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Short Story
3005 words
SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

The Department

by Adam “Bucho” Rodenberger

Lamont stood, barefoot and pajama-clad in front of his refrigerator, mesmerized by the magnet on the freezer door. A 6x6 square of deep green that stood out against the black finish. It was the only one as he was not much for refrigerator accessories. He had no kids, thus no scribbled drawings to show off. He did not believe in hanging up pictures of any sort in the kitchen. A kitchen was for cooking and eating, not to be a kind of museum of one’s life, showcasing little pockets of the past plastered against the wood grain of the cabinets or the slick metal façade of the refrigerator doors.

And yet, there it was, staring back at him as if calmly waiting for him to act, waiting for him to blow his top.

Lamont shrugged, peeled the magnet off, and tossed it into the trashcan. Maybe he would just have oatmeal this morning. And toast. Delicious and burned and buttery toast. Although, cold pizza sounded good too.

Sometimes it was good to thrive in one’s bachelorhood.


Lamont pulled the receipt out of his wallet and folded it within the handwritten letter explaining his situation and his decision. That he had to divulge such personal information to his bank was a strange feeling. He didn’t go into details of course, but they’d know all the same. They’d see who the receipt was from and they’d get a good idea of the situation. Who knows how many other account holders had done the same thing however many times. They might cross-check the letter against his account, notice all the restaurants he no longer frequented (now substituted with numerous take-out orders), the increase of charges to the movie theater (all single matinee ticket prices and not two tickets for evening shows). Perhaps they would notice the change in his grocery shopping—no more feminine products, no 36-roll counts of toilet paper, no “his and hers” products bought simultaneously. Perhaps they simply wouldn’t care as much as he assumed. And why would they? They had their own personal lives to deal with, their own personal decisions to make. He was just another small cog spinning around inside the great money machine.

He slid the letter and its contents into the envelope, licked the dry adhesive and sealed it tight, taping up the edges that threatened to come unstuck. Once done, he put the letter in his outgoing mail for the next morning. He did not make a copy of anything, only signed his name at the bottom of the letter, dated the signature, and hoped it would be good enough.

Lamont laid out the contents of the packet on the dining room table. One (1) checklist (mostly completed), one (1) vial of white benzodiazepine powder which he poured into a glass of water and stirred. One (1) Synaptic Impulse Blindfold © with connector, which he wrapped around the top of his head so as not to forget. One (1) magnetized business card, which he promptly picked up and stuck to the middle of the freezer door. A 6x6 square of deep green that stood out against the black finish. It was the only one as he was not much for refrigerator accessories.

When he was done, Lamont opened up a package of Post-its® bought that morning. He made feverish notes, stuck them to places he thought he’d remember when all was said and done. He wondered if he would follow his usual routines, if there were daily traditions he would continue once the procedure was over and he was in recovery. All three consultants said this would be the case, but he remained dubious.

And so he wrote notes to himself, stuck them to lampshades and the space above door handles. Little squares of bright green littered the walls and furniture throughout his apartment. For a moment, he hoped they’d glow when he turned the lights off like little memory stars waiting for the universe to reboot.

He returned to the kitchen, dumped the vial of powder into his glass, and stirred until the contents became a tiny tornado. When the powder finally dissolved, he carried the glass with him to bed, chugging the entire thing as he walked. He plugged the blindfold’s connecter into the wall socket, climbed into bed, and pulled the blindfold down over his eyes.

He was asleep before he slipped beneath the covers.


The third consultation: legal and finances. First they probed his physical body, then they probed his mental state. It made a weird kind of sense that this would be the final step of the process (though why they didn’t verify his finances first was a strange bit of business acumen). Almost like they wanted to subtly tell you that your health was of their utmost concern. Pretty brilliant, really, regardless of the truth of it.

It was an office like any other—surrounded by three-and-a-half cubicle walls and no ceiling. The woman sat erect, nearly perched, in her chair. When he talked, she stared at him, nodding in all the right places, the chain connected to her glasses tinkling softly as she did so. When she talked, their eyes never met and she shuffled papers and pens across the top of the desk, busying herself. Lamont let his mind wander, wondering briefly if this level of awkward was what she brought to a first date. He then wondered if she’d ever had a first date and immediately felt sorry for thinking it.

He could hear snippets of other conversations filtering up from the other cubicles.

Is there...

What happens when...

...know if I can do this.

And I never remember her? Or anything about her?

...payment plan of any...

She pushed a stack of papers towards him, flipping several pages up by the corner and pointing at various lines on the documents.

“Sign here. And here. And here. Then here, here, and here again. And again here. And here. And here.”

“In triplicate?”

“In triplicate.”

“Why not just make copies of the one since they all seem to be the same?”

