An Author’s Preview of “405 Fragments of December 8th, 1996”

By Dan Hein

I’ve been publishing stories, poems, and occasional music pieces - as well as one collection of Instagram photos (it’s more interesting than you think) - on Detour since early 2015, and I felt the urge not too long ago to attempt to get published everywhere. So I’ve been thinking up ideas for pieces to submit to places outside Detour Zine so that I can expand my horizons. Though I love Detour Zine and my fellow editors here, as well as the rest of the wonderful Detour staff, I need to look ahead. At its current state, Detour has a very small readership, and while we work every day to help Detour grow, I know that it isn’t the ideal place to publish something I want to be well-accessible. Things I want to use to build an audience outside my friends and family - though I won’t say I’m not grateful to all of you for reading my works on here (my heartfelt thanks).


This particular piece is a preview for a work I’m currently writing called 405 Fragments of December 8th, 1996: A Collection of Moments. It’s basically a way for me to combine several stories - four hundred and five of them, to be precise - that I don’t think would work as full-on short stories, but rather as short fragments. They aren’t exactly fragments, for they are all complete stories, but none of them are longer than one paragraph. It takes some inspiration from flash fiction and is an attempt by me to capture everything that happens in a day. It’s something of a snapshot of the moments that happen in the span of twenty-four hours, moments that aren’t connected to each other (except possibly by theme - I’ll leave that up to you to find out) and tell their own unique story.


Keep in mind that, like a lot of my writing, a lot of things are random. The date December 8th has no special meaning to me, and though 1996 was my birth year, it has no significance in the context of the stories contained within. There’s no significance to the number 405, nor any of the times listed, nor any of the titles of the fragments. You can interpret them and their meaning by either looking at them individually or as a whole - that’s up to you; there’s no one way to read these fragments. Essentially: do with this what you will.


My intention is to finish writing this on December 8th of this year, then edit it and self-publish it shortly afterwards. I’ll be sure make some kind of announcement when it’s been finished and available for you to purchase (this should be before Christmas if everything works out alright). In the meantime, here’s a preview of 405 Fragments of December 8th, 1996: A Collection of Moments.

Fragment 4 - 12:31 A.M. (Drowning)
...the car swerved out of control, and it drove over the guardrail on the side of the icy road, and the driver, who had one too many in his stomach, had no time to react before he found himself trapped in a sinking car, and he wouldn’t be discovered until ten hours later, when a police crew discovered that there was a 1989 Ford F-150 at the bottom of a pond out in Davenport, New York, and inside the old driver, who was dead as can be, and whom nobody recognized, and whom nobody would miss…


Fragment 39 – 2:56 P.M. (Transmission)
…he heard a song on the radio that he hadn’t heard in ages, and he started singing along until he got to the lyric that the girl in high school he had a crush on always liked, and he remembered that she isn’t here anymore – he turned off the radio and sighed…


Fragment 81 – 4:01 P.M. (Bricks)
…this time, the lighter worked fine, and she lit the end of her last cigarette, and as she puffed away, she noticed it taster sweeter than the others, but her lungs were like bricks…


Fragment 105 – 2:43 P.M. (Sickness and Health)
…they ran out of the church, laughing and smiling as their families cheered them on, and they hopped into the back of the limousine; he adjusted his bowtie and she pulled down her dress, and the two of them kissed as the driver pulled away – they weren’t thinking about the future, the times when they’ll have too many kids, and he’ll start drinking himself into a stupor every night, and she’ll starting taking money from their kids’ savings account, and they’ll be fighting every night while the kids cry themselves to sleep; but of course they weren’t thinking about that, because right now, they’re in love…


Fragment 134 - 7:47 A.M. (Last Goodbyes)
…we embraced on the docks that rainy morning as he petted my hair and gently whispered “I’ll be back soon” over and over again into my ear, as if that was supposed to help; and as the ships sailed out of Boston Harbor, I clung to him tightly and I dared not look at him, for he was shipping out to England, and his boat had just arrived…


Fragment 247 – 10:04 P.M. (The Last Laugh)
…the last laugh was for them, I’m afraid; for I’m sitting in the dressing room with nobody else around and I can’t look at myself in the mirror, and my mind is racing while my stomach is churning, but ten minutes ago, I was telling jokes to a packed theater - I can make them laugh like there’s no tomorrow, yet I can’t make myself happy…


Fragment 285 – 1:09 P.M. (Ultima)
…in silence, with nothing around him but some medical equipment and old magazines he’d read decades ago, and the occasional bird that passed by his window, the old man fell asleep…


Fragment 349 – 8:49 P.M. (Balance)
…they ran out and dashed into their parents’ car with the money they’d taken from the register, and they drove off towards their home with the feeling of liberation pushing them forward…


Fragment 391 – 1:47 P.M. (Two Hearts)
…while she tried to ignore the messages that kept propping up on her phone from her boyfriend, soon to be dumped, who kept shouting something about her not being as loose as he wanted – her daughter was staring at her Calvin Klein posters and sighing, and she began to fantasize