things, we’ll have a couple drinks by firelight, then we’ll hop into the sack.
	“Now isn’t that better?” I say.
	The PM leans back to stare me square in the face.  Her eyes are red and puffy, but at least the hysterics have run their course.  “Get lost,” she says.  And when I don’t respond: “This is correct expression, já?”
	“I don’t know about correct.”
	She pushes me away with both hands.  “It now is time to get lost, Mr. Yak.”
	“Don’t be too hasty, okay?  We can work this thing out.”  I gaze at Gunnar standing in the corner—“Little help here?”—but he won’t even look at me.
	The PM pads to her glass-and-steel desk and makes a call.  Less than a minute later, Hall Monitors burst through the door and wrench my arms behind me.  In nothing flat, they’ve got my wrists zip-tied.  
	“Do you realize what these maniacs have—”
	“Goodbye, Mr. Yak.”  Then to the Monitors: “Send at once him on his way.”
	“Which flight, Principal Monitor?”
	“Express direct,” she says.  “Leaves now.”

	The Monitors drag me out into the snow, then stuff me into a familiar-stinking econobox. Too many of them wedge in around me.  At least I’m not gagged and hooded this time, though because of the zip-tie, my fingers are already numb.  
	The car lurches out into the snow.  The Monitors seem giddy.  Something heavy and metallic hangs in the air.
	“Finally getting rid of me, huh?”
	“At long lasting.”
	“Not one moment overly soon.”
	“The next flight to Paris leaves tomorrow,” I say.  “I’ve got a seat on it.  You know that as well as I do.”
	“You dream still of Paris, Mr. Yak?” 
	That sends them into a laughing fit.  There’s a maniacal edge to it.
	“You’re not gonna make me spend the night in the airport?”
	They cackle hysterically.  “Stunted-Imagining Syndrome!” they say.  “Lack-of-Vision Disease!” they say.  “Permanent Brain-Fartedness!” they say.
	Their mirth is catching.  I grin and chuckle and grin some more.  When our laughter fizzles, I say: “One of you gents wanna light me a smoke?”
	They glare at me as if I’ve insulted their mothers.  The air grows warm and dank and reeks of fish funk.  I take shallow breaths and study the frozen landscape, wondering how much longer before we get to Forstofa International.
	The car whispers through the fresh snow.  The Monitors blabber at high volume one minute, then fall into expectant silence.  The snow picks up until we’re driving straight into a curtain of white.
	“Any chance we missed the exit?” I ask.
	But they just ignore me.  
	After a while, the snow lets up, then peters out completely.  Not two minutes later, the car skids to a stop.  Without a word, the Monitors pile out, then drag me, feet-first, into the snow.  From where I lie, I can’t see much but powder and Monitors and intense blue sky.  The air stinks of rotten eggs.
	“Think you took a wrong turn, boys.”
Before I know what’s happening, they yank me from the ground and hoist me up onto their shoulders.  They’re stronger than they look.
	“Now that’s more like it,” I say.  “But where’re we headed?”
	The sulfur stink grows thicker.  Popping and gurgling.  Wet heat rising beneath me.  Yet all I can see from here is the sky’s azure dome.  Then an explosive gush of superheated water blasting thirty feet into the air.  All at once, I think I know what’s coming.  It’s even possible I deserve it.  
	“Geyser of Permanent Expulsion!” they yell.  Then they count off, “Einn, tvaer, þrír!”, and heave-ho.  
	Through the flood of adrenaline, all that’s left is the sensation of floating—of falling—through that impossible blue.

J. T. Townley has published in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, and many other magazines and journals. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (four times) and the Best of the Net Award.  He teaches fiction writing at Willamette University.  To learn more, visit jttownley.com.