“…none of it more than were their own hearts alien in them.”
Alienation is a classic theme in writing–a protagonist feels disconnected from other people, from society, from the world at large, and this leads to a sense of being generally bummed-out. Karl Marx would say alienation is a symptom of living in a capitalist society, but Marx was wrong about a lot of things. In college literature courses they will teach you that alienation rose as a primary theme in Modernist literature and has enjoyed its place in poems, fiction and plays ever since. Still, the wide-spread use of alienation as a literary theme might just be a symptom of the isolating effects of being a writer–we can be a bunch of sorry sacks in this way.
Whatever the case, the past year has been deeply alienating for most of us, despite the connective forces of the digital world.
Carl Robinette explores alienation in his latest flash fiction story, “The Night Crew,” which was recently published by Every Day Fiction. In this story the protagonist is attempting to rise out of his own deepening sense of alienation. When he finds a baby abandoned in a shopping cart in a grocery store late at night, he feels a flicker of external connection and begins to see an interconnectedness within human reality.
READ AN EXCERPT:
Sometimes I can’t sleep at night, or maybe I don’t want to. I don’t know, but sometimes when I don’t sleep I drive to the supermarket nearby which never closes. In the deep end of the night there are few customers. Mostly just people working at the store, rheumy-eyed people with backyard tattoos and backstory faces. I look like I just rappelled out of an asylum window by knotted sheet. Not everyone can mix in comfortably with a daytime crowd.
Almost every night there are shrink-wrapped pallets of food on the floor of all the aisles. They use box cutters they keep clipped to their hips to slice down the sides of the pallets and they peel the plastic off the stacks of food like a zipper-backed dress.
They restock the shelves. The overhead music is louder than usual without all the customers. Or maybe they turn it up. Dead of night, day-bright neon screwy vibe.
Praise for “The Night Crew”
“Very moody, tense piece.”