Dad’s finally lost it. He’s been crying a lot lately, and drinking. And wearing his pajamas everywhere. Pajamas at the bank, pajamas at the grocery store, pajamas on dates with people he met online. I try telling him to wear pants like a normal person, but he won’t listen. ‘Pajamas are more comfy,’ he says. ‘They make me feel like I’m wrapped up in clouds.’
Tuesday night means we’re eating dinner at the kitchen table. Dad and I sit across from each other, an empty wooden chair on either side of us. I blow the steam off a bowl of mushroom soup while Dad dips celery sticks into a jar of Nutella. He chews with his mouth open. Nutella stains on his teeth make it look like he’s eating shit. ‘You still seeing that feisty redhead?’ he asks.
‘Don’t say feisty.’
‘So still seeing her?’
‘Yes. I’m seeing her.’
‘Kids your age don’t realize, but it’s possible to get a disease just by receiving head.’
‘I don’t want to talk about this.’
‘Herpes. Syphilis. Gonorrhea. Type them words into Google Images, and then come roll your eyes at me.’
‘Jesus, Dad. Okay.’
‘Being fifteen doesn’t make you invincible.’
‘I’m trying to eat.’
He licks Nutella off the tip of a celery stick. Eyes shut; he moans in satisfaction. It feels like I’m watching disturbing fetish porn. He washes the Nutella down with a swig of beer.
‘How come you never bring the redhead over here anymore?’
Because I hate it here. The air in our house smells like a rank armpit. There are Nutella stains on the doorknobs and couch cushions, and the downstairs washroom is a mess of mould, mildew, and pubic hairs. Plus, you embarrass me. You’ve gone batshit crazy, and I’m ashamed of you.
‘No reason,’ I say.
The redhead is Tess Gardener. Hair the colour of rust, freckles, pierced septum, sundresses in the spring. We do things with each other, but nothing too intense or sexy. It’s not like we’ve seen each other’s genitals or buttholes. We do take off our shirts though. Sometimes I’ll stick an ice cube in my mouth, and then I’ll suck and bite and taste her nipples. She likes when I do this, and always breathes hard, and makes sounds that remind me of goats. Afterwards we’ll kiss, sometimes for hours. She says my face is always bright red and shiny by the end of it. Then Tess will lick the sweat off my forehead and along the sides of my nose. It tickles, and leaves my face smelling like salty peppermint.
I told her I loved her once. It was over the phone, but that still counts. She was telling me a story about this Goth girl at school who likes to cut her own thighs, and I was listening, trying my best to hold onto the words, but they still came out.
‘Tess,’ I said, ‘I love you.’
She didn’t say anything at first. I listened to her breathe for a few seconds. ‘No you don’t,’ she said.
‘I think I do,’ I said.
‘No,’ she said.
We hold hands and walk down the halls at school. I squeeze her hand too hard. She tells me I’m crushing her fingers. I squeeze even harder for some reason. She punches me in the bicep. ‘Dick,’ she says. I want to break her arms and legs. I want to push her around in a wheelchair, and kiss the top of her head, and tell her dark, twisted secrets that’ll make her think I’m interesting.
Casey Lynch is in my gym class. Today he’s wearing shorts directly beneath his pants. That way he won’t have to change in front of anyone. Guys have been making fun of a birthmark he’s got on the inside of his left thigh. The birthmark is big and brown, and my friend Max said it looked like diarrhea running down Casey’s leg. We thought Casey was going to start crying, because his lip trembled, so everyone started laughing and calling him a shit-legged faggot. It was really funny, and really sad.
We’re lined up along one end of the gym. CPR tests. Casey goes first. He drops to his knees, seats himself on the backs of his heels. He turns his head to the side. His ear is an inch away from the mannequin’s mouth. He positions his hands, one on top of the other, starts pressing them into the mannequin’s chest. The foam pecks squish in and out. Casey pinches the mannequin’s nose, tilts its head back, wraps his lips around the mannequin’s mouth. Casey’s cheeks are pink and puffy. He blows.
