Christopher D. Dicicco, so my mother, she lives in the clouds
Publisher: Hypertrophic Press
2015, 232 pages, ebook
I USED TO love it: the giddy terror of anticipation as the rusty handlebars descended, the thrill of hurdling through the air along with other fun-loving strangers, the excuse to shriek at the top of my lungs. It’s been years since I’ve had any desire to ride a rollercoaster—I’ve become more cautious and nausea-averse with age—but the short story “Life Where You Want It” makes me question the value of my adult life choices which have kept me so firmly and practically planted on the ground.
Christopher Dicicco’s very short and dazzlingly strange story, included in the author’s new forty-five story collection, is actually not about the excitement of riding a rollercoaster but the excitement of pausing mid-loop, of being stuck on a rollercoaster upside down, and thus being forced to see the world as inverted, subverted. The story itself similarly inverts and subverts the reader’s expectations. It opens on a familiar image of tedium—the narrator spinning aimlessly in a cubicle office chair—and expands into a meditation on the joys of altered perception, of imagination, of strategic surprise.
Describing this story’s plot (the narrator remembers a former co-worker who was obsessed with rollercoasters) does not do it justice, except that its success depends on this transformation of the utterly mundane into the magical. The story leaps from the pragmatic concerns of being stuck upside down—the fear of death, the fear of one’s expensive sunglasses falling into the hands of passerby—into a conjuring of our world with all of its rules overturned: dreaming becomes waking, the office grind becomes a fairytale adventure, a casual “hi” becomes an extravagant “I love you.” The language relies mostly on direct, simple sentences to describe these whimsical fantasies—“she dropped her coffee, letting it spill on the floor, becoming a lake that the two of you sail across when you want to be alone”—until the wonderful final paragraph, when the storybook rhythm erupts into a more frenzied cacophony.
Simultaneously playful and profound, this story urges the reader to see the world from an upside-down perspective full of unexpected possibilities. And isn’t that what all good fiction does? Ultimately, “Life Where You Want It” evokes the thrill of storytelling itself: the way fiction forces us to pause and notice our surroundings from a new perspective, to admit that, like the narrator, we have “no idea what it really mean[s] to be upside down.”
The narrator imagines “getting stuck in a daily loop” of thinking about these subverted possibilities. When I finished this story, I felt that I too was caught in an exhilarating loop, wanting to return to the beginning and experience it again, like a rollercoaster, just for the fun of it.
—Allison Grace Myers
Christopher D. DiCicco was born in Pennsylvania in the winter of 1981. He lives by a canal and writes fiction in his attic. This is his first collection.