Timothy Gager
Timothy Gager

Timothy Gager is fiction editor at Wilderness House Literary Review.  A social worker in the Boston area, he is the host of the Dire Literary Series, and a frequent contributor to e-zines and print anthologies. Timothy Gager is the author of seven books of fiction and poetry. He lives on www.timothygager.com His work may be found through Amazon.

Two Stories

Three Stories

Two Stories

Four Poems

Dairy of an Angry Psychologist: Wednesday's Appointments

Time Away

He Is All Mine

   

Three Stories (May, 2014. Issue 43.)

All About Zebras in The Wild

There are theories about their stripes. Scientists have thought about this since the 1870’s. Since we met, we’ve done a few science experiments. I’ve experimented with eye contact and like other Aspies, I don't give it. I give great "lip contact", though probably not the kind you're thinking of.

Yet, I see a lot. Zebra’s markings are a black and white, sort of yin-yang. Men and women are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. So opposite, yet so connected. Yin and yang are actually not opposing, forming a whole and not separate parts. It’s a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). I said I couldn’t exist without you, that you were my entire world. You said I had poor fashion taste. Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy. Einstein said that.

Black and white stripes help zebras avoid disease carrying flies. It’s all black and white, especially at a bar. I’ve run another experiment: Those disease carrying flies will get drawn to you, not to zebras. I suggest we don’t go out. It is something I can control, unlike the pattern of the stripes? Future experiments must be performed to answer these remaining questions. Additionally, the patterns of dark and light fur might cause air turbulence, helping cool the animals off.

It’s cool Zebras are part of the equidae family along with horse and donkeys. I don’t own a horse but I’ve played poker with a few donkeys. A donkey in poker will play against the odds and then hit their miracle card. I’ve been told how lucky I am to have you. You are a card with the exact number and suit I need. You are a miracle. Zebras are a miracle, from God, you tell me. God carefully painted and that’s what came out.

Since then, scientist’s experiments have led to theories disproving the assumption that God holds a paint brush. The zebra's main predator, the lion, is colorblind. When zebras gather in a big group, the patte¬rn of each zebra's stripes blend together to create an intricate pattern. Their stripe’s slight differences work against the lion, which can't pick out an individual zebra from amongst a mass of stripes. This is confusing to the lion, which sees a large, moving, striped mass instead of many individual zebras. That’s why their stripes provide camouflage, as the long African grass is yellow.

I get confused often. You only can see me when I’m here at home. When I am downstairs you are up. When I want to talk, you watch TV. You say you want to walk but only when I’m out. We communicate less and less. Lately, you stay hidden in the opposite end of the house. I feel it’s like you are protecting yourself in the wild Wild? I’m all too black and white.

The ears of a zebra show its mood. I once ate your ear with my lips and tongue. It got you very wet, you said. This wasn’t all that helpful. If Zebra stripes are so helpful, for example, why aren't all Eurasian horses striped? Evolution is not obliging all the time. We once talked on how our child would be smart and creative, like we are. It will not be stripped. A zedonk is the offspring of any cross between a zebra and any other horse-like animal: essentially, a zebra hybrid. Attempts to breed a Grévy's zebra stallion to mountain zebra mares resulted in a high rate of miscarriage.

Pedestrian crossings are nicknamed after the black and white stripes of zebras. You once told me about a time when you were a child, and saw a woman get hit while pushing a baby stroller in a crosswalk. The woman released it, rolled the baby away as the car served, striking and killing the woman. It was an older baby buggies with large metal springs that rocked the carriage a full minute after. “Why couldn’t that have been me,” you say, as stiff as a stroller that’s never going to rock. Then she said, “But we kept trying and trying.”

About a month after that, there is a news flash! A zebra was spotted running down streets of Staten Island a few months later. Not much is known about the escape, but it was seen running through a shopping center parking lot and then down Victory Boulevard. I saw on TV how the zebra got here. I figured men with lassos knew what to do. Later, I called you to ask what had happened and why the solution was for you to change your stripes. To me you sound funny, accusatory saying, “There was no way to deal with your detachment any longer.” When she said it I thought some more about zebra facts. You should know because I’ve told you about the Grevy’s zebra. The Grevy's zebra will call at meal time, when another equine walks by, when one of its friends or an offspring is separated from it, or when it enters a new 'territory'. The call differs slightly from situation to situation, sometimes sounding insistent, sometimes questioning, there is an obvious 'location' vocalization, at times it sounds like an announcement and at other times alarmed.

