‘The Ceiling’ by Kevin Brockmeier

A tragicomic tale of self-deception, impending doom and the limits of human communication. Mitch, the narrator, is oblivious to the unhappiness of his wife, Melissa, and she is seemingly unaware of the imminent threat posed by ‘the ceiling’, a square of “perfect darkness … without blemish or flaw” spotted in a bright sky on the day of their son’s seventh birthday. As ‘the ceiling’ looms closer and closer, Brockmeier ratchets the sense of threat and futility. As the quotidian and fantastic collide, there are elliptical and parallel conversations, almost Pinteresque in nature, but with menace replaced by melancholy. Brockmeier’s central conceit might refer to the auto-destructive and stifling nature of relationships, it might acknowledge the self-imposed limits of modern life or it might highlight the tendency of people to become obsessed with their own misery. 

First published in McSweeney’s, issue 7, 2001 and collected in Things That Fall from the Sky, Vintage Contemporaries, 2002