I wake up to the sound of giggles: deep, demented giggles. It’s eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning. I walk downstairs. The floor smells like a portal potty. The giggling is coming from the living room. Dad’s lying on the floor, in his boxer shorts, with about a half a dozen bunny rabbits crawling all over him.
‘Dad,’ I say.
‘Look,’ he says.
‘They’re shitting everywhere,’ I tell him.
‘Language,’ he says.
‘They’re shitting all over you, Dad.’
‘Naw,’ he says. ‘It’s fine.’
‘Where’d you get all these?’
‘Down the street. A lady was giving them away for free. Can you believe it? Their feet will bring us good luck.’
He rolls back and forth across the floor; his naked body squashes turds. He lifts the bunnies over his head, and rubs his face into their crotches. But it gets even more fucked. There’s a tripod set up in the corner of the room, and he’s recording it all on a digital camera.
‘What the hell?’ I say. I turn off the camera.
‘So cute,’ he says.
‘Make sure you clean up all of this shit,’ I tell him.
Tess says I need to start talking more, specifically to her parents. ‘My mom and dad think you’re retarded,’ she says. ‘You never say anything to them.’
‘What am I supposed to say?’
‘Anything. Literally anything is better than nothing.’
‘Try harder, because they think you’re weird, and I can’t have my parents thinking I’m dating a weirdo. So if they’re talking about the weather, say something about the weather. If they’re talking about a television show, say something about television. If my mom gets a new haircut, compliment her fucking hair. Okay? It’s not that hard. Seriously.’
I’m invited to the Gardeners’ for dinner. The food is served in small portions. A slice of chicken breast, some string beans, half a baked potato. Drink options include water or milk. I am almost positive they will serve a bowl of fruit for dessert.
Tess is wearing a purple sweater and a black skirt. She’s sitting beside her kid sister Macy on the opposite side of the table. Macy is a tomboy. Cute kid. The same red hair and green eyes as Tess. It makes me wish I’d known Tess when she was just a little kid. I imagine us on a playground, throwing sand at each other and not caring.
Mr. Gardener is seated to my left, Mrs. Gardener to my right. My palms are sweaty. I feel intimidated by Mr. Gardener’s moustache and Mrs. Gardener’s eyebrows. They pray before they eat. Amen. I’m about to put a string bean in my mouth when Mr. Gardener begins telling a story about a coworker of his who recently gave him several jars of homemade jam.
‘That’s lovely,’ says Mrs. Gardener. ‘I’ve actually given a lot of thought to doing that myself, producing homemade jams and all. The idea intrigues me.’
‘I tried some of Bob’s jam during lunch break,’ says Mr. Gardener. ‘Orange jam. Just delicious. Spread it across a toasted biscuit.’
Tess kicks me beneath the table and I try to think of something to say. Options include a) My favorite kind of jam is raspberry jam, b) Do you guys prefer it when jam is chunky or smooth? c) Peanut butter and jam sandwiches are good, or d) Jam spelled backwards is maj.
‘Maj?’ says Mr. Gardener. ‘What exactly is maj?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
Mrs. Gardener looks at Tess. Tess looks at me. I look at my plate.
Later I’m sitting on the back porch with Tess’s sister Macy. She’s showing me a Tupperware container filled with dirt and worms. There’s a kettle of steaming water in Macy’s hands, and she’s pouring the water onto the worms. They burn and bleed and die. Macy is laughing, and maybe I’m laughing too. Tess opens the sliding glass door and tells us dessert is ready.
I’m partnered with Casey Lynch in gym class. We toss a medicine ball back and forth. I can tell he’s gay by the way he throws it. His wrists are thin and flimsy. I can see the foot of his birthmark poking out the bottom of his shorts. His hair is long and blonde and feathery, and he keeps curling it behind his ears. I throw the ball to him. It slips through his hands. He has a difficult time picking it back up. I watch him bend over. He looks like a flat-chested girl.