I try my hardest to focus. I’d lost that ability completely but this time I do. It’s a phone call. I can’t see your eyes or your lips. I wonder if you will ever think about me. I think the term “Zebra” is a medical slang term for a surprising diagnosis. I am not surprised how things are the way that they are in the wild.

What Are The Reasons They Hang On

The broken up man said, “That’s awful” to the waffle as he saws his way through it, knife grinding his plate. Then he took the mash and spread it around in a circle before he got up, giving it a thump-thump-thump against the side of the kitchen trash can. The itinerary for the day: coffee, shower and not a damn thing else.

The phone rings because when things need to be moved along, the phone always rings. “Can you come over,” she says, “because he is not dead yet.”

“Will he know me?”

“He doesn’t know anyone. He’s been in hospice, remember? He thinks he’s had a good life.”

“He must be bad off then.”

“Yes.”

Shower, coffee and drive to the Multiplex Nursing and Rehabilitation Hospital. When he sees her, she is in the lobby, not even in the room of the dying father, reading US magazine. “Chance of Recovery: Slim and None!” barks the headline, referring to Lindsay Lohan. She looks up over the page spread and says, “You know, it’s been nice sleeping with you again.”

“Yes, it has.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know if it’s make-up, break-up or I’m afraid of losing you sex.”

“I’m just afraid of everything.”

The broken up man and the broken up woman bypass the elevator. It is ten flights to her father’s room and he has a briefcase full of books of short fiction. “He can’t follow through on a novel or anything longer,” she tells him when the shit began to happen. He held her hand and told her that a goldfish was trained to swim through a maze and retained the knowledge months after, yet when the time came he picks Raymond Carver, Henry James, Andre Dubus and Richard Yates to read aloud in the beginning of his decline.

“You know the end before the end,” he says as they follow the colored line on the hospital’s polished floor—her shoe slips a bit. Around a bend, she throws the rolled up magazine into a trash receptacle, grabs his arm for balance.

Table of Contents

Three Stories (February, 2013. Issue 40.)

Where Do You Bury The Survivors?
for Paulie

Staring at the uniform of the panicked maitre d', I only saw his authority as something which needed to be overcome. I knew he supervised the ship's meals only and had no experience in a situation like the one we were facing. I needed to not respect the chain of command that placed him as an active captain of this perilous situation. I only saw him directing our lifeboat back toward sinking cruise ship, whose suction would drag us down. I saw my mother hunched over in prayer and hoped I was wrong about the existence of God.

Most of all, I saw no hope in the faces of the rest of us. When you are forced to use a lifeboat, somehow the word life seemed like wishful thinking. I raised my voice and yelled, "I am in command here!" Hearing the words out of my mouth surprised me. Seeing the maitre d' immediately sit down surprised me just as much. Now, I was in charge. I directed the people rowing to turn around and head as quickly as possible in the other direction. According to the newspaper, I was the hero. I saved their lives.

It destroyed mine. I read later accounts of the two hundred other passengers whom died. Every night I drank over them. They could not be saved but I was the one still here. I had dreams about bodies being left behind, floating dead besides the lifeboat. I had other ones where I was the only person sitting in a damaged boat, rowing as quickly as possible as the water filled up higher than my knees and then higher still.

I also burned through relationships; felt I didn't deserve friends or lovers. I went to various therapists but they were ill equipped to deal with the survivors. I went through a quick marriage with a woman who also saw the world as simply a place to escape. She exhausted all of her vices and when she was clear enough to have a good look at me, she got as far away as possible.

I was a whirlpool, dragging down anyone that would get too close. I was in the center, spinning out of control. One day, I sat in my house with a gun to my head. I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I was left stunned, reached for my whiskey, but couldn't get the drink down. I felt no longer intoxicated.

* * *

My mother and I decided to take the cruise because of the bad blood simmering under the surface for the last couple of years. She was disappointed in me and me in her; a typical reaction when a person reaches the post college period of their life. I'd experienced too much of her ugly drinking during my upbringing and she thought I should have more to show after earning a degree at Boston University. "You can't do much with Political Science," I told her after she'd spent the money on my tuition. I had done a few things, such as take a sailing course, with tiny boats on the Charles River, during my third semester. I almost failed the week I was to be certified when the boom whipped around and knocked me unconscious. I recovered enough a few days later to pass, able to guide and dock the boat using correct tacking. While my mother and I were on deck in the beginning of the cruise, I told her that I wasn't ready, at the time, to pursue a trade at school, but only wanted to have fun. I needed an escape from what I felt I'd gone through with her during my childhood and college seemed to be the right place at the right time. Somehow, right now, sitting on a sunny deck by a pool, with a plateful of food and a drink, with multi layers of color, didn't seem like an escape at all. Yet, escape, was what I was forced to do, early the next morning when we were roused out of bed at 4 am, with smoke billowing from the boat and a call for evacuation just seconds away.

