Bad Show with His Son

modern architecture

I’m living in an apartment in Winston. I get up sleepily, and my roommate wakes up just as late. It seems as though I don’t know who my roommate is, although I do. I decide to go for a walk outside. It’s winter. I look around outside for my coat, expecting that there’s some sort of place where it’s being held. I look all over the place, only to find that I’m already wearing my coat. Someone’s calling me. I answer: It’s Donald Trump. It’s blustering cold outside as we talk, Donald overly friendly as if he needs to prove something to me.

I’m walking to Subway, and when I get there I order three cookies and a small drink. Trump comments on the fact that the small cups are pretty big now. I think about making a tiny hands joke but think better of it. I’m suddenly transported to where Trump is calling me from. He sits as I stand, some foreign dignitary beside him. My gym shoes graze his and I consider punching him in his orange face but think better of it.

Now I’m back outside, walking home. When I get to the door of the apartment, there’s a kid feverishly trying to get inside, yanking on the doorknob. He eventually backs up and I get inside. I don’t let him in.

A fiery blonde is waiting for me when I come inside, doe-eyed as she feels me out. I’m still on the phone with Donald Trump, and he asks what the matter is, why I’m not talking. I ignore him for a moment, taking in this mysterious stranger. She smiles as she slinks closer to me, engaging me in conversation even though I’m still on the phone.

She flirts with me until I have no choice but to hang up on the Donald. She moves up against me, grazing me with her chest mischievously. She turns and walks away, looking back to beckon me on. I follow without a moment’s hesitation. There’s a chair that reclines. I get onto it and she straddles me as I recline it fully.

We kiss passionately and I taste her hot, metal breath. She pushes into me, closer and closer till we’re nearly fused. Close is not close enough. We pause momentarily, look into each other’s eyes as we take in what’s happening between us. I look to my right and there’s my roommate sitting patiently, waiting for us to finish.

The fiery blonde gets off of me, looks around for a moment. Stalling. She makes up an excuse about needing to pee and moves for the door. The door is still being pounded by the little kid, but she opens it anyway: “Jesus, kid, you’re going to break the door down.” She closes the door and the kid resumes his fervent attempt at entry. His slams on the door reverberate throughout the apartment.

The TV is on, and a trailer for a new movie called “Bad Show With His Son” is playing. A kid has stowed away a massive monster in his parents’ attic. The monster’s fat folds are multitudinous, a single horn sprouting from his head, calcified. His eyes are hollow, yet still some warmth comes from them.

The boy’s father enters the attic, bewildered by the beast. He yells at his son for stowing away the creature and leaves. He comes back with a chainsaw and wields it, aiming for the monster’s horn. The beast evades him as the kid shouts at his dad to leave his new friend alone. In the struggle, the father accidentally chops into his son’s neck. The trailer ends by showing off the five horror awards the film has recently won. Black screen. The song goes, “Bad show with his sooon. Baaad show with his sooon.” The dream ends here.


One of Those Things


He checked her Instagram on a Sunday afternoon, remembering simpler days when they’d lie sprawled on the hood of his car listening to “The Suffering,” one earbud a piece. They’d look out over the pepto pink sky and just listen. They’d trade off vocals when it came to the chorus, smiling as they sang so that their performances were affected. And when they went to the concert to see it live, him holding her up so she could see the lead singer belting it out.

And there she was doing the same thing, collecting scraps of his life in one-off posts, scouring likes and comments for clues, wondering what ever happened to undo what they had together. It was just one of those things. She remembered above all else how they were when they saw each other again after a long absence, like a ship come to moor, drifting effortlessly toward shore. There was parking outside his house at night and shining a laser pointer through his window till he joined her, careening through the neighborhood like bandits, no destination in mind, just driving.

And now she sits alone in her room watching the ceiling fan turn and turn and turn, her cat nuzzling her hand, pausing over his number, wondering if she should text, and she composes something, deletes it, starts over.

And there he is in his room, thinking he might text her, or send a snap. Maybe tag her on a funny meme. There were so many options. He settled on an email, trying to catch up after these long years away, detailing what he’d been up to since then, leaving the possibility of meeting up dangling at the end like a worm off a hook.