‘Are you okay?’ I say.
‘I don’t know.’
‘I feel a bit distracted.’
He tries rolling the medicine ball to me. It only moves a couple of feet. We let it rest between us.
‘I got fired from my job last night. My dad’s going to be really upset.’
‘I didn’t know you had a job.’
‘How would you?’
‘Where did you work?’
‘Why’d you get fired?’
He looks at me. His eyes are blue and pretty. ‘Your friend Maxwell is a prick,’ he says.
‘Max is mentally challenged,’ I say. ‘How come you got fired?’
‘Do you ever do things that don’t make any sense?’ he asks.
‘No,’ I say.
‘Sometimes I close my eyes and run.’
‘Nowhere. I close my eyes, and run, run fast, run until I run into something. It gives me a rush, I guess.’
‘Why’d you get fired?’ I ask for the billionth time.
‘I did it at work. I was mopping detergent off the floor in one of the aisles. I don’t know why I did it, but I dropped the mop, shut my eyes, and started running. I sprinted into a display of vacuum cleaners and broke a ton of them.’
I walk forward and pick up the medicine ball.
‘Do you think that’s weird?’ he asks.
‘Who knows?’ I say.
Dad complains his back is sore. Kidney stones. He’s been pissing them out for a week now. Worst part about it is he collects the stones. Dips his fingers into the bloody toilet water and picks them out. He saves them in a Ziploc bag. The bag is smeared with watery dick blood. The stones look like brown poppy seeds.
I call my mom on her birthday.
‘Sweetie! How are you?’
‘Aw. Thank you. Your mother’s getting up there, isn’t she?’
‘Nothing too exciting. Steve’s taking me to a club tonight. Can you imagine? Your mother dancing at a club? Hilarious.’
‘How are Steve’s kids and all?’
‘Good. Everyone’s great. The twins are good. Little Zachary’s smoking cigarettes now. Steve’s not too happy about that, but what can you do, right? Boys will be boys.’
‘Isn’t Zach twelve?’
‘Turning thirteen in a couple of months. You believe it? Life is short, goes by like a bullet. You kids grow up too fast. Seems like yesterday you were popping out my –’
‘Blasphemy, Sweetie. Try to watch that. Now tell me. How’s Jerry doing?’
‘He’s been feeding you?’
‘I’m fifteen. I can feed myself.’
‘An apple a day keeps the cancer at bay, Sweetie.’
‘Yeah. I know.’
‘Now listen. Your father’s been emailing me some very peculiar videos. You know what I mean?’
‘Him playing with bunnies in his underwear? Very unsettling. I’d like you to ask him to please stop sending me them. I will no longer watch them. Will you tell him that for me?’
‘Thanks, Hon. Now I really should get back to work. Thank you so much for remembering to call me. Such a good boy. I love you.’
It’s late. I walk past dad’s bedroom. The TV is still on. An infomercial for an exercise machine. Dad is sleeping. The lights are turned off. Dad’s round face is washed in an orange glare from the television. The nightstand is a clutter of empty brown bottles. There’s a pillow beside Dad’s head, the Ziploc bag of kidney stones rested atop it as though The Kidney Stone Fairy might come exchange it for money. I walk into the room and turn off the TV. I steal the bag of kidney stones and replace it with a five-dollar bill.
I tell Tess about my father. We used to go camping at Port Woodlot when I was just a little kid. We’d fish and hike and swim in the lake, and my dad used to be really interested in photography, so he’d always be taking pictures of the trees and the water and the animals. Snakes. Lizards. Squirrels. Raccoons. I remember one time he took this picture of a toad. A humungous toad. It was on the white rocks near the shoreline, just sitting there, totally relaxed. I was obsessed with the picture of that toad, so Dad got it developed for me, black and white, and he put it in a thin wooden frame. He hung it up in my bedroom. It’s still there, above my computer desk.