Mom and I were lucky, directed onto one of the first boats. When we loaded in, we were told to stay calm and at this moment we were. Within minutes after the lifeboat became unchained into the Alaskan ocean was when the first explosion hit. We heard panicked screaming above us that lasted another three minutes until the second explosion sounded and then it was only another hour or so before the ship's burning hull disappeared into the darkness.

* * *

When the gun refused to discharge, I sobered up. I was as if I had been given a third chance. I shook my way through a thirty day Detox, praying to save myself without thinking of the ones I couldn't save. I was told to look in the mirror and stop seeing the charred faces of those floating in the water, the same ones I'd pour a drink down for until they were all blocked out. My mother and I have become quite close after the disaster. I think how she saw me make the decisions I made in the lifeboat, made it impossible for her to feel any disappointment regarding my past or even my present, for that matter. She told me at hospice when she was dying of cancer that I'd done an amazing thing and that she was happy I was now looking at things in a clear way and no longer consumed by them. "You're life will continue to get better and better," she said and in a week she was gone. I was present for that.

* * *

I still hear from a number of the survivors from my boat. They call me Captain, and send me Christmas cards and e-mails which thank me. I few of them still ask about what exactly happened, as their memories remain cloudy toward the incident. I think they just want to hear the story again. It's mind blowing. I tell it bravely and how each and every one of them had an important role in the recovery and rescue. They are the only people I allow myself to talk to about what happened that morning, in fact, some of the closest friends I've formed since, have no idea I was ever on a cruise ship that sunk. I gladly open up to the survivors, about the moments before, during and after. I tell them what my life is like now. I always skip the part about the gun. I'm sure they have their own feelings about the randomness surrounding who lived and who died, but they don't need to know the dark part of my life when I felt that guilt. I tell them that they did exactly what they needed to do and how they too were heroes. Then I tell them to thank God, for their lives, the same way I thank Him for mine.

Full Moon

Once we saw the moon, big in the sky rising up over the scraggly arms of the shadow of branches. Once we saw the moon lying in the back of my parents' station wagon behind the screen of the drive-in. The movie was on but we weren't watching.

The moon. It followed us on paths, around ponds we swam in naked after midnight. We yelled to it, asking it to provide heat, the air being cool on a summer night. It just shone brightly back, doing what it did and I was so proud of the moon in that moment. It made your eyes two points of light, so striking that I stared into them for long periods, and it no longer mattered that we sat in the dirt, sharing a single towel, our bodies warming against one another. I was hypnotized, as you told me all our important things, until you reached for your boots and the trance was over.

Once we saw it, from our new home. I said, I'd like to lie on top of it like Snoopy on his doghouse. The doghouse, like the moon tonight seemed perfectly two-dimensional. It never appeared to actually have a roof, my eyes played tricks every time. My eyes see what I want to see, like when our first child was born, she had light in her eyes, just like yours did by the pond, blessed by God from the Universe. There are so many tricks.

Like the night I saw the moon rise without the two of them. Light was in the window when I walked past to answer the door. I wished the police would stay with me and repeat everything they said after "there's been an accident." I could have saved that. The moon hung in the sky over their shoulders as they spoke and I looked up to it because I couldn't talk, not even to tell him not to leave because everything else was gone.

I started seeing the moon from the lawn of my empty house. It taunted me, the way it kept coming and I stared at it with anger, hoping it would explode. I sat inside with the lights off and not be bothered with something as predictable as its visit every month. Every four weeks, it came to tell me that it was still there, to keep trying, not to give up and sometimes awful things can happen which you can't control---and that everything else in life continues as normal, whether you like it or not.

Slowly the moon gave back my life. I bargained that I would be willing to do whatever it took to begin to have joy once more. The stagnant gears began to turn and I began to move forward, slowly creaking.

