Paternity

“You son of a bitch.” That’s what he said. That’s what the man heard sitting at the bar. “You son of a bitch,” the kid said a second time when the man at the bar old enough to be his father didn’t respond. You don’t respond right away to son of a bitch if you’re sitting at a bar. You take your time. You want to turn around real slow if you turn around at all and see who said it, see if they’re talking to you and if they are talking to you it may be a fight whether you are one or not. So he started turning real slow. “You raped my mother. I’m your son.” “So that’s it,” thought the man half turned from the bar. This guy is my son. He looks like me. “Glad to meet you,” he said. “Buy you a drink?” The younger […]

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An Open Letter to His Honor The Mayor

Your Honor, Let’s talk about prejudice. You have in public hearing referred to the Daughters of the Confederacy as Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and Liars and you have said it does not matter what those women say about themselves, what really matters is what you say about them. Remember they are women and you are a man. Remember they are private citizens and you are a Public Servant. Remember you have never met any of them personally or spoken to any of them personally, but you have liabled them and slandered them in public as Mayor of the City of Madison. Although you represent the city in its entirely, you alone have done this. Remember you alone ordered the removal of a privately funded monument in Forest Hill Cemetery and now belatedly seek approval from other city committees as a tacit endorsement of your executive and exclusive actions. You find the […]

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Paradise

It happens everywhere. You don’t have to escape or go anywhere. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then let’s go to a perfect night. The air is sweet, not altogether wet with rain or mist but ready, moist and humid. It haunts the senses on the other side of a doorway or a window left open for the draft. It doesn’t need be open very far to let in the air, the outside air so sweet and fragrant and full of darkness. You need to be warm and cozy, safe and snug, but you need the contrast lightly fanning your face, suggesting glittering drops on distant limbs and the sway of branches bare or leaf abundant. It will help if you are home and therefore can come to a new place without restraint or fear. You’re safe. Say it again, “I’m safe,” and know the feeling. You know […]

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Polishing The Rust

“Do not forsake me, oh my darling.” He sang as he worked. “On this our wedding day.” He polished his truck. “Do not forsake me, oh my darling.” His pickup truck. “Wait. Wait along.” He made love to her on the hood of this pickup truck. “I do not know what fate awaits me.” He polished that hood now. “I only know I must be brave.” She left him for another man. “And I must face a man who hates me.” He did not know the man. “Or lie a coward, a craven coward;” He rubbed really hard to get off every bug. “Or lie a coward in my grave.” Perhaps the man had a new pickup truck. “Oh to be torn ‘twixt love and duty.” A truck that didn’t need polishing. “S’posin’ I lose my fair haired beauty.” Or maybe the guy could pay to have it polished. “Look […]

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Road Kill

It’s war. The crew stood there with their shovels and rakes and the big guy walked up to the foreman and the foreman spoke first. “What’s up?” “That,” said the big guy. He pointed to a dead deer on the side of the road they were building, on the other side of a concrete barrier to keep them from being killed while they worked on the road from passing motorists who tended not to slow down or give much of a good goddamn about road construction crews unless warned and threatened with massive fines or the presence of a state trooper in a marked car with flashing lights and lots of radios and radar. “What about it?” asked the foreman. The big guy looked at him. The big guy had a wife and three kids and he needed this job. He could do the work of two or three, but […]

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Found Objects

You might look around and see things that make you remember. It made him stop short. He saw it in the garage on a shelf where he kept his important tools and things he intended to use again or thought likely he would need and there he saw it, the small yellow container with a black lid screwed on. He’d kept it for decades, used it once decades ago, a container of black carborundum grinding compound, industrial abrasive made into paste for Hardened Steel Seats or Cast Blocks the faded writing said on the back of the yellow container, still smudged with residue of the one and only original job and the black tin lid rusty from years of neglect and storage. He remembered. He remembered it all the night he used it, the night he used it back on the farm in Iowa in the rude shed after he […]

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ANCESTORY

I come from good people. I always wanted a brother, until the day I realized if I got one he’d be a pest. That’s why this picture of my father and his brother as little boys is so funny. Dad’s wearing a play suit and a bowler sun hat turned up around the brim and his brother is head and shoulders taller beside the Island house. The sunlight always looks so brilliant, almost forced, as if it had the ability to burn the paper they used the print the old deckle edged photographs. It must have been necessary to give the film to the attendant down at the general merchandise store and tell him how many prints you wanted and wait a week or more for the development. A week didn’t seem like too long to wait for your pictures. I waited a long time for my brother. They never […]

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The Tool Box

All tools tell a story.   The tools lay before her, a hodgepodge to any other eye, but to hers and in her hands, a series of instruments worthy of any surgeon. A set of files, venerable and well used, a clamp so old it belonged in a museum, a wooden handle to fit the files, a series of drill bits, a router bit, a couple screw drivers, a chuck key and an Allen wrench, all the necessary accoutrements to build herself a man, for that is what she intended. She intended to build herself a man. She’d been working on him a long time. These tolls would complete the job. She’d have herself a man to her own specifications. The stature would be about six feet tall, maybe a little taller. That would compliment her height. She wanted to be able to look him in the eye. He’d be […]

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Gates of Heaven

The wrought iron hung on two hinges between two posts without a fence, just a gate set at the entrance of a garden to which he had come as a stranger in need of comfort, any comfort, but a glass of water would do, with or without the glass. “May I help you?” she asked. “Excuse me,” he said. “Could I trouble you for a drink of water?” He looked nice enough, tall and slender and sad about the eyes. What kind of a man asks a woman in a sheer cotton dress for water in the cool of the shade beneath the branches of her trees in the middle of the day? “I could just take a drink from the garden hose,” he ventured. “Go ahead,” she said and he turned on the hose, held the spout to his lips and drank deeply. When he had done he did […]

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Tango

“I find in life we get what we need most when we need it most.” Julie – The Tango Room   1 It proved difficult to find. Three times I passed on foot before the door appeared set back surrounded by an ivy covered wall. Entering, I beheld an angel. 2 “We try to decorate,” she said. “Saturday nights we have a social gathering. We dress. It really is a family.” Yet, if every wall were barren, every color drab, the atmosphere, the expectancy of ecstasy in motion would be here. The room, this empty room exuded promise. “Last weekend,” she said, “we had eighty people.” 3 “Not the legs. Not the arms,” he said. “With your body. So. Is this clear?” Then he began. Always with the understated elegance of a gentleman, un gentilhombre one might say. “You see, just so.” Teaching with a fine internal line of rhythm, […]

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