Fiction Contemporary Drama

I should have thought twice before subscribing to that health magazine. While I knew it was not a good idea, my desire for a longer life drew me to it. I was inspired after finding an article that commended people for stepping out of their comfort zones to discover happiness. It got me thinking. After pondering for a few days, which turned into weeks, which turned into a whole month, it dawned on me that my life consisted of one big comfort zone, about the size of a Walmart store.

Since few people expect to find happiness in a Walmart store and since the article was so well written, I shared it with friends and called them to ask if they had read it; if not, I waited on line until they had, and then we discussed it further. I persuaded everyone around me, including my mother and her two sisters, that it's high time they stepped outside their comfort zone. The worst part was that I managed to convince myself in the same way. Teachers are always the first to learn.

When you look at your comfort zone and it is so large, you feel sated on the one hand and disgusted on the other. These may be two sides of the same coin. The obvious conclusion was that I wouldn't be able to continue living my normal life as I had done for so many years. As I read the summary of the article (page 42) again and again, I felt ready to start a new path that would ultimately take me out of my comfort zone and into a happier place. 

Changes such as altering my working habits, which I had never done before, or attending more meetings with friends with whom I had few, would not achieve the desired results, and the only thing I needed to do was to go up one level, literally. I climbed to the roof of the house and sat there to formulate my plan of action. I felt as if I were planning a war, knowing any decision I make now would either lead to victory or defeat.

Nevertheless, I succeeded. I came up with a plan that was relatively inexpensive to implement. All it took was a shovel and a flat piece of land without excess stones or other infrastructure, such as fiber optics, which often send people into their comfort zones. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I headed to Walmart, the actual one, and bought everything I needed. I also added an orange juice carton just to boost my motivation, and from there it was smooth sailing.

It didn't take me long to finish digging up the grave that had been meant to house my living body for several hours. It was not done with the intention of dying God forbid, but rather in contrast. The exercise was to determine what my comfort zone looked like from the outside, or perhaps you could argue that it was an exercise to ascertain what my comfort zone felt like from within.

When you are in the tomb, you do not realize what all the fuss is about. But the larvae that pass over your nose (so slowly) and tickle you so hard, remind you that life is about getting from A to B and laughing as much as you can. Under the earth, you learn that comfort zones are generally the sinking sands between A and B.

As the tips of my fingers occasionally lost sensation because of the weight of the sand, I tried to remember how I used to play jazz so fast on the piano and entertain myself or visitors. The feeling became more bearable.

Once, when I was a kid and a beetle came into our house, my mom yelled, and my sisters started yelling because they thought it's something that runs in the family: yelling when you see a beetle. So I took a shoe and with the sole I smeared the beetle on the jamb. 

A beetle was on my cheek as I lay there. A second one probably tried to get into some place I would never write about, dead or alive. Other than these minor inconveniences, everything else seemed to be going smoothly. Underneath, the mind feels free from constant thinking. You can simply close your eyes and relax. The small stones that supported my upper back area gave me a sense of stability and I was able to reminisce about a few beds I had experienced during my life that were far less comfortable.

Within an hour or two of being underground, you begin to understand things. I realized I needed to smile more. I needed to stretch the lips until the mouth showed signs of pain. It was also striking to notice how much slower time passed underground. But on the other hand, the weather is cooler. If only I could breathe easier. Fill the lungs with fresh air.


Furthermore, there are things about your life that you can only see in the darkness of the tomb. Like the love affair that had the potential to change my life but that I chose to end for the sake of comfort. I am talking about a Spanish woman from Seville who thought the stories I wrote were beautiful enough to be considered as a potential husband. She pleaded with me to come to Seville for a month and breathe in the Mediterranean air, but I preferred to write at home instead.

In the end, I completed my first novel, my first comfort zone novel, while she chose to live with her 70-year-old Greek lover. The last letter she sent me came three days before I subscribed that magazine; in it she wrote a poem that highlighted the dim fate of those who do not take risks. She apologized in the same letter that she did not come pick me up or force me into a car or snag me and smuggle into the country by helicopter or even by boat. Yes, she was a bit crazy, like many of us artists, and if it weren't for my comfort zone, that Greek lover would have never entered her house.

It occurred to me in the tomb that she was the only person who understood my abilities as a writer, and that there was no one else like her.

Oddly, I found it peculiar that it is precisely at the exit from the comfort zone that one begins to see and feel so much. Everything seemed so clear at once. Everything I couldn't see from above, in the air, in satiety. 

I touched my earlobes, and they felt strange. It also tasted bitter at the tip of the lips, but I attributed it to faulty memory caused by trying to replicate the taste of the Spanish lips. The photos she sent showed how well she cared for her skin and body. I could see her smiling as she sent them.

Only if I smiled back.

The beetle was in my throat, but one task had been accomplished. There was no escaping this subscription, and I began to think about what could be next month's assignment. Perhaps they would discuss gratitude. I will probably have to go back to Walmart and buy new stuff for that. It is true that these health magazines are a disaster, but I have nothing more important to do.

Darkness engulfed me, and I had to relearn how to live. 

Relaxing all the muscles is always a good idea. If I wasn't in a hurry to get to bed so early (page 56), I'd stay a little longer and learn more about myself. In retrospect, the grave is certainly an interesting place to spend an evening, but all things must come to an end, so that must have been my signal for resurrection.

March 02, 2022 18:07

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Lavonne H.
16:21 Mar 09, 2022

I almost feel like I read the health magazine article and going through the steps with your character! Enjoyable story (ok, a bit ghoulish) with a very unique setting. With the humor and the visual context, you have written a story that makes one really think about death and burials. Well done. I think I will be cremated .... ;) I don't like beetles either


Tsvi Jolles
22:57 Mar 10, 2022

Thank you very much, Lavonne, and since you're new here, good luck with the writing.


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Zack Powell
07:39 Mar 06, 2022

Hey, Tsvi! I'm (finally) getting around to checking out your work, and I randomly picked this story first because I liked the title, and I'm glad I did because this was such a unique read. The thing I love the most about this story is its connectivity (e.g. the narrator repeatedly telling us which magazine page number he's referencing, the various allusions to Walmart (which were hilarious), and the beetle lines). Your sentences feel like they're linked to the ones that come before them and the ones that come after them, and I think that's...


Tsvi Jolles
13:41 Mar 07, 2022

Thank you, Zack. As always, very powellful words.


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