Thank you. Now, I see miracles I cannot explain. I notice things; a convertible with people jumping up and down, a rock fly, a talking dog, and a cripple walking on water. The darkness sings me a hymn. I am able to see both of you, so clear and sweet, that I hold you in a hug inside my pale arms. The moon lived the bargain, and if I'm able, I'll hold up my end.

About Shooting

Let me tell you about the time I had to do what I had to do but first off there's a mini-version that's gonna represent everything else. If one thing represents another in life, it was Baby and I hiring a fresh student at half the usual price. This indicates a lot. It was her first time, all dewy and doe-eyed, about to do everything on film to help pay her tuition. When she gagged on one of the cocks, I had to cut the shot, leaving her on her knees, as if begging to return to an easy life. This time I wouldn't grant that request. We shot another scene.

The other time, Baby and I caught the boy who burned us for $5,000 and we shoved him down on his knees, arms behind his back. My roommate Russ, holding my gun, not a camera, stood frozen as I tried to direct him, yelling, "Shoot him! Shoot him!" The kid knelt there crying while Russ's arm shook, the scene lasted way too long, so I said, "Let him go."

I told the kid to remember us and what we did for him. He remembered us all right. Two days later his boys were over, laying some licks on me and Russ. I crawled away from that, but Russ needed an ambulance. When he was in Morton Hospital, he told the cops he didn't remember anything because he was concussed. When they found me I said it had been a bad car accident but I wasn't asked to produce nothing. No accident report, no receipt from the body shop; the cops knew I would have refused any of their requests.

So there were other residual problems. Baby worried that if we didn't produce another film we'd have no money for dope. All I have left was a camera and a soundboard. Everything else had been spent. We needed one more camera to do it right and we would have to steal to get it. Desperate measures put us here, time in essence was running out on us, which was what we needed to get some money. We knew stealing might bring time in the slammer.

We made some initial clips last week, using Baby, looking yellow and balloon-headed in the dailies, shot with the one camera; she and Russ. Russ always wanted to get with her so he just did it for free. We had no budget to pay someone even the college co-ed rate—the small amount of money we had, we needed to hold onto if we ever were to climb out of this deep well of a hole. Mostly we couldn't do anything, except wait.

We drove to Pawtucket, where the highway and back streets ran parallel to train tracks and waited for a mark. Perhaps a guy would get a flat or someone on the side street walking alone, only paying attention to his phone and then WHACK, we'd sucker him. He would be an investor in our new beginning. We would leave him to the world without a wallet. If he came to, he wouldn't care that we needed a new camera, or that Baby's dailies looked terrible, he'd just assume that some desperate person needed money or drugs in order to continue.

I cared about all those things, and I cared for her. She was a stellar beauty when we met and now all of that had been flushed away. It was all flushed away. We returned to our house and Russ was gone, and so was everything else I owned except the gun I hid in the closet.

When the world was young, my parents gave me a camera for my birthday. It was late spring and I took my previous girlfriend with me to shoot close ups of bright yellow dandelions against the green grass. Then I took photos of her in a white shirt, laying down on the lawn and then looked around and saw no one around to take one of us. I collapsed in the grass next to her, pulled her head toward mine and for the first time, we kissed. It was as perfect as I had imagined it.

Today, I'm not doing any of this. I look at Baby nodding, cross legged on the floor. I look back at her and to the open closet at the gun. Baby. Gun. Baby. Gun.

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Two Stories (March 20, 2011. Issue 26. The SLAM & FLASH Issue!)

The Recital

They sit next to each other at their daughter’s first violin recital, Jake and his ex-wife Allison, her voice a comparative squawk.

Beforehand he drinks with Leslie. She would ever cheat on her husband. They used to talk about his tongue sliding around her labia.

The music is anxious and jagged; but nothing snaps—all stings are attached. Jake would feel lucky to have a hand saw bowing through Allison’s pale white neck.. Allison leaps up for the standing ovation.

Divided

When my room began to fill with smoke, I turned the music up. Ian Curtis should always be louder than a smoke alarm.

"It's all o-kaaaay. I'm cooook-ing," Lance called up from the kitchen.

It was then Sasha told me that I was killing myself but I countered by saying, if it were the end of the world, we'd have no choice but to grab each other and make love, one last time. "What about…" she said nodded her head toward the first floor, "I don't know what to do."

Sasha and I had snorted a table of cocaine and I had her trapped inside my Joy Division bedroom. We were upstairs in our pajamas for two days. The record played over and over, the same way life tended to work repetitively for me. Sometimes when I reached the end of the grooves, I scratched my way against the hard sounding endpoint.