I don’t think Tess is listening to me. She starts talking about her own father all of a sudden. She says Mr. Gardener molested her when she was six. She woke up in a bathtub one morning, and her pussy hurt, and there was blood in the water, and Mr. Gardener was sitting outside the tub, naked, and smoking a cigarette.
‘Jesus,’ I say. ‘Tess.’
She starts laughing. ‘Naw,’ she says. ‘I’m just shitting you.’
a) That’s horrible! How could you joke about something like that?
b) Ha-ha-ha. Aw, Tess. You crack me up sometimes.
c)Wait. I’m confused. So you didn’t get raped? That was an awfully detailed lie.
I turn my head to the sky, to hundreds of stars. All of them are white, and bland. I’m not familiar with any constellations. I wish I knew how to talk to Tess, but I don’t. I feel small, insignificant when I’m with her, like a slug crawling beneath a butterfly. I keep hoping her fingers will close on my hand. I want to feel them press between my knuckles, fit inside the grooves.
Casey invites me over to his house after school. He lives on Spruce Avenue, only a few blocks away from my street. His home is a lot smaller though. A square bungalow. The inside smells like dogs and lemons. The walls and the carpets are all different shades of yellow or brown.
He introduces me to his mom. Her name is Edna. She’s nice, but dumb. She keeps asking me questions without even listening to any of the answers. Her voice is mousy and her skin is chalky. She pours us each a glass of milk. She bakes us cookies. She burns them. The kitchen fills with gray smoke. She hands us each a butter knife to scrape off the burnt bottoms.
Casey’s bedroom is in the basement. Small, just like the rest of the house. Walls are the colour of honey mustard. There’s a bed, a computer, a stack of skateboarding magazines, dirty socks, a volleyball, a flare gun, a reading lamp, a bag of pills, and a construction helmet.
We sit on his bed for a while, listening to music and eating the burnt cookies. Then Casey turns on his computer. ‘Come here,’ he says. I walk up behind him. He’s wearing a white t-shirt and tight navy jeans. There’s a picture of Bruce Lee as his desktop background. He clicks on a folder labeled Geography Notes and there are several video files inside. ‘You want to see something really disturbing?’ he asks me.
‘Okay,’ I say.
‘This actually happened,’ he says.
A man is on his knees, hands tied behind his back. There are four other men standing behind him. They have turbans wrapped around their faces. Three of them hold guns; one of them carries a chainsaw. The man on his knees is crying. He says the date. One of the other men holds a newspaper in front of the crying man’s face, and the crying man reads a few of the headlines. Then they cut off the crying man’s head with the chainsaw and hold it in front of the camera.
‘Did you hear the gargling?’ Casey asks me.
‘Yeah,’ I say.
‘You think it’s disturbing?’
‘Why’d you show me that?’
Casey goes upstairs to get a pizza his mom made us. I sit at the computer and play Tetris. He comes back a few minutes later, carrying the smell of burnt crust and cheese down with him. He puts the pizza on the bed. He stands behind me, watching me play the game. ‘You’re good,’ he says. I get game over. Casey asks if he can show me something on the computer. He reaches one arm over my right shoulder and begins handling the mouse, then reaches his other arm over my left shoulder and starts working the keyboard. He’s practically hugging me. I can feel his lips pressed against the back of my head. He’s kissing me, and his mouth keeps opening, and I can feel him eating my hair. Then his face lowers, and he’s kissing the back of my neck.
‘What are you doing?’ I ask him.
He pushes away. ‘Nothing,’ he says. ‘Can you leave now? I’m not feeling well. I want you to leave now.’
The recycling bin is full of bottles. I think Dad might be getting normal again. I’m not sure what did it. Maybe someone threatened to fire him at work, because he’s back to wearing daytime clothes, and bathing. Plus, he gave away most of the bunnies. Only kept two of them: Chubby and Skyler.
‘You going shopping this weekend?’ I ask him.
‘What do you need?’
‘I need someone to Febreze the hell out of this place, because it stinks in here.’
‘I can do that,’ he says.
