Cartesian Doubt by Christy Crutchfield

One dead leaf became eight when Max crushed it in his hand. Students didn’t laugh when he said, “So Descartes walks into a bar.” Today, Max found his wrinkles in the window at his tenure meeting. He felt the sun reaching for his bald spot. And why would anyone invent this reality for himself? The bearded kids call his midterms unclear. “The bartender says, ‘Can I get you a drink?’” And who would invent Cate’s disappearance to another college? Cate who was grounding with her study of destruction and hurricanes and Florida, who traced the rifts in his fingernails and attributed them to inconsistent diet. The chalk snapping against the board during the class, though, that seemed invented. “Descartes says, ‘I think not.’” So she didn’t get tenure last year, so Florida now, but object permanency, she still exists: pontificate, vindicate, locate. And why not cancel class when the two pieces of chalk fall into your palm? They wouldn’t have fit together because the center turned to dust, yellow handprints settling in his corduroy. And sometimes it’s hard to remember to send to journals and sometimes it’s hard to remember to fix the coffee table. “And disappears.” Max curved his path to step on the driest leaves.

© 2011

Christy Crutchfield writes and teaches in Western Mass.  Her works have appeared in Mississippi Review, Necessary Fiction, PANK, Everyday Genius and others.  She is an Associate Editor for Keyhole Magazine. Visit her at