I didn't want her to leave. There was two feet of snow, huge snow banks, plus the last time I went outside I noticed ice towers on every corner stained with ugly yellow dog piss. I realized how much dogs peed and that so many basic day-to-day realities were hidden like Lance downstairs.

Most days, when he wasn't cooking, he was busy with Sasha planning their wedding. "I'm not hungry," she said softly.

In a few months I'll be forced to leave this room but when Sasha lifted the needle, flicked the dust off and restarted Unknown Pleasures, I knew I still had some life left.

Table of Contents

Four Poems (August 20, 2010. Issue 20.)

Unwelcomed Guest

hello demons
found in the dark corners
of my lifetime, welcome back
so you can latch onto me
to remake me the man I was,
before I can kick you away

you led me to drive down
a one-way the wrong way,
I blamed the scotch
started earlier when
it was still dusk
but then blackness rose
up from below, I recall
I used to imagine Hell’s address
was somewhere between my basement
and the center of the earth
but I know now different;

Hell is in something
I’ve ingested, life as ugly
as I knew it
swarming all around
stabbing and punching at me
for now,

demons
I’ll let you win,
I can’t fight you any longer
I’ll never quit.

We Are Not Talking

because I want to tell you
that I got fucked for
the first time since
we'd been together,
that I replaced your
love with hate
just so I could feel something.

I want to tell you
I am not proud;
that it felt like the time as a kid
I had forgotten to feed the neighbor’s cat,
then the next day I found it dead—
it wasn’t my fault,
it didn’t starve
but that day, I was getting high
it was something I had to do,
I had to tell someone
something bad happened
to be honest

I didn’t come with that other girl
while we bumped
in the backseat, I was
thinking of you on top,
at the same time, worried –
if the car’s suspension
would hold up from that…

I didn’t plan to go home
and break my hand,
but it felt good
for a split second after I hit the stud,
and I heard the bone snap
immediately

I wanted to shout at you
that I still cared
if yelling those words
didn’t make me hate myself

or change the fact
the world is flat

or least of all
didn’t make you feel
how easy it is to say nothing
new at all.

at eleven-fifty-nine

put on Miles Davis
if you’re not sleeping
or not nothing... milling around
on your notes,
what are we

anyway, there are times
we say we care about
each other far away
drifting.
drifting.
in and out of

love, we do this
as empty people
do. the pillow says
sink, quit
when it talks--

it's only talk

About Alison

when we walked I said
that you looked like a movie star
dumbly, that’s what I came up with
as your hair flowed softly
in the light against
your sundress, I imagined
taking off, on the question:
Could I ever want
a friend, could I
ever not want something
as sweet as this walk
on a sunny day?

You told me you’re kind of a prude
though you look the part of
the mid-western farm girl
whom I make giggle. Your
father wants to stab me
with a pitchfork.
That’s the movie! Yes,
I wanted a movie star, you wanted
to move back home where we
cannot take these walks,

and months go by
before you
call yourself an asshole,
for being out of touch
then say, you think
of me often.

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Diary of an Angry Psychologist: Wednesday’s Appointments
(August 20, 2009. Issue 8.)

 

--Alarm clock, 7:22 AM

Hit snooze button three times.
Wake up.



--Kate, 40, 8:45 AM

I don’t know why Kate sees me. She says she solves her own problems sitting in the woods. Kate tells me she is a sexual animal and wants to make love everyday under the canopy of trees. She thinks she is a tribeswoman and would like to mate with all the tribesmen. Sex makes her angry when she’s finished. She twirls her hair when she tells me that, tells me she thinks we should go to the woods together. I suggest her seeing a female therapist and her response is, “I’ve had a few intimate relationships with women.”

Kate says she was there the other day and spoke to a squirrel. What did it say? All it said was, “Hi.” She told the squirrel she loved it and placed it on her lap. Why can’t people be like that squirrel is what I ask her. Seems like she related to the squirrel better than she did people. She dreamed that she and the squirrel were lovers. Then the hour ran out.

