The Gary Chaos

Nick Francis Potter


The mistake can be made about Gary that he's alive. The way his arms move, his legs. He has, however, more recently, been spending his time posthumously—not all living at all. He'll die eventually. Maybe someday his gut's hemorrhaging somehow, he's driving, gliding off into a slope of grass, grabbing at his stomach, who knows? No one knows. But whether or not in the future he's half-buried in his car, insides filling, hood on fire, whatnot, here he is, now, dead and doubled.


Doubled because he's being followed. Yes, by this point Gary has Gary behind him with his dog and they're following him. Garys. It's been years now, this happening—him following him, Gary after Gary—because, of course, Gary'd been married for a while, and though he didn't have any children, he did have, or his wife had had, when they were still married, a child. Peradventure some creativity. And—no surprise—the baby's born stillborn, after his father.


That's not all the way true: Gary, with his wife, earlier conceived a living son, Alex. Alex, though, one of his arms fell off. Maybe drugs. Don't worry about Alex. Gary spending his time posthumously doesn't mean he's depressed when Alex loses his arm. Though, yes, they were depressed. Alex disappeared into armlessness. Everyone was depressed. That's not important. Doubling is important. Doubling is saying, afterward—after Alex—Gary becomes Garys. Two.


And, as planned, Gary and his wife divorce. The hospital recommends burying the baby. Others too. At the funeral: Gary's ex-wife's sister singing a ballad over the casket. Sing the requiem too, Gary says, and Gary's ex-wife's sister's husband puts his hand on Gary's shoulder. Let it go, he's saying, his hand. And they eat all the food, everyone, though not Gary. Gary doesn't eat food posthumously. At some point little dead baby Gary gets out of his casket when everyone's eating food and no one knows where he is and fifteen, maybe twenty years later, Gary has Gary behind him with his dog and they're following him.


Gary doesn't care one way or the other, and neither does Gary, about following and being followed, but Gary himself opts into a northeastern writer's colony and the colony says Gary and his dog need to give Gary both time and space. They hand him a brochure, to Gary, and that's what it says: both time and space. So no more following, it appears. Because a writer's colony. Because Gary's always considered the possibility.


Gary and his dog will die eventually. Gary in particular. (Gary's son.) Maybe Gary's dog will eat parts of Gary when Gary dies, like some dogs have been reported to do, but dead, Gary isn't being eaten by his dog yet. Eventually, though, maybe his stomach's hemorrhaging somehow and he rolls down the stairs, and at the bottom, after some days, there's the dog.


Northeast, people love Gary writing because he's doing it posthumously and that revs everyone up to be excited about being dead and having shoeboxes with unpublished manuscripts buried in their backyards. Everyone at the colony is passing around their depression medications and writing and everyone is giving Gary space and talking about Gary. The director of the writer's colony, a woman, asks Gary if he's inclined to make a relationship out of their proximity. Oh, Gary thinks, necrophilia or whatever, and he writes a novel.


Gary's novel is accepted for publication posthumously. Gary uses his advance to live in the basement of an apartment building. It's adequately coffin-like and Gary finds he prefers subterranean living. The book people who are publishing Gary's book call him. They're disappointed to hear Gary is still moving around, giving the appearance of living, and feel this is a breach of contract. They're holding off, they tell Gary, publishing until Gary's all the way dead and not moving. Gary smokes hundreds of cigarettes and falls asleep.


Gary's ex-wife's Maggie's name is Maggie. In the aftermath of Garys posthumously following and being followed, respectively, Maggie turns the corner, metaphorically speaking. Though, physically, at the mall, she turns the corner also, into a newer Gary, by coincidence. It's there, in the small town mall, shoppers drifting sleepily from store to store, that Maggie finds her hand handling a new Gary and they're there excusing themselves, shyly, for becoming entangled. Gary has a nametag for policing the mall. Apparently I'm weak for Garys, says Maggie. New Gary, via his hip-harnessed walkie-talkie, receives this feed: Armless juvenile back-seating in the northern parking lot.


New Gary visits Maggie after work and finds Gary, Maggie's stillborn son, with his dog in the front yard. New Gary introduces himself to Gary, though, before Gary has a chance to respond, Maggie's opened the front door and beckons to Gary to please come in, don't worry about Gary. New Gary eyes the boy, the dog, as he walks towards Maggie, the dog pulling at the boy's shirtsleeve like a rag toy. Maggie explains she doesn't know why but that seems to be her son Gary who was stillborn and went missing, and it's been almost twenty years, but there he is for some reason, in the front yard.


Gary, when he's evicted from his basement apartment, returns to his sleepy hometown because he isn't quite all the way dead yet and wants to be closer by for when he needs to be buried, which is on the horizon, he feels. Inexplicably, he finds himself behind Gary, his stillborn son, and Gary's dog, and he's following them. Gary follows Gary as he walks the neighborhood sidewalks in a centripetal manner, finally arriving at the home of his ex-wife, Maggie. Maggie lives where Maggie and Gary used to live together, though never their stillborn son Gary, who was presumed dead, and was, but reemerged from absenteeism when he began following Gary and no one knew how he'd gathered a pet dog in the process. All this well after the divorce.


Maggie's surprised to see Gary hasn't died all the way yet and Gary's surprised that Maggie's moved on and seems to be having sex with Gary again, but not Gary Gary, a new Gary—He's New Gary, Maggie says—and stillborn Gary makes his way into the house because Maggie and New Gary've left the front door open and someone calls the police. The Garys though, seem to be getting along, Gary being apathetic in his posthumous affect, and Gary too, sitting on the couch, the dog on the rug, though New Gary, despite being cordial, is a bit messed up, Maggie can tell, his face twisting in the presence of so much dead Gary baggage.


When the police arrive, a young deputy, Maggie is berating Gary for operating posthumously, for having the gall to not be all the way dead yet, and what right does he have to get to die twice? Gary looks pathetically at the ground as New Gary speaks to the deputy. The deputy, an older-looking young woman, asks New Gary to leave her alone, she's not some mall cop, she's for real, and get out of the way I need to taze this shithead.


Tazing Gary is anti-climactic and Maggie's dissatisfied, as is the deputy police officer, and the two women leave the scene of Gary posthumously lying on the front lawn, Maggie into her home, the police officer into her patrol vehicle, and there New Gary is, left alone with Gary, who is experiencing, he expects, his second death (at least he hopes). New Gary looks at Gary and apologizes before filling his mouth with dirt from the nearby garden.


Maggie is holding Gary on the couch, her son, when she hears Gary bare-knuckling against the front door and the dog barks. That's him, that's New Gary. Gary out front on the front lawn has his mouth filled with dirt and he's looking into the sky. Stillborn Gary gets the feeling there's no death for the already dead, though he's unwilling to say so. New Gary, knocking and calmly calling for Maggie, stating his profession and how they met at the mall earlier that day, and he was indeed a certified safety officer, considers, however briefly, what it means to live not living and if it is a preferable solution to uncertainty and the disappointment of almost-happiness. Maggie, when the knocking won't stop and her son's as dead as he's ever been and when she too thinks, who doesn't want a death of some kind in this life, who wouldn't love living posthumously, gets angry Gary was a name ever named in her presence, remembering Alex, her Alex—sweet Alex—who lost his arm and couldn't find it anywhere, and regardless, kept living until he was dead or missing—certainly missing—but never willing to live in-between life and death in her presence, and when she's thinking this she's ascended the stairs and entered her bedroom and is lying on her bed, midafternoon, preparing to go to sleep—Garyless, if possible.