Newton's Third Law

by Jared McCormack

You wake up in your tent behind the parking garage on Providence with a sore back and an empty stomach. Within the city's din, you hear the lonely, desperate yowls of a stray. You ask yourself how you got here, but decide it doesn’t matter. So you stop questioning and start moving. You pass an office building where a familiar-looking guy in a blue suit approaches. You hold out your hand, but he disappears. So you keep walking and end up in a neighborhood where the homes appear peopleless. There’s no one tanning on the balcony of the three-story, no one floating in the pool at the sprawling ranch-style. However, the front door of the Tudor is wide open. You step through the gate and approach the door. A persian cat meows and brushes against your leg. You follow it inside, under the glowing chandelier and past the stuffed grizzly with that look in its eyes. The cat’s hungry and so are you. In the fridge, you find a pound of Japanese bluefin waiting for you. You coat the fish in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and a bit of cayenne for a little kick. You grab your beautifully seasoned cast iron and quickly sear the tuna, leaving it nice and rare in the middle. You garnish it with toasted sesame seeds and green onions. The boys at the club prefer it with a side of spicy ponzu, but a squeeze of fresh lime is enough for you. You split it between two plates, putting one on the floor for Penelope. It’s delicious, but you don’t have time to finish. You shower and shave, your beard having become rather unsightly. You feel good today, so you put on the blue suit. You ask yourself how you got here, but decide it doesn’t matter. So you stop questioning and start moving. You grab your briefcase and smile at Penelope who has finished her tuna and is now on the table finishing yours. You give your keys a flip. It’s a good day to put the top down. “An aggressive two-door with a retractable hard top,” the salesman said. “Freedom you can feel.” The tires squeal. You feel it. You leave the car running outside your office building. The valet scurries over. You tell yourself it’ll all be waiting for you at the end of the day. On the sidewalk, a familiar-looking homeless guy with an unsightly beard reaches out his hand. You ignore him and he disappears. The chandelier lights go out. The bear blinks. You pick up your pace. You take the elevator to the top floor, to your corner office, where you look out over everything and everyone, over the haves and the have nots, the beggars and the choosers, the living and the dead. You convince yourself it just is what it is, Newton’s third law and all, every action, an equal and opposite reaction, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Behind you, someone knocks on the door.

Jared McCormack is a writer, teacher, activist, and podcaster originally from rural Missouri. He is the host and co-producer of the MFA Writers podcast, and he’s been published in New Letters. You can find him at

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