--Thomas, 47, 10:45 AM

I’d like to kill Thomas. Thomas can’t commit to anything. He’s lonely yet he pushes people away. He’s funny, yet he has a mean streak. He gasps for love the way he gasps for air. He has asthma. Thomas only wants women he can’t have. Thomas should live in a protected box. He feels that if he makes love to a woman every three months he’ll be fine. Thomas doesn’t realize that women might develop emotional attachments. During sessions, Thomas says, “fuck it” or “fuck me” a lot. I can see why Thomas has scars over his eyes; he's been in a lot of battles. Sometimes he confronts me about his lack of progress in therapy. Thomas doesn’t realize that it should all come from within. Thomas doesn’t realize that within him is a soulless black hole. He always uses phases like “when I finally hunker down”. I’d like to kill Thomas.

--Lunch, 11:30

Cold sandwich.
Pulpy Apple.
Juice Box.

--Bradley, 56, 12:15 PM

I feel that Bradley tossed his life into the gutter in his twenties because it was easier than focusing on a job or an education. Bradley wanted to be a helicopter pilot, an unrealistic expectation from someone who was only selling pants at Tello’s and spending his paycheck on booze and heroin. At the time, according to him, he had completely recovered, made it to an entire year without the stuff, but he never made his goal of flying choppers—so he relapsed. Bradley tells me his parents hate him. Hated him all the way to their death, but that’s what you get when you burn your bridges, steal and fuck with a person’s trust. You end up at a homeless shelter in your forties. You end up here with me in your fifties. It’s too damn late for Bradley.

--New Patient: Pearl, 48, 15:00 PM

Pearl is not her real name. Her real name is Stella. Pearl used a fake name to get past the intake screeners. Pearl is my ex-wife. She is taking this hour to speak to me since I’ve not returned her calls in months. She needs a favor. This summer can I take the kids and the dog for a few months? She bought our kids a dog. The dog is driving her crazy. I can take the kids but not the dog. She stomps her foot. The kids tell me it ate the television remote. The dog needs it’s own therapist. It is crazy. The kids are in their twenties, they should be able to be by themselves AND take care of the dog. “If you had only...then....and they’d know responsibility…dog…and…blah…blah...” I’m thinking about my current relationship. Now that one is a sweet, sweet pacific island. Pearl is going away on a honeymoon. I tell her to call me soon.

--Ethan, 14, 16:00 PM

Ethan is the youngest patient I’ve ever had. He is bi-polar. He has been ordered to see me because he told his teacher he thinks about suicide. He is very specific in his fantasies about flying and jumping off bridges. I am helpless to prevent this. There are bridges in Boston and his private school is very close to them. His parents come in the last fifteen minutes. Usually one of them cries.

Ethan reminds me of my own brother. When my brother was a teenager he took a handful of my mother’s valium and washed it down with some Old Crow that was in my parents liquor cabinet. When the ambulance came the red lights rotated through our living room every two seconds. I know this because I counted the time. With Ethan, I just want to grab him and either hug or shake him---tell him not to do it, please don’t do it. Sometimes I cry too.

--Commute, 17:15 PM

Extra hour of traffic,
Listen to Jay-Z,
Home.

 
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Time Away (July 20, 2009. Issue 7.)

We spent the weekend at the shore and watched children build sandcastles that would be knocked down. “Do you love me?” I asked her. She curled her toes into the sand, pulled up her feet, and let the grains drop. It had been the first time I’d been sober since I’d buried my son two days ago. Now, all I felt was dry.

 “You’re my friend,” she said when she finally stood in front of me.  “I wanted to go to the funeral but people would have thought it wasn’t right.” She touched my back close to the scratches from a week ago.

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He Is All Mine (March 26, 2009. New Moon. Issue 2)

I had my cherry busted in the back seat of Rip Tandall’s sporty Mazda. It was small, and uncomfortable, but Rip’s dad was rich, his mom good looking and I became easy that summer.

His real name was Herman but he’s been Rip since the second grade. He’s been an asshole ever since then as well, my older brother yells to me over the high revving engine of his 1980 Firebird. I sit in the back seat and the eagle barely holds onto the hood.

Rip works at a gym. Every week last spring I’d stop and look at him from the lobby through the glass. When he looked back I felt like a puppy. By the summer we were talking, but not about much. He showed me how he stretched people, moved their limbs, and made them limber. I told to him about the kids at school and the boys my age, told him I felt a tingle when I made their peckers stand up beneath their corduroys. I didn’t know much more than that but Rip said that’s all there was to know.

My brother is still driving fast, and Rip sees us and sprints across the parking lot to his Miata. I try to wave as he leaps through the open car window. The doors only would slow him down and I know what I know, that Rip can’t wait.

The Legendary