Venita Blackburn


Venita Blackburn earned her MFA from Arizona State University in 2008. Her stories have appeared in Pleiades, Madison Review, Bat City Review, Nashville Review, Smoke Long Quarterly, Café Irreal, Santa Monica Review, Faultline, American Short Fiction, Devil’s Lake Review, Bellevue Literary Review, audio download through Bound Off, and others. Her home town is Compton, California, but she now lives and teaches in Arizona. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship in 2014 and Pushcart prize nomination the same year among other accolades. In the near future, she hopes to complete two novels and a collection of stories all currently in progress and somehow about the misuse of super human abilities.

Ways to Mourn an Asshole

Once is not enough. Believe in Santa and Jesus and Clark and Bruce but only ‘til daylight. Remember not to be a child. Pretend to be ill. Wear black slacks. Pray. Cut your hair without a mirror. Buy a casket. Use the casket. Invite all of the friends. Invite no one at all. Bury the empty casket. Collect the ashes. Hold the ashes. Kick the ashes with your heel. Be glad the plastic did not break. Put the ashes away for later. Play basketball. Write an obituary. Remember not to be small. Go hunting. Go mountain climbing. Remember to be very strong. Look at your muscles. Touch your abs. Remember to be proud. Take out the death certificates. Make copies of the death certificates. Draw penises on the back of the copies. Draw faces on the penises. Put the originals away for the insurance company. Open the ashes. Smell the ashes. Cough. Feel a little sick, and shake it off. Put the ashes in glass containers. Pretend they are Canopic jars. Pretend to be a pharaoh. Pretend these are the organs of ancestors. Pretend to come from greatness. Remember not to be afraid. Put one jar outside for the rain. Kill ants outside with an index finger while the rain falls. Remember to be big. Go inside. Open the plastic bag from the hospital full of clothes. Take out the wallet. Pocket a hundred and sixty eight dollars. Look at the driver’s license. Pull out the belt. Wear the belt. Remember to get fat enough to fit the belt. Collect the jar of wet ashes. Drop the license inside. Take the license out and wipe it off. Put the jar of ashes and rain in the freezer. Take it out of the freezer the next day. Sit it out on the fence. Find your hunting rifle. Fire one shot. Miss. Fire again. Don’t miss. Remember not to care. Remember there are other jars left.

I write a lot about spectacular failures, heroes at their most fallible, self-destructive, apathetic, and unhelpful.

This story was supposed to be about disappointment and a means to put it to rest.