Jessica Fogal | fiction | Key to Happiness: An Instructional Guide

Key to Happiness: An Instructional Guide

The key to happiness is this: 

You make a list of the things you hate, and tear it up. Burn it, shove it in the garbage disposal and turn the switch on, wad it up into a ball and pop it into your mouth, chew and dissolve and chew and swallow… however you want to destroy it, it doesn’t matter. 

I have just finished my list: 

            1) denim in winter
            2) hereditary dictatorship
            3) watery eyes of the elderly 
            4) drops of milk left on the rim of your cup 
            5) systematic gas-lighting
            6) the color of my teeth in a public bathroom
            7) your voice whispering “I hate you” and “I’m leaving you.”

I’m standing over the toilet in your house, watching wet ribbons of blue ink leak from the page of my list as it floats, sinks, half floats, half sinks and bobs in the water. I watch, letting the words on my list present themselves, become solid in their concept and morph to a thought I can hold, throw into the water, and watch disappear into the pipes never to be thought of again. 

Except now the toilet is flooding. Fuck. 

My feet are wet, the cotton of my socks clinging to the skin of my toes as they absorb the bleeding water of my list, the thoughts stubbornly refusing to be flushed. 

I carry the sopping list to the kitchen sink where it falls to the bottom with a smack; a sound I feel in my cheeks. A dog barks. Someone yells an enthusiastic greeting to someone else. 

The mundane, picturesque American dream in this perfect house, this perfect neighborhood, these little moments: the smell of sun highlighting kitchen tile, cool chrome refrigerator under my dry fingers, the pressurized quiet of the empty walls surrounding me…. Things I never had, and all of which you have stolen from me after countless promises, burn in the back of my throat. 

I’m sick in your sink, on top of life’s toxicities, and as I wipe my forearm across my sticky mouth, I hear your garage door open. I hear your car pull into the drive and go silent. I know I have mere moments before you enter your kitchen through the door to my left, the door that links the two rooms like a Stepford time capsule. 

I turn and run.

I leave my shoes, the bathroom light on and the wet mess of everything I hate in your kitchen sink. Right under my breakfast burrito, half dissolved and barely recognizable. 

I leave you to clean my mess. I imagine that is what you have always done. And I also imagine, as tiny rocks stick to my wet socks as I climb the fence into your neighbor’s backyard, that if you ever make a list of things you hate, my name would be number two. Right after dark meat chicken because of that time I gave you food poisoning. 

*two weeks later* 

I must have done it wrong; I don’t feel happy.

Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram

Jessica Fogal lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest (USA), where she’s a full time legal assistant, amateur street photographer, and author. She’s been published in the Ilanot Review and the Willesden Herald Stories, and has had many prints showcased in art galleries such as Terrain Spokane.She continues to use her lifelong passions for performance, visual, and literary arts as an inspiration for her creative writings.