The Last One

Peter Cherches

The clerk told me I could find it in aisle 7, but as much as I looked, up and down the shelves, left to right and back again, I couldn’t find it, not a one. It didn’t seem like the right aisle at all, since the things I did see were totally unrelated items. For instance, there was shaving cream and after-shave, old brands, like Burma Shave and Aqua Velva. I knew there was something about an Aqua Velva man, but I was sure I didn’t want to know what it was. There were books, two books to be precise, both collections of racy cartoons, Over Sexteen and Sam, the Ceiling Needs Painting. I saw packages of Sichuan peppercorns and French ticklers, side by side. Lug nuts galore. A couple of 45 rpm records, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” by Sgt. Barry Sadler and “Gallant Men,” by Senator Everett Dirksen. A travel-size navel-lint remover. Legal forms—assisted death templates from a state that permits such things. A few splits of Chianti, in those straw-covered bottles. Chinese coloring books from the Cultural Revolution. Environmentally friendly toilet bowl cleaner, in unscented and fresh scent. But not what I was looking for. I caught the clerk’s attention as he was passing buy. “Are you sure you told me the right aisle?” I said. “I can’t find any.” He came over, moved some sticks of dynamite on the bottom shelf, and found one that had fallen behind the dynamite. He handed it to me. “You’re in luck,” he said. “The last one.”

Called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly, Peter Cherches has published three volumes of short prose fiction with Pelekinesis since 2013, most recently Whistler’s Mother’s Son. His writing has also appeared in scores of magazines, anthologies and websites including Harper’s, Flash, Bomb, Semiotext(e), Litro, and Fiction InternationalMasks, a collection of pandemic stories, will be published by Bamboo Dart Press in March.