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"The God Hole" by Dave McNamara

Trixie had been writing for 10 years before she finally got published. It was a long slog, with dozens and dozens of bad short stories, a handful of good ones, and what felt like millions of rejections from journals, residencies, and MFA programs. It was brutal.

Eventually, she stopped trying to write Lorrie Moore stories and just wrote what came naturally — auto-fiction with absurdist embellishments. Then she started getting published and it was magical. As she hit a publishing stride, she did what another writer friend suggested — use her Instagram for silly non-writing related stuff. Create a brand that says I don’t care about promoting my work, but get this, you actually do. She changed her handle to @highfashiongabagool and photoshopped Italian cured meats onto models’ faces at high-end fashion shows. Within a year she had 15k followers. She used this attention to help get an agent, who then got her a publishing deal for her first novel. Two books later and she’d finally arrived at the writing life she’d been working toward, but there was still a void of some kind. A nagging absence. This led to the next logical step in her life — an ayahuasca trip in Peru.

She’d been on that track for a while. Trixie didn’t believe in God, as such, but in the last year or so had started to wonder if this might be less an issue of faith and more an issue of definition. After her girlfriend Veronica died of an overdose two years ago, she’d been shattered. In the years since, she’d cobbled herself back into some kind of recognizable form, though she still felt moments of cavernous loss — a little helpless balloon floating up-up-up into the sky. Lately, these moments were followed by a grounding warmth and an urgent need to express gratitude to something for not having to feel like the little balloon anymore. She had to put this gratitude somewhere, but she couldn’t say God with a capital “G” yet. Not some man in the sky, but something bigger. Something our 3-dimensional brains could never really understand. 4th dimension or greater. Who knows. The only thing that she did know was she didn’t have the ability to wrap her mind around whatever this God was. Not without some help. 

Her agent Tino did it last Spring, the ayahuasca ceremony. He cried for three days straight and swore he felt the presence of God in his blood. He hadn’t been quite the same since he returned, in a good way. The only annoying thing was he kept talking about the ayahuasca ceremony all the time, but he’d successfully convinced Trixie that it was the thing to do. 

She booked the flight and made all the arrangements with Tino’s connection. 

Peru was beautiful. She spent the first two days in a rainforest treehouse and didn’t even turn on her phone. Monkeys would come to her window and grab plantain chips right out of her hand. It was expensive, but she could already feel the warmth of the divine before the ceremony even happened. This is going to change her life, she thought. 

The shaman was an elderly woman named Yeimi. There were nine Americans taking part in the ceremony. The sun had gone down, and Yeimi blew tobacco smoke into all of their faces and sang the Icaros songs. She brought Trixie to a table and on that table was a hollowed gourd that contained the ayahuasca tea. A little nervous, Trixie brought the gourd to her lips and sipped it gradually, as Yeimi had instructed. The tea was thick and bitter, almost like a coffee syrup of some kind. Trixie finished the tea and then went back to her bamboo mat as the next person went up to drink theirs. 

Trixie had been given a bucket to puke, and if necessary, shit into. She only did the former. Half the Americans puked as well. Yeimi walked around as everyone lay back on their bamboo mats and she sang more Icaros songs. It was the most beautiful experience of Trixie’s life. As the trip came on, she closed her eyes and tears started to stream down her face. She saw herself standing naked in the jungle and within her body, she could also see herself as a little girl, and also an old woman. All at once, but visible in only her current form. All thought became like that image — layered in a way that it wasn’t before the ayahuasca had kicked in. Like the world was made up of single letters before, and now it made whole sentences. Her body sank into the rainforest floor as she wept and laughed at the same time. 

Veronica came to her vision and it was very scary for a little while. Trixie felt like the balloon again, but instead of the sky, she floated up into deep-deep space. As Yeimi had advised, she tried to let it pass over her, like a rain shower on a summer afternoon. It felt a bit like trying to meditate through a category four hurricane, but it did eventually pass. When the next wave came, Veronica was not a part of it, though the residue of her presence in this form would linger, Trixie felt. Maybe forever. 

The strangest part of her trip occurred near the end. A familiar face appeared. A man. The man’s mouth was moving but no sound came out. At first, he was mouthing the Icaros song Yeimi was chanting nearby. Then it started to change. He was saying something to Trixie. She tried to read his lips, but it was as if the man were speaking another language. His lips and tongue were doing unfamiliar things with one another. Trixie tried to understand but couldn’t. The man’s face got nearer and nearer and nearer until it was all she could see. Then it slowly started receding. Just before the face vanished into oblivion, she recognized the man. Teddy Rousseau from Townsend Pizza House — a small pizza shop in her hometown. This man, whom she’d never spoken to outside of ordering subs, was trying to send her a message. To tell her something about God. And she needed to receive that message. 


Trixie visited her father’s house in Townsend a week after the ceremony. She lay in her old bed, remembering the first time she brought Veronica to her hometown just after they started getting serious. They just drove through on their way to Maine for the weekend. 

How many shitty teenage hand jobs did you give in this place? Veronica asked. 

84, Trixie answered, as quickly as possible. 

