Daniel Uncapher is an MFA candidate at Notre Dame whose work has appeared in Neon Literary Magazine, the Baltimore Review, the Wilderness House Literary Review, Posit, Flash Frontier, and others.
I’ve been looking for ways to improve myself. It’s not my own idea, although I did come up with independently; there’s a whole industry around it, called “self-improvement.” It started easy. Weeding, dusting, sweeping, washing-up. I introduced new steps into my face-cleaning routine, new products to my shower product-shelf where sit the acids and basics. Hydrogen peroxide in tiny strips to whiten my teeth, a fresh coat of paint on the mailbox, an automatic ice-making machine – so many little things to be addressed immediately.
I needed a multivitamin. I needed to drink more chocolate milk – I don’t know why, but I felt it. I could feel improvement coming on, “It’ll be here any day now.”
Yikes – my levels aren’t high enough. If they are, they could probably be a little higher – unless they’re too high, and then I need to invest in the appropriate level-lowering regime.
I bought a bidet.
“Any day now,” I said.
It is surprisingly easy to exhaust the self-improvement industry of its products. There are only so many single-purpose kitchen appliances (popcorn poppers, coffee grinders, soda bottlers), closet shelf organizers, disposable sweeping solutions, dog feeders, dog cleaners, dog exercisers, pull-up bars, corn-meal-based exfoliants, tooth flossing paraphernalia, adjustable vibrating rotating tooth brushing heads, tooth brush head sanitation caps, swinging television wall mounts for wider viewing access, phone-accessible door locks and security cameras – yes, though the number may be large, it is certainly finite, and I came to my end of the product-trail long before achieving improvement.
I turned to the natural world. Worms, spider silk, locusts, acorns. Save money, bulk up, eat worms; floss your teeth with blades of grass; blend up a millipede with the mummified rodent husk from under the rafters and drink it like an energy shake, share it with the dog; he’s hungry, too. He looks up to you, you know. Natural improvements have their cost. Swallowed too many flies, introduced spiders. Had too many spiders, introduced lizards. Had too many lizards, introduced snakes. Had too many snakes, introduced possum. Possum carved himself a nest under my bed and died there in his wooden tomb, rotting out over the sweltering southern summer until he finally mummified, and I could finally mix up an energy drink.
I’d never felt so good in my life.