This was a happy find. Thanks, Molly!
An excerpt from “WORD RIOT: A MAGAZINE REPORT” BY MOLLY TOLSKY, MAY 2008:
“The Crack and Strains! by Gabe Durham is a plainspoken, magical realism story in a domestic setting. The unnamed narrator plays records of pop music for Truman, who has never heard anything of this kind before. While Truman likes the songs, he gets upset at their endings when they just fade out. He explains that where he comes from, a revered musician will play a song until she’s so exhausted, she goes unconscious. The narrator plays an 80-minute electronica song for Truman, who enjoys it until he finds out that the synth and bass is just coming from a computer. So disgusted by this notion, Truman uses his mind to “eject” the narrator’s pinky finger, causing the digit to fly out of the window. Truman apologizes profusely to the narrator, so much so that he eventually goes unconscious.
This story seems to break every rule of good writing: we don’t know the relationship between the two characters, we don’t know where the story is taking place, and we don’t even know what species or planet Truman is from. Yet the piece is engaging from beginning to end. Because we hear Truman talk before we see him using his power, it’s easily assumed that he’s from a different country, which makes his use of finger-ejecting mind power quite the surprise. The narrator chalks Truman’s reaction up to simple “culture shock”, and since he ultimately forgives Truman, the story seems like a satire on how to properly deal with people (or aliens) from other cultures.”