I am joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve cast me as a tree. They will insert me into previously released films using green screens and global distribution magic. The tree will have a backstory that touches levers of power and influence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jacked celebrities will stop and talk to me on their way to combat other jacked celebrities. In response, I can shake, arms and torso waggling the costume. The characters learn to decode my reactions. I’m like an oracle. They tell me the tree is chaotic good, which is the sort of character that either attracts a massive fanbase or duds out. In my contract is a clause. If internet chatter about the tree reaches a certain threshold, I get a miniseries. If the miniseries goes well, I get a feature film. If the feature film goes well, hell, maybe they’ll put me in an ensemble cast film. Wow. I am shaking with anticipation for my career. Since I signed the contract, my family and friends look at me with the perfect amount of uncertainty and pride. This attitude toward me more accurately reflects how I privately feel when hanging around my family and friends than their former attitude toward me, which we won’t talk about here. My lover has been going down on me with more enthusiasm than usual. When I walk to get a coffee at the corner store, a cold breeze no longer makes me cower and hunch and pull my coat tight. Instead, I stand tall and feel alive. I sit alone on the ridge where I can see the rolling hills, the trees turning yellow, and I imagine myself as one of these trees (though these are mostly maples and oaks, and the tree I am playing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a willow). I feel deciduous. I accept that the passing nature of this feeling is in touch with the passing nature of nature. I smile at strangers. I walk back to my apartment with a desire to make stew. I get home and strip naked and lay on the rug, beside the coffee table. I pull apart the pages of my new contract and rub them all over my body. I imagine never having to be anything but Willow again.
Ryan Jeffrey Shea’s writing has appeared in Juked, The Lifted Brow, New York Tyrant, and other journals. He lives in western Massachusetts, where he works as a copywriter. Most days, he’s hanging out with his wife Hanna and their cats, Sunny and Rocky.
image: Emily Bottomley.