The Phones by Diane Payne

from Invasive Species by Melissa Eleftherion
May 16, 2018
Styles by Jeffrey Messineo
May 18, 2018


One by one they get on the scale.  Pause. Do a little dance.  Take selfies.  Post photos.  Except for Lana.  She has gained four pounds.  No one claps.  She hates their pitying eyes. Lana sulks for a moment then leaves the meeting.  Dreading seeing their boastful posts, their colorful swag, their ridiculous emoticons, their endless likes and congratulatory comments, her hunger returns.  It’s an angry hunger.  She heads over to the park and walks the path over and over while the joggers race past her as she repeats her useless mantra:  I am full.  I am full.  Against her best intentions, she pulls out her phone and sits on the bench.  Looking at their posts will only upset her. She unlocks her phone.  She keeps Facebook on her menu bar for easy access.  Enraged, Lana shoves her phone in her mouth and eats Facebook.  It reminds her of her Pac-Man youth.  She feels powerful. Transformed.  As she thinks of her new persona, her new Blinky self, she notices the man sitting on the bench across from her.  He’s scrolling through photos on his phone. Photo after photo of dogs tied up in back yards.  Enclosed in small kennels.  Dogs in shelters.  Damn humans, he mutters over and over.  The dog-loving human-hating anger consumes him.  He shoves his phone into his mouth and eats Instagram.  You would imagine him to be a person who comes to the park with five dogs, maybe more, all tethered to a complicated coupler.  But no, Dogless Man comes to the park alone. A young college-aged woman wearing a Nasty Woman tee shirt sits next to Lana and looks at her phone.  She starts ranting: Fucking Asshole. Really? You’re going to blow up Korea because you don’t like Rocket Man?  Rocket Man?  What kind of president makes up such names for leaders?  She looks at Lana and says, “We’ll get stuck doing his dirty work. I like Koreans better than I like Trump.  Look at my feed.”  She shoves her phone toward Lana. “Tweet. Tweet. Tweet!”  Lana inches away and Nasty Woman notices her half-eaten phone.  Dogless Man walks over, cranks his head towards her phone. “Curiosity killed the cat!”  Nasty Woman laughs at her joke.  He coughs up a bit of his phone. “What happened?  Cat got your tongue?” Nasty Woman is on a roll now.  “It’s usually dogs that kill the cats.  Damn, I wish I had soy sauce for Tweety Bird.”   She opens her mouth and devours Twitter. Muffled beep sounds emit from their half-eaten phones and bellies as they sit on the bench together, somewhat satisfied.

Diane Payne’s most recent publications include: Obra/Artiface, Map Literary Review, Watershed Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Kudzu House Quarterly, Superstition Review, Blue Lyra Press, Fourth River, Cheat River Review.,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, Souvenir Literary Journal, Madcap Review and Outpost 19. Diane is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press) and co-author of Delphi Series 5 chapbook.