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All That by Julie Benesh | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

October 22, 2016      

All That by Julie Benesh

We are not all that anymore. We have not lived up to our early promise. We were the most beautiful babies born that day to our own respective mothers; our Apgar scores were off the chart. Growing up, we trudged over mountains in the snow to get to the one-room schoolhouse where, back when you had to be singularly outstanding to get an A or a trophy, and hardly anyone ever got them, we all, always, got As and trophies.
      We are not all that, not anymore. We clean up well. We try to pass. We are ready for our close-up. We try to stand out. Some of us believe in the techno fix: the Prozac, the lap band, the Botox. Our eggs and sperm are frozen, our shoulders and hips also frozen. We have had “work done.” We are frigid hot messes. It is a shame how we have let ourselves go, how we try too hard. We’ve given up or in or out, or over or all of the above.
      We are not all that, not anymore, and it’s not just us. It’s all around. Our condos are being deconverted into apartments we can’t afford to rent. Our jobs are moving without us to India, unless we are being replaced by robots. Our spouses are moving, without us, to farmhouses in Nebraska with dubious partners we never would have expected or else the really, really obvious cliches. Or both: the trans nanny, the paunchy pool boy, the Indo-Nebraskan-robo-farmer. But it’s never about generations or gender or gentrification except when we say it is. 
      We are not all that, anymore, but neither is anyone else. Our colleagues despise us, and no, they are not envious, they are just plain evil. They ask our few remaining spouses, right in front of us, why they stay, why there’s no brawny nanny or droopy pool boy or virtual farming assistant in the picture… yet. Their little passive aggressive “joke.” We do the same right back at ’em, wouldn’t you? Speaking of you…
      We are not all that anymore, and, frankly, neither are you. So our quirks are not as charming as we had once assumed, back when everyone figured we’d outgrow them. Back in the day we were ahead of our time, a taste yet to be acquired. Who are you to judge us? The red hats don’t help, nor the red baseball caps either. You aren’t fooling anyone. Being a maverick or traveling in packs, whatever you do makes no difference to us. We love our kids/ dogs/cats/birds/shoes/rock and stamp collections and if you love yours less you are heartless, love yours more and you are a pathetic freak. Lucky are those luckier than us, and to hell with them.
      We are not all that anymore, and maybe we never were. Our crimes of passion amount to no more than road rage and never did. Our road rage is now sidewalk rage, wheelchair rage, floor rage. We yell at the TV and troll the internet for trolls to call out as the trolls they are. (Adjustment disorders are not mental illnesses—look it up!)
      We are not all that anymore, but we have a few good years left, maybe five, to start a family, start over, start a business, start living, start saving our money, the world, ourselves. Five years ago we had five, and five years hence we will still. We are an inspiration a disappointment, a distraction. We are older than ever before and younger than ever again. We are trouble, troubled, troubling.
      We are not all that we might be, but all that we can muster up. We miss the grown-ups we will never be, the ones we never knew. We made our beds we lie in. We hang on. We let go. We move forward. We look back. We know better but we used to know best. How is that possible?
      We are not all that we might hope, but if we were we would be hope-less.

julielinkedinAbout the author:

Julie Benesh lives in Chicago and has taught or teaches at DePaul University, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and the Newberry Library, among other places. Her stories have been published in Tin House, Bestial Noise: The Tin House Fiction Reader, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Stream, and North Atlantic Review. She is thrilled to publish her creative work for the very first time in a web venue in Word Riot!

    1 comment to All That by Julie Benesh

    • Aneissa Fields

      This short story is about society changing. It talks about in the older generations you had to work very hard to get a prize and to get perfect grades. Now teachers are handing trophies and perfect grades out to every child without even thinking about it. It also brings up how we now freeze eggs and sperm for couples that can’t have their own babies. This creates a larger population. Then it talks about marriages not lasting these days. It was rare to hear about divorces twenty years ago and now there’s not too many couples still together. Also families will have children and then get divorced and find someone new and start a whole new family later down the line. The main reason for this short story is to explain how everything throughout the years has changed. This short story focuses more on the bad than it does the good. Although it is mostly true facts. For example it states how companies are going overseas to have their goods made because they can pay the workers a lot less than they can American workers. Another example is that the companies that are still on American soil have started using robots to build goods so it’s cheaper for the companies. “All That” by Julie Benesh is a great short story about society today.

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