The Pileup

by C. C.  Kimmel


While stacking another dirty dish on top of the leaning pile of dishes from the previous week’s meals, I turn on the radio to hear the talk show host announce a seventy two car pileup on the freeway two blocks from my home, a neighborhood filled with cars and mopeds and motorcycles and cyclists all moving at a snail’s pace and honking in harmony with the helicopters swirling above my front door, blocked with Amazon deliveries and pizza boxes and tiny pots filled with dying succulents I got from a kit I ordered and opened inside my living room, covered with magazine clippings of living rooms I wished I had and smelling of pizza and aloe and the collection of essential oils I tried selling to my friends, two of which are stuck in the pileup outside my house—my friends, not my essential oils—which the radio talk show host announced is now at 123 cars and growing and I pour another cup of coffee into one of the 237 coffee mugs I’ve collected from catalogs pouring out of baskets in my bathroom, which is painted blue and red and white and green and taupe, I think, and smells like essential oils I couldn’t sell because all my friends and family are in a growing pileup on the freeway outside my house and I can hear the honking grow louder, which I attempt to drown out with the sound of my ten different television sets I’ve strategically placed around the corners of my one bed, one bath, no glam home that looks nothing like the magazines littering it and the blanket I wear for pants is laying in the corner as the news station my 10 television sets are blaring announce the news of the pileup, now 267 cars, even though the radio claims its only 266 cars, and I feel like it would be hard to count at that rate and cut the radio talk show host some slack, admitting that they may be under resourced in contrast to the television news anchors who probably have a team of at least 267 researchers all working around the clock to ensure they have the latest news on things like pileups and assassinations and which soaps have the least amount of toxins and why its so hard to find love and friendship in middle age and how to better organize clutter in the home and what tricks I can do in bed to make that lover keep coming back and why absent minded sex is harmful for long term connections and how to have absent minded sex and how to look like you’re at least ten years, no, twenty years younger than you really are, which I think is relevant if you’re forty, but a strange sell if you are any younger and now the researchers have informed the tv news anchors yelling in every corner of my home that the pileup is now at 539 cars, including at least 19 semi-trucks, which I think is actually proportionally low given the amount of semi-trucks that pass by my neighborhood, filled with cars moving slowly trying to avoid the backup we’ve all come to expect on the freeway and I start looking for my most recent phone I keep in a drawer I’ve labeled “Old/New Phones” with a label maker I bought out of a catalog somewhere in my bathroom which smells like essential oils (or is it urine?) and I find the most recent phone and start looking up the hashtag #recordpileup and liking as many pictures as I can of the boredom and carnage of those stuck, trapped, or dying within yards of my front door, which is no longer visible to the street and I open up the search app and start asking whether or not I could survive an apocalypse and why I can’t sleep anymore and why joy is so hard to find and then click on an ad selling joy and order all of it and sit down with the blanket I now wear for pants behind my front door next to a wall covered in bags and backpacks and water bottles next to this week’s purchase of shoes from catalogs and magazines and apps, as well as shoes I stole violently off the feet of passengers helplessly stuck in gridlock outside my front door and I sit and wait by the front door for my order of joy, which my phone, at least one of my phones, tells me will arrive within minutes and I wonder if I should maybe put on pants but think if joy can’t accept me as I am, I can just return it and keep looking and so I begin to doze the sleepless sleep I’ve grown accustomed to while trying to sleep in a sleeping bag I bought for camping even though I hate camping that I’ve laid out in the small corner of my bedroom that’s not covered in clothes and television sets and unsold essential oils boxes and friendships I no longer pay attention to and while I try to sleep behind the covered front door I hear the news anchor announce the pileup has somehow reached one million two hundred thousand one hundred seventy five cars, which I think sounds like quite a jump and start wondering why they are still counting at this point and why anybody is out driving, which keeps me from falling asleep and then I wonder how my joy will be able to arrive with the pileup outside and I close my eyes, trying to think of a new coffee table layout with succulents and tastefully placed magazines about architecture and maybe a cheese board to feed the friends I will find thanks to the boxes of joy soon to be delivered and I smile, which feels strange and foreign, so I stop.

Author Bio

C. C. Kimmel is a writer and musician living in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and four kids. You can learn more about him, his writing, and his music at, or follow him on instagram at @cckimmel