“We don’t want to forget to file them away with the proper departments.”

“That seems excessive and wasteful.”

“We like to be very careful and thorough here.”

“I see. And do you have a money-back guarantee or a refund policy in case this doesn’t work?” He knew they didn’t. Why had he asked such a stupid question? The pamphlet made this point very clear. Was he getting nervous about this now that he was so close?

“Neither. Our methods are 100% effective. If there is any error in the deletion of the particular memories you wish to erase, it is because you, as the customer, have incorrectly followed our explicit instructions. We have rules and guidelines for these things which must be followed exactly. If they are not, well...” She spread her hands out over the desk and shrugged.

Lamont sighed and flicked the pen between his fingers silently. Nearly two minutes later, he signed on every line and pushed the stack of papers across the desk before he could change his mind.

Yes. He was definitely nervous about it all now.


Lamont’s second consultation took place in a psychiatrist’s office across town. As near as he could figure, he only took clients going through the procedure, which he assumed to be a lucrative partnership considering the number of people in his waiting room when he arrived, all carrying bags or boxes full of some past life they wanted to shrug off and forget so easily. He started to wonder why, then realized that he was going through the same motions, holding onto a box of memories it would be easier to forget than hold on to and wallow inside.

Why, the psychiatrist would inevitably ask. What is your memory deletion raison d’être?

He would sit in silence for a moment, make him believe that he was mulling over the proper response though it sat perfectly on his tongue, fat and ready to pop at the perfect moment for the right person.

Because, he would reply, it is a crippling burden, these thoughts that return at night when my pillow has gone warm, when my sheets are soaked with the sweat of my insomnia.

It is simply too much.


Lamont spent the morning cleaning. He smoked half a joint and only meant to clean the bathroom, but soon found himself dusting and vacuuming, scrubbing and shining. By mid-afternoon, a single cardboard box overflowing with her detritus, her leavings, sat in the middle of the living room. The apartment felt good, like hitting a restart button on the day despite it being more than half over. Everything was in its right place, yet the box sat there, a brown blemish in the middle of the room staring back at him.

Between couch cushions, he found:

One (1) movie theater stub (hers) to a movie she’d seen alone.
Three (3) pennies, two (2) dimes (theirs).
One (1) Adderall (hers).
Two (2) hair scrunchies (hers).

Beneath counters and the refrigerator:

Three (3) pictures; two in color (them together), one in black and white (her alone).
One (1) rainbow-shaped magnet, a memento of their trip to Hawaii.
One (1) crumpled, dirty post-it note: “be home late, xoxo.”

Throughout the bedroom:

One (1) shirt (his), kidnapped by her for bedtime, reclaimed by him and left beneath his pillow when she left. The scent of (her) shampoo lingered within its fibers.
Four (4) bras, all of differing colors (hers).
Various (?) hair ties and scrunchies (hers).
One (1) tiny stuffed monkey (hers) she refused to sleep without, often coming between them during the night.
Two (2) sets of Mardi Gras beads (hers); one blue, one gold.
One (1) pair of oversized green sunglasses nicked from her uncle’s wedding reception photo booth.
One (1) silver charm (hers) found beneath the night stand. Her bracelet clasp had gone faulty during the breakup, made a noise like broken chimes when it fell apart in the kitchen.
One (1) box of letters and postcards (theirs) from when she spent that summer abroad for grad school.

Within the bathroom:

One (1) electric toothbrush (his, but they shared).
One (1) curling iron (hers).
Various (?) skin care and hair products she’d yet to come pick up, though it had already been a month.
Six (6) lipstick-stained Kleenexes (hers).
Three (3) eyelashes (hers).
One (1) shower drain full of hair (mostly hers).


“Ah, ‘tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all,’ no?” the doctor said.

Lamont just stared back at him, could see into every massive pore on his elderly face. He hadn’t expected his first memory deletion consultation to be with an actual doctor. “I imagine both are true statements in this particular instance,” he muttered, buttoning up his shirt.

The doctor’s smile faded. “Hm. I suppose so, now that you say it out loud. Never thought of it like that.” The smile returned. “Well, my boy, physically you’re ready for the procedure. It doesn’t hurt, mind you, but you’ll feel incredibly fuzzy for a few days after. Certain images and phrases won’t make sense. It’ll be like your brain getting tickled, a constant feeling of the correct word being right on the tip of your tongue for hours on end. This is just your brain reconfiguring its neurological highways. You’ll want to leave a note for yourself about that.”

Lamont nodded. He’d read enough literature about the process now that he would expect the tickle. But how much would he remember once all was said and done? “Will any of my other memories be affected by the procedure? It just seems like a pretty difficult thing to make happen is all. A little unbelievable, you understand.”