She responded almost too fast, giving her own account of the years’ goings-on, agreeing that meeting up might be a good idea. She proposed a date and he accepted. Then of course there was actually having to get ready for the thing, wondering if they should go, both of them, but eventually doing it, getting ready and going to the agreed upon spot. Then there’s that thing where you see this person after all the years apart, taking in the subtle differences, the way that features have made good on their promises.

They both wonder if they should move in for the hug, and it becomes an awkward thing between the two of them, wondering if the hug should include a pat on the back, but it doesn’t, and when they move apart there’s a moment where their faces are inches apart and they look into each other’s eyes knowing what should happen but won’t.

They stand in silence until she breaks it with a hi. Nothing makes noise around them. Everything is still. He says hi back. They haven’t planned much beyond this point, but something has to happen. They walk to the park adjoining her apartment, watch the way the sun dapples the leaves on the trees before they fall, fluttering safely to ground. Their hands are in their pockets, but for a moment their instincts kick in and they reach for hands that can no longer be grasped. Their fingers graze before they remember, warmth in this early Fall cold.

Neither of them speak, just walk and take in the chill of the air, the sounds of cars dopplering by. Everything sounds piped in. A mother passes them pushing a stroller. They both wanted kids, but he didn’t after they broke up. He couldn’t tell if it was a “her or nothing” thing, but that’s how it was. It was just one of those things.

She tells him she’s really missed him and he says he’s missed her too. The silence comes back and they stay in it a while. He asks if she still wants kids. He doesn’t know why he asks it, but she says yes.

They find a bench and sit down.

She sets her purse down between them and they stare out at the leaves on the trees, their variegated colors. He opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Instead, he places his hands in his lap. She reaches into her purse and pulls out an iPod. He watches as she plugs in the earbuds, scrolls to her song of choice and hands an earbud to him. The opening notes of “The Suffering” play. The two of them look out over the sky coming down to dusk, pink turning to purple, and just listen.


Dandelions on a Summer Lawn


I remember watching bumblebees fly by for hours angled in the crook of my mother’s arm, waiting for the sun to stop shining. She was 32 and dying, her womb assaulted by blooming cancer that spread like dandelions on a summer lawn. I’d wait for her to come out of the kitchen, leave the bathroom, and would scare her as if I could scare the cancer out of her, like it was nothing more than a bad case of the hiccups. It never worked.

She took me with on trips to the hospital, and I’d watch chemo drugs drip like morning dew off the petal of a flower. I’d sit patiently with my hands in my lap as she pulled over and vomited, hold what was left of her hair back if she made it home and got to the toilet. It was hard for her to keep food down, but she cooked prodigiously, made great banquets though we were the only two eating. I ate everything that was put on my plate, even the peas. Even when it was just okay, I thanked my mom as if this was The Best Dish of All Time.

I held out hope for the R word–remission. Mom knew it wasn’t likely, but I believed the way only children believe: with a fervor that had no time for chance or likelihood. We made a game of counting off the weeks she’d stayed alive, a morbid game of pattycake with my head in her lap, looking up at her as if she were a goddess sending her golden light of love my way.

It got so she couldn’t do much other than cook and get back to bed. When she was in bed, I’d sneak out the old photo album, the one I wasn’t allowed to see, and look at the shots of Mom wearing short shorts and riding on the back of a motorcycle. It was like looking into an alternate reality. I’d make up games where I was an adventurer come to save my sleeping queen. I got bonus points if I could enter the lair where the dragon kept the queen without waking her up. When I got to the bedside of my queen, I’d stab an invisible sword into her womb and vanquish the dragon once and for all.

When I got older, I’d question whether she would’ve gotten the cancer in the first place if she’d never had me. That I was complicit in it somehow. I’d pore over medical statistics and scholarly journals looking for the proof I so desperately wanted (or didn’t want) to find. It wasn’t conclusive either way.

When Mom’s hair got thin enough, she gave me the clippers and let me have the honor of shaving her bald. Mom laughed when I got started. The laughter turned to tears soon enough, and I asked her if I should stop. All she could say was, “Keep going, keep going.” The hair collected at our feet in golden wisps like sunlight pouring in off the horizon, tendrils of it blinding you even as it gives you life.