We’re eating dinner in front of the television. Margarine on bagels, sliced cucumbers, fries. Dad also lets me drink as many beers as I want. By now the room is starting to spin and everything seems funnier than it is.
‘I talked to your mother,’ he says.
‘Really?’ I say.
‘Well, sort of. She emailed me. She saw something that reminded her of me and she wanted to tell me about it.’
‘What was it?’ I ask him.
‘What was what?’
‘What did she see?’ I ask him.
‘Nothing you’d understand,’ he says.
I feel tipsy, lightheaded. My fries are cold. There wasn’t any ketchup left, so the taste is plain. Dad uses mayonnaise. I watch him pour soy sauce onto his cucumbers. Drenches them in it. The green turns golden brown.
‘You want to hear a story?’ he asks.
‘I found a wallet on the backend of a toilet a few days ago.’
‘At a gas station.’
‘Was there money in it?’
‘A helluva lot.’
‘What did you do?’
‘There was a driver’s license, so I looked up whose it was. Found him in the phone book, called him, and met him. I returned his property.’
‘Was he thankful?’
‘Of course. He was real happy. Even offered to buy me a drink, but I didn’t have time. Appreciated the offer though. Made me feel appreciated. I’m glad I was the one that found the wallet, because I suspect a lot of other people would’ve just kept it for themselves.’
‘Probably. How much money was in it?’
He dabs the mayonnaise off his lips with a crumpled napkin.
‘It’s important to be good to people,’ he says.
He doesn’t look at me.
‘You’re my boy,’ he says. ‘You’ve got to be one of the good ones.’ His face is cracking. There are lines I’ve never noticed. I finally see how tired he is.
‘I’ve had a rough year,’ he says.
‘I know, Dad.’
‘It feels good to know my boy’s one of the good ones.’
I’m on top of Tess. My waist between her thighs, she’s biting my shoulders. The couch in her basement is a gray futon. It feels like we’re dry humping on a patch of stormy clouds. She’s wearing a Metallica tank top, gray sweatpants, and her hair is so red and pretty it burns everything inside of me when I look at it. I pull on the collar of her shirt, stretch it out, pull on her bra, start putting her boobs in my mouth. She smells like cherry candy. My guts twist like pretzels. I start to cry.
‘Hey,’ she says. ‘What’s the deal?’
I’m pressing my face into her stomach so she won’t see me. The tears soak into her shirt. She tells me to take off her pants and underwear. I do it, and I’m crying, and she has more pubes than I expected. Legs spread apart. Her pussy looks like a Venus flytrap.
‘Talk dirty,’ she says.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Call me something awful.’
‘I don’t want to.’
‘You’re a bitch.’
‘Is that all?’
‘Bitch-cunt. You’re a cunt. I’ll bunt you in the fucking cunt.’
‘You’ll bunt me?’
‘With a bat.’
We don’t have sex because I can’t stop crying. I just love her so much it makes me feel completely crazy and incredibly sad, especially since she won’t love me back. I try to hug her but she pushes away. We sit up on opposite sides of the couch. I try to say something important. I need her to know I’m not as simple as she thinks. I ask her if she believes in God. She laughs and tells me not to be a fag.
Maxwell Mior and Ollie Burns and Jim Danko and I are all standing along the front of Casey Lynch’s driveway. It’s two o’clock in the morning. We’re dressed in all black; shirts, pants, ski masks. I feel like a ninja. Each of us is holding onto our own carton of eggs. Max points to a window next to the garage and asks if that’s where Casey sleeps. ‘No,’ I say. ‘His room is in the basement. Just aim wherever.’
Max counts us down.
Forty-eight eggs lasts us about ten to fifteen seconds.