The doctor’s face lit up, a grin stretched from ear to ear. “Certain kinds of memories emit different ‘colors’ of frequency. The deletion is more scalpel than hammer, if that makes sense.”

“It does.”

“Plus we’ve got the very best in Memory Deletion Specialists. We’d better be the best—we damn near pioneered the process!”


Instructions for Memory Deletion

Please be advised that this is a one-time monetary transaction. There are no refunds, there are no exchanges for services rendered, there are no additions or substitutions to memory deletions once the process has begun. These rules MUST be followed exactly to ensure a 100% success rate as this is a particularly complicated procedure with many moving parts.

  1. After your first meeting with a memory deletion consultant, you must leave yourself several notes around your home. These should serve to remind you of particular rules on this list after your home deletion packet arrives. These notes serve to protect your adjusted memory post-procedure as you will not remember having met with our memory deletion consultants, having received the packet, or any of the specific memories chosen for deletion.

  2. What the home deletion packet contains:

    1. a.) One (1) vial of white benzodiazepine powder to be consumed immediately with water.

    2. b.) One (1) Synaptic Impulse Blindfold © with connector. This should be plugged in for charging as soon as your packet arrives. An improper charge before sleeping will negatively affect the deletion of memories. Any blindfold that arrives damaged should be reported immediately to the Department of Forgetting so that we may have another delivered to you post-haste.

    3. c.) One (1) receipt stating the cost of your memory deletion process. This receipt should be mailed immediately to your banking institution as you may decide to fight the charge once the procedure is done since you will not remember the procedure or the events and meetings leading up to the procedure. The charge will show up on your bank statement as something vague to prevent your procedure from unraveling should you stumble across it later. This is for YOUR protection.

    4. d.) One (1) checklist for your use. This should be used as a last resort to make sure that you’ve chosen every possible memory or object for deletion. If you leave anything off the list (intentionally or unintentionally), this will negatively affect the deletion process, leading to a scattered and fuzzy remembrance of events, places, times, people, and objects. The memory deletion process will have failed and you will be left with feelings of paranoia, persistent confusion, and blocked thoughts. It is imperative that you find and collect all of the items necessary to complete the memory deletion process. One stray picture or token could do irreparable damage post-procedure.

    5. e.) One (1) magnetized business card with our contact information on it. This should be stuck to the top door of your refrigerator in case anything should go wrong with your procedure, though you will most likely awaken and not immediately make the connection between the business card and what’s happening to you.

      As a precautionary measure, we will call you a full four days after the procedure and ask a series of subversive, random questions meant to test your mental recovery without your knowledge. This is to ensure that the procedure and your link to us has been completely forgotten, thus ensuring a more thorough deletion of memories.

  3. Litigation against Dynamind Deletions, LLC or our Department of Forgetting cannot be pursued based on the following federal criminal codes:

  4. U.S.C. § 241 (Conspiracy against rights)

    1. If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

  5. the following sub-clauses of U.S.C. § 1028 (Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information)

    1. (a) Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of this section – (1) knowingly and without lawful authority produces an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document; (4) knowingly possesses an identification document (other than one issued lawfully for the use of the possessor), authentication feature, or a false identification document, with the intent such document or feature be used to defraud the United States, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

Thank you for choosing Dynamind Deletions as your deletion specialists. We look forward to helping prevent you from looking back.

The Staff and Volunteers of Dynamind Deletions, LLC.
A Subsidiary of the Synaptic Impulse Family of Companies


Lamont found the pamphlet hanging from his storm door. He stumbled down the stairs of his downtown brownstone, coffee in hand, to get the paper. He climbed the cement steps of the stoop and there it swung, flapping against the glass pane, his reflection looking back at him. Faded blue robe (open, untied), white undershirt (four days of unbathed funk), and plaid pajama pants (last washed two weeks previous).

He pulled it off the door handle and went inside to eat breakfast, thinking the pamphlet had made a serendipitous appearance what with Allison’s moving out the previous month. It wasn’t quite moving on after three years of being with someone, but it was an idea worth entertaining all the same. He’d have to look into it. Dynamind Deletions just had a very false ring to it. No harm in requesting some exploratory information anyway, right?



SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

Adam “Bucho” Rodenberger

is a 34-year-old writer from Kansas City living in San Francisco. He holds dual Bachelor degrees in Philosophy and Creative Writing and completed his MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco in 2011.

As of January 2014, his work has been published in Agua Magazine, Aphelion, Bluestem Magazine, BrainBox Magazine, Cause & Effect Magazine, Crack the Spine, Et Alors, Et Tois?, Fox Spirit, Glint Literary Journal, Gloom Cupboard, Off Beat Pulp, Penduline Literary Magazine, Phoebe, Santa Clara Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly.

Rodenberger blogs at:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury