by J. A. Tyler


A calorie is a unit of measurement. There are one million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and eighty-four calories between the Earth and the Moon. There are six-hundred and forty-seven calories from one neighbor’s garage-door to the next. The girth of an average elephant’s stomach, from side to side, across and underneath its belly, is eighty-two calories; a donkey’s, twenty-seven.

Located nine-hundred billion, three-hundred and forty-nine thousand, eight hundred and eight calories from the farthest observable star is the president of the United States, at a desk, in an oval office. The caloric intake of tourists who visit this office is approximately three-thousand and fifty. The average life-span of a tourist who enters the oval office is roughly seventy-three for males and seventy-seven for females. The difference between males and females in this case is nineteen calories per day, or five-hundred and six thousand, two-hundred and fifty-five over an entire lifetime. This same difference, inside the span of a single calorie, is startling.

Dreaming is the way in which we reach across this caloric divide. When Billy, for instance, closed his eyes to dream, tucked into his small bed, wrapped in blankets themselves wrapped in pictures of fire-trucks and footballs, his dreams turned calories into epic space.

In one dream, as a child, Billy felt his body bloating. He felt his body growing larger and softer than it had ever been. And Billy was not hemmed in by walls but hanging in open air, so that his expansion was unlimited. He would open his mouth to breathe and his body would increase. He would slam his eyes shut and focus on the smallest moments of measurable time, and yet his body would increase. Billy was ever-expanding. This was his dream.

To burn a calorie, in a dream, takes seventy-seven seconds of sleep, thirty-seven seconds of heavy breathing, or forty-eight seconds of a moon outside the window. To become the president of the United States takes, on average, approximately forty-six years of caloric intake and burning, of dreaming in calories, of imagining the infinite expanse between each oval office breath.

In one dream, as a teenager, Billy found a woman floating above him, and he was not growing large but becoming hard, stiff as a board, mapped out as construction two-by-fours, entranced not by the woman’s curves or face or winding open dress, but by the eyes she stared into him with, from below his chin, where a president dreams he will find the next great nation.

There are one-thousand, eight-hundred and nine calories between one bar where a woman is being inappropriately hit on and another bar where another woman is being inappropriately hit on, and in both of those bars, the glasses are full of freedom. Freedom, released into the air, exists as approximately twenty-six calories per square foot; but in liquid form, consumed between the hours of midnight and two a.m., freedom is approximately fifty-one calories per square foot, and is the root cause for most inventions of confidence, especially between a man and a woman.

In one dream, as an adult, Billy found himself shrinking. At the start he was bobbing in open space, and he could no longer see his toes or his legs. He was worried he might float and expand into forever. But in this dream, thirty-one million caloric measurements from his last, Billy was shrinking. He was watching his belly shrink. He was seeing his hair go white and his body inch back into itself, crawling and shrinking until it was gone, all that girth, all of that extra Billy-body, until he was a tiny child again, wrapped up in his Arkansas blankets, listening to summer dusk insects at the fading close of a day’s caloric consumption. Billy back in his warmth, a womb, a return to first existence.

Inside the oval office, where tourists take pictures of a chair that no president is sitting in, calories flood the air. The calories are at times so thick that the tourists can’t breathe. When this happens — before an obese man can have a heart attack, before a woman can bend down on her knees in desperation or stilled lust, before a man can sweat out a middle-lifetime of accidental toxins — the flash of the camera puts the world back into focus, and there is no longer any need for specific caloric measurements, or for dreams, when they have all come and gone.




J.A. Tyler is the author of A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed from Fugue State Press and No One Told Me I Was Going to Disappear, co-authored with John Dermot Woods, from Jaded Ibis Press. His work has appeared with Black Warrior Review, Redivider, Diagram, New York Tyrant, and others. For more on his work, visit: www.chokeonthesewords.com. Read the next story, GEORGE W. BUSH, here.

* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.