After that we’re running down the street as fast as we can. I’m the only one who keeps his ski mask on. It’s difficult to breathe inside of it, but I don’t care. It feels like my face is on fire and I like it. I run faster. My muscles burn. I feel completely fucking reckless right now. I sprint. My legs are unable to keep up with me. I stumble to the ground, scrape my arms against the pavement. Gravel sticks to the blood. I start screaming. Not because I’m hurt, but because I can I can I can. Screaming, and soon the other guys are screaming with me. It’s like we’re the only four people left on earth, and we scream out for help, to God, or to aliens, or to whatever else assholes believe in.
Lights turn on in some of the houses. We stop screaming and continue to run.
The phone rings on a Sunday morning.
‘Hey. I need to talk to you.’
‘I need to talk to you right now, in person. You dressed?’
Her voice is cold and I shiver. It feels like spiders are on the back of my neck, slowly creeping down my spine. I look at a picture of Tess I’ve got on my nightstand. She’s wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and big purple sunglasses. Her tongue is stuck out and she’s flipping the bird.
‘Do you need to tell me something bad?’ I ask.
I keep looking at the picture as if it’s what I’m talking to. I love you, Tess. Quit flipping me off. I want to break your fucking fingers. I want to hold you beneath blankets and fall asleep forever.
‘Tell me now.’
‘I really think we should meet in person.’
‘No. Just tell me.’
She says she doesn’t know how to say it. Then she says it. ‘I cheated on you.’
My eyes hurt. It’s hard to keep them open. I feel something blocking my voice, like wet packs of sand clogging my throat. Inhale. My stomach feels like I’m about to shit it out of me. Exhale.
‘Did you have sex with him?’
‘No. We only made out.’
‘For how long?’
‘What does it matter?’
‘I don’t know. A long time, maybe. An hour?’
I hang up the phone. It feels like my lungs are collapsing into my guts, so I sit on the edge of my bed and search for air. Breathe. Just breathe. I stand up, run toward the wall, smash my forehead into it. My neck hurts. I start punching the wall until my fist breaks through it. There are cuts on my knuckles but I can’t feel them.
I call Tess back.
‘Yeah. Maybe we should meet up.’
‘Okay. Can you come here though? I can’t leave my house right now.’
‘Are your parents home?’
‘No. Only Macy. That’s why I can’t leave.’
‘Okay. Be there in fifteen minutes.’
The air smells like barbeque smoke. No clouds. Grass in front of houses is parched, brown and yellow. I walk. I breathe. I daydream. I think about my mom for some reason. I remember when I was just a little kid; she used to wear her hair up in a blonde beehive. It reminded me of yellow cotton candy. I’d pick at it, stab my fingers into the tresses. She told me my hands better be clean.I also remember waking up in the middle of the night with growing pains. My legs would throb, and I’d call out for help. They took turns coming to see me, sometimes Mom, other times Dad. I preferred it when my mom came though. She would rub my legs and sing ‘Rainbow Connection’ and sit beside me until the pain disappeared. And the pain always did disappear, because Mom was magic.
Dad wasn’t magic. His hands were so big and rough and warm, they made my legs feel like they hurt even more. I’d have to pretend to fall back asleep so he’d go away.
I arrive at Tess’s house. I knock on the door. There are cuts on my hand and a bruise on my forehead, but the only thing that hurts is my stomach. She opens the door and steps outside. We’re standing on the front patio. Her arms are wrapped around herself, like she’s cold, but it’s hot out.
‘Hi,’ she says.
I don’t say anything.
Her hair is dry and flat and I prefer it this way. She’s wearing a white tank top and torn jeans. There are fluffy pink slippers on her feet. If I wanted to kiss her she’d let me.
‘Who did you cheat on me with?’
‘Who the hell is that?’
‘He’s in my Media Studies class. He’s older.’
I try to imagine what he looks like but all I can picture is an anus.
‘I don’t even like him,’ she says. ‘And we were high, if that makes any difference. I know it doesn’t though. There are no excuses.’
Children play road hockey in the street in front of the house. Their rollerblades purr against the cement. It reminds me of being young and dumb and oblivious, back when I drank chocolate milk and it was easy to fall asleep at night.
Tess can’t even look at me.
