Volume 15 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2023

Travis Flatt

Theater Kid

Marat lines up glasses of absinthe along my kitchen counter.

"What time is it?" I say.

"Midnight," Sade says.

I shoot my absinthe, shudder, and then clap my stage manager’s shoulder. “Shit, Amy–we forgot my skin!”

I hear her rounding people up while I rush to my bedroom, strip to my jorts, and lock my ankles into gravity boots. The boots were a Christmas gift from my CrossFit obsessed brother. I only ever used them for flagellation with my ex. I miss her, by the way.

I hang in the doorway like a bat, and Amy leads a line into the hallway. She waits at the door, ushering actors around me one by one, handing out supplies–toothpaste, wet rag–and instructs them to clean their preferred patch of flesh. Next, they select a permanent marker and a safety pin to stick-poke their words into my dangling body. I shout down: "Everybody–write something ugly!"

While upside down, I can't read the curses. "Are we clear y'all? No signatures, only blasphemy."

I have a thought. "Does anyone know Satanism? Or, like, a magic spell?"

Our Charlotte Corday is summoned from where she gives tarot readings on the back porch. She pokes Wiccan Theban script around my belly button, her tongue jutting in concentration. Our sound tech creates algebraic equations between my nipples. Blood Pollocks across my laminate floor.

When they've exhausted my body, I unhook and stumble to the garage, where Marat, Sade, and I, all keep our band equipment. Everyone wanders out with us, and I pass around toilet paper, which we keep out there for makeshift earplugs during band practice. We only know how to play loud. Sade lights a eucharist joint (soaked in formaldehyde). We open with a "Poor Old Marat," followed by "The Copulation Song," and begin stumbling through the score of our show–Marat/Sade–now and then stopping to argue about chord progressions, etc. The cast sings along. Some undress and writhe, having waited for this opportunity to publicly fondle each other in a final transition between character and real/substantive/undeniable/dreary/miserable life.

Amy, with the hurricane force of her stage manager lungs, overrides my Marshall amp to inform us that the cops are outside and pounding on the front door. I douse myself with baby oil and with a battlecry of "Charenton!" lead the charge toward a couple of disgusted looking policemen crowded in my doorway.


"You've done a foolish thing," my father says, driving me home from the hospital. I'm covered in bandages, mummified. Some of the bandages are slimy with topical antibiotics, and underneath I feel scabby, head to toe. I catch his eye in the rearview mirror, and as I begin to say the word "laser," he continues. "Lee, you've done a very foolish thing. We're taking you home." By this, he means that he and my mother intend to pull me out of my MFA and take me back to Tennessee. It took me years of auditioning to find a program at a nonprofit state school that offered me an assistantship. This, I have fucked up. If it heals without blowing out, I'll have a highly embellished "orgasm donor" inked across my forehead.

If my phone hadn't been confiscated by the police and then my parents, I could look up the cost of laser surgery. All I know is that it’s expensive. What little money I'd been given for rent/food, I spent on that guitar amp in my garage. If I could successfully convince my father to take me back there and retrieve said amp and pawn it, I'd–best case scenario–get around three hundred dollars, which is around half what I paid. I doubt that would cover removing "orgasm.”


After a week back in Knoxville, I get a job washing dishes at Red Lobster. On the bright side, I plan to leverage this into a line cook position at my friend Steve's steakhouse, Cedar and Char. He suggests I speak with him when “I get all that shit off your face, bro."


As far as getting “all that shit” off, I was somewhat successful, spending all my Lobster money on my forehead. The guys at Cedar and Char were pretty cool, other than calling me Post Malone. What wasn’t cool was my knife skills–or lack thereof–and the second time I cut off a fingertip, I threw in the blood-soaked towel. Currently, I'm in Nevada with my dad’s TV and laptop. More specifically, I’m in my dad's car with his TV and his laptop. I should make Los Angeles tonight, and my friend Andrew Sanders said I can stay with him for a few weeks. He's teaching an improv class and letting me enroll for free.

If improv doesn't work out, I know a guy from my undergrad years who's out here doing a podcast, and another girl who's got a YouTube vlog with almost a million subscribers–sometimes, she writes friends into her sketches. Also, I know a Twitch streamer in San Francisco who went to my high school. And, I know a San Diego band that Marat put up on our couch for a few days. I’m thinking that I might try stand-up. Or maybe write a play about all this. Or, hell, if I can get another guitar–or learn some keyboard–I’ll make it a musical.

Travis Flatt (he/him) is a teacher and actor living with his wife and son in Middle Tennessee. An epileptic person, he writes nonfiction about disability and fiction about whatever pops into his head. His work appears in Bridge Eight, Drunk Monkeys, Roi Faineant, Literally Stories, and other publications.