The Message &
A White Chair

by J.B. Mulligan

The Message

You check your voice mail, and you only have one message. It is a desperate voice, one which is familiar to you, but you can’t quite place it.

“You were right,” the voice says, “it is all about you. There are only seventeen other people in the world. We put it all on for you, it’s a show. We play all the different parts.

“Forget history, we make that up as we go along. We talk to each other about it, so most of the time it goes smoothly. If there’s a big contradiction, and you actually notice, we make a new ‘discovery’ and everything is OK.

“I can’t speak long.

“You know that time the car drove by with your license plate? That was a mistake, a joke that got out of hand. She almost got fired for that. But there are only seventeen of us, so they can’t.

“You have to help us. It’s too much. I know you can do something — the others think I’m crazy, but I know it.

“Call me back, when nobody’s near you, call me back.”

It so distracts you that you can’t place the voice that, inadvertently, you delete the message.

A White Chair

I’m driving down a twisting road far out in the country, hills and pastures and, rarely, houses floating by like boats on the placid scenery, when I see the chair. It is a metal folding chair, painted white. It is in the middle of a field, in the shade of the only tree anywhere near it. There are no houses that I can see, or have seen for the past few minutes, but the chair has an air of waiting about it, a certain security that it will be used, and soon. I am tempted to stop the car, get out, go over to the chair and sit, but I know somehow that it is not for me to do, and sure enough, a mile farther down this road, I see an old woman in a flora-patterned housecoat, walking purposely, with a newspaper under her right arm. She glares at me as I drive past, and I hunch down and speed away before she can catch me thinking.


J.B. Mulligan has had poems and stories in dozens of magazines, including recently, Rockhurst Review, Imitation Fruit, Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Glint, Perceptions, and Leaf Garden, and two chapbooks: The Stations of the Cross and This Way to the Egress, and has appeared in the anthology Inside Out: A Gathering of Poets. His short fiction previously appeared in Issue 2 and Issue 4 of The Cafe Irreal.