This made Veronica laugh with that sudden and goofy snort. She used to live for that snort. Trixie smiled at the memory and closed her eyes. It was a great trip. 

Since the ceremony, she’d had an easy time generating some light hallucinatory experiences in her mind. It was as if the ayahuasca had opened a door in her brain that made the images come more freely. An enduring gift of the experience. As she lay, she saw in her mind a giant dark wall. And high up on the wall, way-way over her head was a small hole. Through that hole shone the most beautiful light. Gold and amber and silver. That hole was the God-Hole, through which you could catch a glimpse of the divine. But it was so high up and so small. Trixie believed everyone had a God-hole in their mind. She also believed that Teddy Rousseau’s was bigger and closer to the ground. She believed that Teddy could see through his God-hole. And she needed to find out what it was he saw. 

Every day after high school in her Senior year, Trixie and her friends would go to Townsend Pizza House and order subs. Trixie always got a small Italian, extra pickles/extra hots. She’d wash it down with a Cherry Coke, belch loudly, then blow her burpy-sub-breath into peoples’ faces to the delight and disgust of her friends. Teddy Rousseau worked there and always made her the small Italian extra pickles/extra hots. He was older, maybe in his late twenties, and had gone to Townsend High school himself. Though she couldn’t remember how it came up, Mrs. Torres once talked about how Teddy was a student of hers that did poorly in her Spanish class. The story concluded with her raising her eyebrows insinuating that if you failed Spanish you would probably have to go work in a sub shop too. 

The next day, Trixie stood in Townsend Pizza House for the first time in fifteen years looking at a middle-aged Teddy Rousseau. He was bald now and wore an old Patriots jersey covered in flour. Trixie was dumbstruck when she walked through the door. It seemed impossible that he’d still be there after all those years. Unable to speak, she spent a few moments pretending to stare at the menu. Teddy didn’t seem to recognize her. His eyes seemed fixed in a “what do you want” type gaze. She stepped closer to the register. 

“Hi,” she said. “Can I get a small Italian, extra pickles/extra hots?” 

Teddy punched some numbers in the register. 

She was hoping the order might jog his memory. Then they could get down to the business of the divine message he was trying to relay in her trip. But it was important not to spook him, she thought. 

“Drink?” Teddy asked. 

Trixie turned and looked at the cooler. All Pepsi products now. She opened the cooler door and grabbed an Aquafina. 

Teddy rang her up and she handed him her card. She rifled around in her purse for a cash tip. 

“Sorry no Cherry Coke,” he said, as he pressed a few more buttons on the machine. 

“You remember me?” she asked, looking up at him enthusiastically. 

“Yep,” Teddy said.  

“Wow, I’m so glad you remember. I missed this place,” she said. 


Trixie nodded. 

Teddy leaned against the counter and waited for her to say something. 

She’d thought carefully on the drive up about how she might get him to talk.

“I’m a writer now,” she said after a few moments. “I was wondering if I might interview you for a book I’m working on?” 

Teddy frowned and stood up straight.

“I’m going across the country writing about small-town pizza shops. Like this one,” she said.

Teddy slowly shook his head. 

“It’ll be easy. Do you have a few minutes?” 

Teddy stood still and didn’t reply for a moment. He waited for her to continue. 

“It’s not shitty, I swear. I’m interested in finding out about the lives of people. And I want to start with you, Teddy.” 

Teddy looked back towards the ovens. 

“Alright, but only for a few minutes. I got a dozen cheeses cooking for the middle school.” 

Teddy stepped down from behind the counter and walked into the seating area. Trixie didn’t know that the counter was elevated and had always thought that Teddy was five inches taller than he actually was. They sat at the nearest booth. She pulled out her laptop and opened up a Pages file. 

“Tell me about how you got started working here?” she asked. 

Teddy told her about getting the job in high school. And that he’d worked there since then. He told her about Richard Caparelli who owned the pizza shop and how he bought the business from Richard after he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He’d owned the place for the last ten years and now lives just over the border in New Hampshire with his family. He told her all of these things in a few brief sentences, each containing no more than 6 or 7 words. 

Trixie felt closer to him now. She loved that he owned the pizza shop and had a family. It felt good to have him humanized after all these years of Teddy being some kind of low-wage neanderthal in her memory. She felt ashamed of how she’d held him there for all those years. From that point onward, Trixie decided that she would always try to find everyone’s full humanity instead of truncating them into stunted caricatures. At least she would try to. 

They’d been talking for five minutes or so when Trixie noticed Teddy starting to get fidgety. He would have to finish the pizzas for the middle school soon. Her window of opportunity was closing. 

“What do you think happens after you die?” she asked. 

Teddy sat up straight. He looked at Trixie’s computer and then back at her. 

“Serious?” he asked. 

She nodded and leaned in. 

Teddy relaxed and looked directly into her eyes, which he’d been largely avoiding since the start of the interview. It was coming, she thought.

“Nothing,” he said. 

Trixie cocked her head and backed away slightly.  

“What do you mean ‘nothing?’ Like, Nothing?” 

