“Punk” – Substack

After success at work, a man’s stress outlet accelerates.

Heart racing, he sinks under his desk, but halfway down, he tightens after he bumps his mouse and his laptop glows on. When no one walks by and the screen sleeps again, he pulls papers from his trash basket and digs out his lighter. He clicks on the flame; its colors and shink sound open him, and days, hours, and years seep until his pulse calms, his heart pumps more than blood, and he floats over his body and shivers while the lighter warms and chills him. He circles the flame around the papers’ edges, and its gold wings chase him as much as he chases them—burning but never burning away. But when two shadows stop outside his door, he dumps the water onto the paper and snaps shut the lighter. Sweat runs down him; his pupils dilate. The click of the lighter’s lid pings through him.

William Auten – “Punk”

“Punk,” a short story, now available on Substack.