Mom would take me outside when she could and make a game of picking me up by my hands, spinning around till I could only see a blur of color and her at center, always still, always calm, like this was all the world was, just spinning, and how I laughed and laughed and laughed. She’d let me down gently and all around me everything was a blur except for her. I’d jump up and down and say, “Again! Again!” and if she had enough energy, we’d go for another round.

I was eight years old when my mother passed away. Eight and tiny and clinging to the hem of her shirt as if to cling was to keep her alive. I dialed 911 just like she taught me to do, but there was nothing left to be done. I was put into the care of my grandparents, who came and collected me right away.

The funeral was peaceful, calm. The sun shone into the parlor and lit up the tiles on the floor till you couldn’t be sure if the sun was inside. Outside the window, I watched as bumblebees flew lazily by in dipping swirls and zigzags, making their way the only way they knew how.




The way her nipple slid in and out of view was like the fin of a shark peeking over the water and falling away for a stealthy approach. He let her subsume him, this woman, let her slide into all the days and ways that he was a man. They came to the surface, gasping choking breaths, tunnelling a way through the water to seaweed and refuse on the beach. When they came to, they were lying there, on the beach, toes dug into the freezing sand, and that’s where they slept all night.

It was on the ridge of a large and vast mountain, scarves to keep the cold out, breathing filtered air, and that’s all their love was. Just a filtered version of a thing that couldn’t be reached. They made love on the ridge in the freezing cold, her wetness turning to ice as he moved inside of her. It was them on the ridge, kissing like this was the last thing they could do, becoming the beast with two backs.

Or maybe it was in the way she rolled over to let him come in, legs tangled in knotted seaweed, gnarled and gangrene tendrils of it twisting and convulsing in the light of the moon. It was a rollicking fever of him with another woman, making these motions with her on the same night, minutes later, barely waiting between the two of them. It was an appetite like a wild beast.

It was her knowing all the time, inhaling the scent of the other woman on his cheeks, neck, chest. It was being aroused before being heartbroken, and the way he looked at her like that, in the night, in the glow of an old, dusty lamp, saying with his eyes that he couldn’t stop this, that it had gone too far.

It was clawing their way through the sand dunes, naked feet like grappling hooks, knowing that if the sun were a little closer they’d be walking on glass, if they could even walk at all. And him receiving a text, then a call, stepping away to take it. Looking at her as if he could stare belief into her. She pulled away from his hand’s grasp and walked on.

It was the scent of sex on his body that would stay no matter how many showers he took, stuck to him like a scarlet letter. And the way she would take out her notebook and journal next to him in bed, detailing her woes, hoping he’d see them, though he never did, chose not to, deliberately looked away.

It was in the way she never said it out loud, as if to speak it was to give it power, was to allow it to exist in the real world. She took to hovering above the ground, just over the surface, face facing floor to the point where she could smell carpet, could feel its fibers brush against her nose. When he’d walk in she’d fall to the ground with a thud and gasp in breath.

It was in the way she’d claw every available surface till there was blood under her nails and they’d break altogether, crack and splinter like wood being bombarded. It was in the way she screamed into her pillow at first, then stabbed it, then set it on fire and threw it out the window. She could still hover, now feet above the ground, now grazing the ceiling, now stuck to it.

And how he came home that night, buttons of his shirt torn off, lipstick imprints on his chest, his arms, and how she fell when she hovered that night, splitting her lip on hardwood, and how he came down to help her, put ice in a baggy and held it to her mouth, kissed her forehead to make it all better. And how it actually did make it all better, if only for a moment, before the next time.

It was him giving it a name, admitting he had a problem and that he’d stop. It was her believing him and not having to hover so much, being able to stay on the ground. It was when he came home like a wounded dog and she could see it in his eyes, wouldn’t need him to explain, to enumerate, to expound. She was done.

It was her lying facedown on the grass while he was out, and hovering gently above the blades. It was rising above the hedges, then above her house, and up still past the tallest trees in the neighborhood. It was seeing all of her neighborhood, then city, then state. It was seeing her country, her planet, then beyond the stratosphere. It was gliding past satellites, sliding swiftly and silently into the coldness of space. It was rising till she was clear of the solar system, then shifting toward milky nebulae swirling in stillness, hollow pinks and blues, then beyond even that, through black holes, flying faster now, higher, although what was higher was now lower. It was flying on beyond the infinite and only then exhaling.