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Drown This Way

by Christopher Allen

People have drowned in an inch of water, you know. You hear it during sunbathing season but occasionally right out of the blue.

“More water, Sir?”

“You know you can drown in an inch of water.”

Like that.

So I try it. I’m maneuvering my escape. On News Channel 5, the world is becoming one rabid war zone, like when little beads of rain bleed into bigger ones then into massive ones that stream down the window pane. The streets are pockmarked by bullets. A woman, face down, lies next to three exclamation-point baguettes she ventured out for. I’m afraid. But I have a plan.

A drown-in-able inch of anything is a tall order. An inch of tears in a sink is an entirely different death trap than the inch of wine in a communion cup, or the inch of blood, say, in a Parisian puddle. Imagine the Earth covered by one inch of tears, wine, and blood. A grand equal-opportunity gotcha for everyone.

I choose water and the tub because they’re handy and I’m too scared to leave this place. So I drag the TV into the bathroom, run exactly an inch of my poison, and sit. A good while. Forever. I’m never going to drown this way. I lie down, watch the news. My hair soaks in the shallows, but I’m breathing fine. I sing the John Legend song from beginning to end. Drowning in an inch of water is hard, but the world is harder. Well, not for me. Not here. Not yet. I have food.

On News Channel 5, religion has become economics; economics, religion. But then a woman selling low-fat yogurt smiles, giggles, and the smell of coffee drifts in from the kitchen—the last of it, which makes me think of last things and first things. Like how I should have told my first girlfriend she was the most beautiful, selfless, and astonishingly deep person I’d ever met. People need to hear that kind of thing more.

I change positions. It’s been 47 minutes, and I haven’t started to drown—not even subtly. My left cheek soaks while I wash my hair with the coconut-scented volume-intensifying brunette-enhancing shampoo I bought before terror took hold. I squeeze out an enormous glob, figure why not? I’m drowning. Or trying.

I rinse, repeat, turn over, and soak my right cheek. The parts of me that could drown are miles above a graceful death. I’ll drown of old age drowning this way. A pubic hair floats towards my cheek and sticks there. I ply it off, rethink my game. I change the channel.

Turning onto my stomach, I squash my face into the coconut-scented water made deeper by the physics of my own body, into a shoal of numbingly pretty melodies, sitcoms, and teddy bears. Spectator sports and drab overpriced fashion, conversations that stall at Love that necklace! into food porn, car porn, house porn—porn. Into anacondas and big buns, into that jumping cat meme on Facebook over and over and over. Into Who-gives-a-fuck dressed up in Respect-for-your-convictions’ clothing. All this laps into my nose, a hypnotizing lull, like a gentle hand leading away from war.

“This way,” I gurgle and choke.

Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O’Type. His work has appeared in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years, [PANK] blog, STRIPPED: an anthology of anonymous flash fiction, and many more wonderful places. He lives somewhere in Europe and blogs about his wacky life of travel.

Lead image: “214/365 air” (via Flickr user Lazurite)


  1. I love the economy of imagery and action in this. What at first seems like a random, skittish fleeting between topics is actually an explication reduced to the essential. Dig it!

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