The Iowa Review
ZACHARY TYLER VICKERS
Finkle, Frigup (Part I)
By the time Finkle arrives at the museum, the troop of Little Geneses are berserking through the Garden of Eden, climbing the Tree of Knowledge, dodgeball-ing with the apples. Each forbidden fruit is wooden. A pigtailed girl takes a knotty McIntosh to the mouth. She bleeds down her chin, holding up a piece of tooth like it's a question. The cute substitute teacher, with a minimum-waged eye-roll, escorts the Little Genesis to First Aid between the one-tenth portside replica of Noah's Ark and the interactive Bible Kiosk.
This is how it's Finkle's fault:
Finkle operates the Flood Geology exhibit. By way of pneumatic hoses and pile-driving mechanisms—representing "collapsing, orbiting vapor canopy theory" (a.k.a. über amounts of rainfall) and "rapid-shifting tectonic plates concept" (a.k.a. über tsunamis)—a large diorama floods and trembles. A mini ark floats as toy dinosaurs mass-extinct under displacing sand. After the flood dissipates, kids dig up the dinosaurs as souvenirs.
"But since the frigging diorama did not flood," Pastor Sneidlinger says, "the frigging children—being frigging children—became impatient, antsy, and flash-mobbish. How does one 'bright side' a bloodied Little Genesis to a parent or guardian?"
Sneidlinger summoned Finkle via an Alpha/Omega/Audio/Visual/Public Announcement. Whenever the A/O/A/V/PA booms, it disseminates a pillar of smoke using sophisticated foggers, vents, and a lightning strobe, which did not flicker for omnipotent/omniscient effect because the museum's outdated electrical is daisy-chained and über-fritzing.
The lights flicker. Sparks fizzle down from the rafters like electric lake-effect snow.
But the wiring is just the tip of the iceberg. Pastor Sneidlinger's Strategic Vision Box is crammed with concerns. One is that Sneidlinger isn't even a real pastor. He inherited the Creation Institute last year from a rich devout aunt. The café chips are stale. Somebody stole the T8 thoracic vertebra from the Primate Column. The Bible Kiosk is missing books from the New Testament. Flood Geology hasn't had new sand in years. Whenever Finkle resets the diorama, he finds soggy Band-Aids.
"Tell the parent or guardian the Little Genesis was pulling an Eve?" Finkle suggests.
"It was a rhetorical question," Sneidlinger says. "You're here re: tardiness."
"Regarding tardiness," Sneidlinger sighs, massaging his eyelids. "Of all days! Turns out the annual codes inspection is this afternoon, which Aunt Dee failed to note on her calendar." He tears up a Strategic Vision Box concern. "I had fresh sand installed overnight. Go prep the diorama and look pious. You're lucky Codes wasn't scheduled for the a.m. What if the Lord had been tardy with the miracle of serpenting Aaron's rod? What would Moses have done if he'd tossed down that rod and it
remained a plain old rod?"
"I got stuck behind a school bus in a construction detour, I swear to God," Finkle says.
"Don't," Sneidlinger says. "Swearing to You-Know-Who is not dogma protocol."
"Dogmaticol," Finkle suggests.
"It's streamlined," Finkle says. "You know, synergistic?"
"Get the frig out of my office," Sneidlinger says. "Also, go polish Arnold."
Arnold is the mastodon skeleton donated by a paleontologist who turned to Apologetics after the quake that opened a two-hundred-foot fissure and devoured one of his interns. This Mammut's pristine intactness, the placard reads, is proof of a sudden burial, confirmative of a catastrophic global flood only a few thousand years ago.
Finkle polishes a femur, a tusk, a rib. What was so bad about dogmaticol? It would save time to say, and Ma says time is money. Time to move out of the basement, she says. Time to get a job with benefits. Time to take some online college courses. "But if time is money then I'm rolling in it," he jokes, and Ma swats him with the cake spatula. Though he knew what she meant, having his paycheck docked for this morning's retardiness. Finkle had to drive Ma to the prosthodontist because she wanted a tooth gap like Brigitte Bardot's. Ma was always changing her dentures. Last time Finkle tried to sneak a girl into the basement Ma was at the kitchen table in her bra, gumming a cigarette, trying on ten different pairs of teeth.
Finkle imagines trying to sneak the cute substitute teacher into the basement. Ha! Ma would be hounding him nonstop about how his dogmaticol idea went over. "It shows that you're a go-getter/questions-asker for once," she'd say, resting a cig into the gap in her dentures, where a bottom tooth was pulled—the set made especially for smoking. She keeps Pa in a French press beside her, ashing cig after cig, like she's trying to reconstruct him.
Instead, maybe while Sally Dobbs is setting up Adaptation, Not Evolution in IMAX for the Little Geneses, Finkle will give the substitute a tour of Botanical Eden, pick a vibrant flower and put it in her hair, woo the dickens out of her, then drop trou behind the Hyperbaricbiosphere Chamber, which simulates pre-Flood conditions via atmospheric pressure, enhanced oxygen, and magnetic coils—or so Len Peebles says, who is educated on the HBB Chamber's dogmaticol. Len claims to have kept a fruit fly alive for a week inside it.
Except didn't Finkle already drop trou with Sally? Didn't she call his thing newt-like?
"Does it change color, too?" Sally giggled. Finkle did, in the ears and cheeks and throat.
"You're thinking of a chameleon," he muttered, zipping up.
A draft swirls. The lights flicker. The A/O/A/V/PA squawks reverb and trickles a half-assed spiral of smoke. Scratch dropping trou. IMAX might zap power from Botanical Eden's hydroponics again, and Finkle will need to make fast with the watering can. Three pounds of not-so-cheap Saffron Crocus have already been lost to wilt. He sort of sympathizes with the lost-to-wilting but can't put his finger on why. The movie ticket stub in his jeans pocket is from last year. Also, Len is likely back there, pressing his junk against the HBB Chamber, which he does on slow days, most days, due to the vibrations and magnetic feeling.
Maybe he can find some online cartooning courses? Word bubbles were his specialty. Though hands tripped him up. He always drew the thumbs on the wrong side. Didn't his high school guidance counselor once say he showed potential?
"Don't shave that pretty head of hair!" Ma had said when he tried to enlist out of school with John Remington. But he failed the mile run test. So it was five years of scooping ice cream at Carvel until it closed, his knuckles still rough with old frostbite. He's balding at twenty-five, and his buddy J.R. is under an American-flagged plot in Oolitic Cemetery, where caskets used to slide out the eroding hillside until the retaining wall was built. Finkle often goes up there to salute his pal, flexing his hands with reminiscent numbness.
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ZACHARY TYLER VICKERS
Zachary Tyler Vickers is the author of Congratulations on Your Martyrdom! He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where he was the Provost's Fellow. He is the recipient of the Richard Yates Prize and Clark Fisher Ansley Prize for excellence in fiction. His work has appeared in numerous journals. He can be reached on his website, linked below.
This short story was originally published in The Iowa Review 46/1 (Spring 2016). Today we present Part I. Part II will be published on February 8th, and Part III will follow on February 10th, so be sure to come back!
Zachary Tyler Vickers's website
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on February 06, 2017