Teddy nodded and remained silent. 


He continued to nod and folded his arms over his chest. 

“Can you elaborate on that a little?” 

He took a deep breath and looked over Trixie’s shoulder to the store windows. 

“This is all a big mistake,” he said, waving his hand across the restaurant. 

The lighting seemed to increase a half a lumen as he spoke. She waited for him to continue. 

“Humans are a fuck-up. A wrong turn in evolution. We’re not special and when we die, that’s it. The end.” 

Trixie shook her head a little, trying to process what was being said. It didn’t compute. Not with the vision, not with her beliefs, not with any of it. 

“You don’t think there’s anything more to this? You think we’re just scrambling along for 80 or 90 years then boom — lights out?” 

“If we’re lucky.” 

Teddy let the slightest smile come across his face. It seemed like a betrayal of her vision of him. A cruel trick of some kind. And this enraged Trixie. 

“I don’t buy it. I don’t buy that at all. It seems so… so egotistical if I’m being honest. Like our human experience is the apex of all consciousness. There has to be something more. Something bigger.” 

“You believe what you gotta believe. I made my peace with it.” 

Teddy leaned back and folded his arms – a gesture of finality. 

Trixie leaned in towards him a little. 

“You don’t see any light at all?” she asked.

A tinge of desperation laced her voice. 

Teddy got up from the booth and stood at the end of the table. 

“If you’re asking me, then you probably don’t either,” he said. 

Trixie felt flushed. Her skin prickled and the little hairs on her arms flared out. 

“Dude, don’t tell me what I believe,” she said, getting up from the booth herself. “You don’t know anything about what I’ve seen or what I’ve been through.” 

Teddy laughed and raised his hands.

“Okay, okay. There’s a nice little cloud up in the sky, and when we’re all done here, we get to go up and be happy forever and ever,” he said, his voice adopting a fairytale cadence. 

“Oh, fuck you, man,” Trixie said. 

Teddy laughed as if she were a silly child and she felt a hot rage take her. 

She looked over his shoulder and into the prep area for Townsend Pizza House. In an instant, she darted past Teddy, beneath the flip-top counter, and made her way into the kitchen area. 

“What the fuck are you doing?” Teddy asked, flipping up the countertop and following her.

Trixie looked to the right and saw the sandwich prep table. All of the meats and cheeses were wrapped up in cellophane. She grabbed a package of mortadella and ripped open the plastic. 

“This is it, right Teddy? Little pieces of meat?”

She started to lob slices of the mortadella at Teddy, who deflected as best he could. The meat slices landed against his raised forearm, slapping against his skin.

“What the fuck is wrong with you,” Teddy said, trying to move towards her. 

Trixie grabbed fistfuls of turkey and bologna and salami, hurling all of it at Teddy as he made his way closer. 

“What do you know, anyway? Meat slinger… Meat man,” said Trixie. 

She reached down into a vat of hot pepper relish and started pitching handfuls at Teddy and all over his restaurant. A glob exploded against his cheek, and some got into his left eye. He winced then lunged forward, grabbing Trixie with both of his arms. He restrained her in a bear hug and lifted her up off the floor. Trixie screamed and laughed as he carried her out of his kitchen area and out to the sidewalk. He dropped her on the ground outside and slammed the door shut. 

“Psycho-bitch,” he shouted from behind the glass windows, rubbing the hot pepper relish from his eye with the collar of his Patriots jersey.  

Trixie sat on the sidewalk and laughed until she started to cry a little. She still felt the little hairs on her arm standing up. Eventually, she calmed down. 

Five minutes later a minivan pulled up out front. A middle-aged man wearing a turquoise windbreaker got out and stopped in front of her. His face scrunched in helpless confusion.  

“From the middle school?” Trixie asked, still sitting on the sidewalk where she’d been dropped — her hand sticky from the hot pepper relish.

The man nodded. 

“It’ll be right up,” she said. 

Teddy opened the door and looked down at Trixie. He reached his arm out and dropped her laptop bag next to her on the sidewalk. 

“Just another couple minutes,” Teddy said to the man from the middle school. 

He opened the door and motioned for him to come inside. 

She heard Teddy explain to the man from the middle school what had just happened in his restaurant. He sounded small and angry. Trixie closed her eyes and in her mind saw the God-Hole again. She saw the beautiful light coming from the other side of the giant dark wall. She imagined floating up-up-up and looking into her God-Hole. Going through it. She imagined the other side of the wall and it looked a lot like that beautiful summer day in Maine with Veronica. Riding around trying to find the next beautiful place to stop and take some Polaroids. On this side of the wall, the God-Hole was just a black dot in the sky. A point of Darkness, distant and unremarkable. Some people look up at the wall, and this was what they see, she thought. 

“That is not what I see,” she told herself. 

Dave McNamara is a writer and community college staff member living in coastal North Carolina. His fiction has been published in Maudlin House, Whiskey Tit Journal, Nonconformist Magazine, and elsewhere. His satire has appeared in the Hard Times and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Prior to his work in higher education, he spent over 15 years as a live sound engineer for concert venues and touring punk bands. 


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