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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have a poem in The Poeming Pigeon, essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. My story "Santa Lucia" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I've written three novels entitled Purple Loosestrife, Hoping It Might Be So, and Dark and Bright, all of which are as yet unpublished. I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flash Fiction: "Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn"

Tom Cruise Doesn't Give a Damn

By Emily Glossner Johson

            Tom Cruise enters the Target store in the town of Clay, New York, with his bodyguards and entourage. Everyone in the store pretends not to notice. There’s no telling why Tom is in Clay, New York, and at Target specifically. Perhaps he sensed that the good people of suburban Syracuse would generally let him be. And they do.
            Initially, Tom and his posse sweep up and down the aisles at a fast pace. It’s natural for Tom to walk briskly—it’s his usual gait. The entourage—all male and eager, earnest, clean-shaven—has to rush to keep up with his stride. The bodyguards remain a bit ahead of him to the left and the right. Tom wears a leather jacket like he did in Top Gun, a pair of jeans, and black cowboy boots. What would it look like if he tucked his jeans into his boots? Would it start a trend? His posse would surely follow suit. They all wear cowboy boots, too, and surely the group of them would tuck their jeans into their boots if Tom did. But as it is, the bottoms of Tom’s jeans rest easily around the boots with perfect creases.
            Eventually, Tom’s pace slows and he stops to look at various items. He stops at the end caps where the bargains are. He doesn’t need to buy bargains, and he doesn’t particularly like doing so, but on this day, he lingers at the end caps. He finds a large, three-wicked vanilla candle marked down to $4.79. He gives it to a young blond member of his entourage to hold. He finds several binders marked down to $3.34. He gives three of them to another of his willing people. In the automotive section, he browses the car air fresheners. He doesn’t need one, but still he picks one out. It’s in the shape of a pine tree and smells like strawberry. He hands it to a youthful red-haired fellow in his posse.
            He wanders through the clothing for little girls. Suri wears designer dresses, expensive pants and shirts, designer shoes. She carries tiny designer bags. But still Tom finds several sequined blouses and shoves these into the arms of another fervent follower.
            He picks out computer games that are $9.99—their regular price. Mahjong, bingo, a horse racing simulator. He shows no emotion as he picks up one after another. These he tosses to one of his bodyguards—a big man now relaxed, aware that nothing untoward is going to happen in the store, that people are only glancing furtively at Tom and looking away when he looks up.
            At the end of the shopping excursion, Tom and his entourage and body guards go into the snack bar. Tom demands popcorn all around for his people. He himself gets a big soft pretzel. He asks for mustard and then struggles to open the little packets to no avail. He finally gives up and slips the packets into his jacket pocket.
            There he is, eating his pretzel, surrounded by people who will do his bidding in a heartbeat, who hang on his every word. He is a man who jumped on a couch for the world to see, and a man who counts Scientology leader David Miscavige among his best friends. He knows secrets and has risen to levels of which he’s proud. He has millions of dollars available to give to his church, and he gives his money freely. He is awarded medallions in fancy, glittery ceremonies.
            Tom is in the small crowd of his associates, standing there, eating his pretzel, unable to open the mustard packets. He’s in Target in Clay, New York, surrounded by his people. He doesn’t smile his famous smile. He is wearing a black t-shirt underneath his leather jacket. His black cowboy boots gleam. Occasionally he glances around as though looking for something or someone, but most of the time, he keeps his head down. Tom Cruise doesn’t give a damn.

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