Sean Michaels

three pieces

Euro cup

There was something about the Spanish team that year. They were not the fastest or the most precise. They were not especially aggressive or particularly meek. But their play seemed to come from a different place than the other teams’. They moved like fireflies in a copse. They could pass silently across the field, through and among their opponents. Their only sound was the ripple and flick of their royal-blue uniforms. The Spaniards were tireless and strange. They raised one arm when they wanted a pass; they had dark eyes; the balls seemed to follow them; they touched, they touched, they touched. The other team would not understand. They simply would not understand. The vuvuzelas sang their doleful B-flat. The Spaniards passed the ball to and fro, crisscrossing like kites, 32 passes in a single play; and then finally, with something like regret, into the goal. They placed second, behind Argentina.


A train holiday across Essex, to meet your cousins. Share a carriage with a man in an eyepatch with a brush moustache. Turns out he’s a distant relative. He teaches you to snap your fingers in a different way. Stop in Danbury. Man at the shop, selling peppery cheese rolls, he’s a cousin too. Cousins everywhere. A cousin at the used bookshop, opening pop-up books. A cousin at city hall, rubber-stamping pub licenses. Cousins in the elevators, cousins on the escalators, cousins dusting your bedroom while you’re gone. You climb a tree: cousins. You lift a rock: cousins. You go swimming, see cousins down in the swirling weeds. You fall in love with a cousin, get in a fight with a cousin, get arrested by a cousin and then a cousin sets you free. Hail a taxi; find a stranger; ride in silence to the plane.

Silken Reset

The silken reset was invented by a hacker in Yemen. The date wasn’t clear. One month the resets were as they had always been: abrupt, crisp; the next month, some of them were silken. A silken reset on your favorite website, a silken reset on your nearest traffic light. Soon, joked the TV presenters, a silken reset on your life. It was autumn and it was easy to believe that this could soon be true. Everything crisply divided might soon be softly changing. One thing could become another thing without a tremor or a snap. We walked around our neighborhoods slipping our hands into our pockets, our hands into our pockets, imagining that our futures might be reset, silkenly, with just as little force.


Sean Michaels' Six Pieces can be read in the print edition of The Arkansas International 1.


Photo by Julie Artacho

Photo by Julie Artacho

Sean Michaels was born in Stirling, Scotland, in 1982. Founder of the pioneering mp3blog Said the Gramophone, he has written for publications including The Guardian, The Walrus, Pitchfork, McSweeney's and Rolling Stone. Sean’s debut novel, Us Conductors, received Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize and was recognized by NPR as one of 2014’s books of the year. He lives in Montreal.