‘Look at me!’
‘You’re a miserable cunt. A slut. A fucking germ farm. And you were never nice to me. Go choke on a dick and die and get raped by a million dicks in hell you bitch.’
I turn and start walking down the steps of the porch. The front door slams behind me. Then I hear the scream. It’s sharp enough to cut into my skin, echo through my veins. I run back up the steps, start pounding on the door. ‘Tess!’ I yell.
The door opens a few inches.
‘Tess. What the hell was that? Are you okay?’
‘I just had to let something out of me,’ she says.
‘Open the door.’
It opens. Her skin is white and she’s shaking. She starts crying.
‘Tess,’ I say.
‘What do you want?’ she says.
‘What do you care? Just go.’
‘I can’t leave you crying.’
‘I always fuck everything up,’ she says.
‘Me too,’ I say.
She walks into my chest and waits for me to wrap my arms around her, which I do. I hold her until her body stops trembling. She dries her eyes on my neck. I tell her I’m sorry for what I said. She tells me to never let go of her, but I do. I let go. Her body doesn’t smell good to me anymore. She enters the house and I walk back home.
A pink glow wraps around the sun. Dad is grilling sausages on the barbeque. He’s wearing work pants and a golf shirt and he shaved off his beard recently, so he looks about ten years younger.
‘You look good, Dad,’ I tell him.
‘Yeah. You actually look a lot like me now.’
‘Your mother used to say we make the same expressions.’
The bunnies are playing on the grass. I wonder if they’ll screw and make more bunnies eventually. Dad walks over to them and starts picking them up.
I’m sitting on the steps of the deck. Ants crawl across the wood. I’m wearing shorts and the sun feels good against my legs. I wonder what Tess is eating for dinner.
Dad calls me over. ‘Come see this,’ he says. He’s standing beside the garden next to the chain link fence. I take off my socks and walk over to him. The grass feels warm and prickly. ‘Look,’ he says, pointing at the soil. An anthill sticks out from the ground like a bruise.
‘Aren’t you supposed to spray them with something?’ I ask.
‘What do you mean?’
‘They’ll kill the grass.’
Dad smiles. He unbuckles his belt.
‘What are you doing?’
He unzips his pants, pulls out his dick and starts pissing on the ants.
‘Dad,’ I say.
No response. His piss smells like coffee. I check to see if the neighbors are watching. Then I walk back to the deck and check on the food. The meat looks ready. I call Dad. ‘One minute,’ he says. He’s putting himself back inside his pants. I sit back down on the porch. There’s a splinter of wood peeling off one of the steps. I press my hand against it. There’s blood on my palm now. I pick up a bunny and have him nibble it off for me.
‘I egged your house.’
‘Did it take long to clean?’
‘Do you hate me?’
‘You’re a loser. Everyone who goes to this school is a loser.’
‘Do you hate me?’
‘Do you want to hang out after school?’
‘I do hate you.’
‘Do you want to hang after school? I’m sorry.’
It’s late, or early. Two o’clock in the morning. I’m standing in the middle of the street outside Tess’s house. The light in her bedroom is off. The blue curtains are black. I shut my eyes. I start walking. My heart rate quickens until it feels like a drum roll. I run. My eyes are shut and I’m running. Sneakers slapping against the pavement. The air is either cool or warm, but it smells like nothing. I will run until something stops me, blocks me, stands in my way. The sound of a car in the distance. A dog barking. A garage door closing. My mouth stretches until I’m smiling, breathing fast and loud. I will run forever, if that’s how long it takes to get to where I’m going.About the author:
Mark Jordan Manner is currently a student at York University where he received the 2011 President’s Prize for Fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ricepaper Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Untoward Magazine, Red Lightbulbs, among others, and his story ‘Poem About Writing A Poem’ recently earned 1st place in Bartleby Snopes Third Annual Dialogue Competition. His writing lives here: markjordanmanner.blogspot.com. His music lives here: meandtheinfinitelovely.bandcamp.com.