Tuesday, December 20, 2011


thing in my head goes off
while i'm still waking up
most of my life of course
though what that would be
doesn't mean it actually means
and since it's impossible
to even discuss it is that mistake
of much: the subject believes
in experience, but not "outside"
just as much (which means little)
can say that the subject only is
itself filtered through body or soul.
what is direct?  a process separating
and suturing experiencers?
just as much (which means little)
say that the subject is one form.

old men believe they did something
or because they did it long ago
that it is of interest to the young
no matter how mundane.
something like "maxwell house
for 50 years" or "the first coffee
was maxwell house 50 years ago."

Monday, December 5, 2011


as a man apologizes.  not that i have a right to.

i do something matters.  as if as if as if.

no one wanting personal therapy.  as if a self.

as if a body, limited, can make no assumptions.

measure something by consequence?  nonsensical?

not a soul, i imagine.  not that matters.

the heart of the issue.  accept nothing.

don't think i'll be scared.  probably will.

moving on, masks become face, which is all faces anyway.

present moment not doing much of anything.

mostly nothing and trying for it (nothing) hard.

mostly phases or phase.  as if one big phase.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Date

We'd gone up to this mountain road lookout thing for the date. It was cold outside, and I'd dressed for the weather. She hadn't. Since it was a date, I gave her my jacket. You could see a lot of the city up there, most of it really, all the way over to where the bay curved near downtown. We talked for a while about our hometown, the restaurants and bars we liked. Both of us grew up there, and met there, but never really talked. And now that we were in this new city, and we were lonely, we went on this date together, hoping it'd work out so we wouldn't be so lonely. At least that's how I felt.

“What about chocolate?” she asked. “Light or dark?”

“I like dark,” I said smiling.

“I like light,” she said. “Milk.”

I kept thinking about all the friends I left behind moving up here. It was making me sad, and I was on a date, so I tried not to think about it, but that didn't work. I had a lot of friends back there.

“What about movies?” she asked. “Do you like dramas or comedies?”

“I kind of like horror the most.”

“Oh,” she said. “I like comedies.”

The date wasn't going so good. I started thinking about how weird it was, that all those people I hadn't seen in so long, two years now, were just right over there, to the left, way over all that land, living, doing whatever they did, eating dinner and checking the mail and watching TV, and I was sitting up here, missing them, and they were just right over there, alive.

“What about soda? Coke or Pepsi?”

“Pepsi,” I said.

“Coke,” she said. She sounded almost sad. Maybe she was missing her friends too. The date was going really bad. I started to think it was probably a bad idea, the two of us.

“Dogs or cats?” she asked.

“Cats,” I said.

“Me too!” she said. Most people picked dogs, but we both liked cats. She smiled. It seemed like the date was getting better.

“Winter or summer?”

“What about spring?”

“No,” she said. “Winter or summer?”

“Not fall either?”

“No,” she said.

I felt nauseous. Just when things were starting to go good, I thought.

“Summer,” I said.

“Winter,” she said. I'd been wrong again.

I drove her home down the mountain road. We smoked cigarettes and afterward I didn't like the taste in my mouth. It felt dusty and dry. She had a soda with her, a Coke, and I wanted to ask for a drink. But it was our first date, and I didn't know if that was okay. I tried to think of something to say, but I could only think about the way my mouth tasted. I decided I should stop smoking from now on. As we pulled up to her house, I couldn't stand it any more.

“Can I have a drink of your soda?” I asked.

She looked at me and she looked almost angry.

“I thought you liked Pepsi,” she said, and she shut the car door, taking the drink with her. I drove to a gas station and bought a Pepsi, which was very good. It wasn't as cold down in the city as it was up on the mountain. The date had gone as bad as it could go. We would not be seeing each other again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Erotic Story

They never told me whether and I wanted to and they had paint.  I watched through my holes yoga women which did something.  He thought he was a respecter of women because he said he liked eyes more than he liked their breasts.  I liked the idea of not liking anything particularly though I thought of licking and liked it too.  I was thanked and watched hers.  I liked knowing that licking was not liked particularly.  I was thanked again and watched through my holes, it didn't really matter how.  Looking was mostly not liked.  But they never told me and I wanted to.  Later I thanked women then bought something like a sleeve of paper cups.  A woman wore something but I don't remember.  He reminded me and was thanked and I was later thanked for not looking and for being reminded.  I wasn't able to say anything else and I thought of cinnamon buns.  They didn't say they liked this.  I mostly wanted to be with them but I thought of cinnamon buns instead and I was thanked this time by more women than ever before.  They soon didn't thank me and I went back to buying things at the bakery or the party supply store.  After I didn't care I just imagined I watched through my holes.  He told me what she wore and finally I watched hers.  I didn't like the feeling and was thoroughly thanked.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

if then why'd you ever born about said 3


they're swamped under the waves the
      seaweeds chew greener

the thing you told me not to do lasted outdoors
      it sand trapped my pelvic region

taking the bus might to soothe the hair
      for relaxing might on legs

you can't stand as he above to whom dogs
      toward in spring patio asks who slow

the neanderthals hunting elk meat
      conservation looked geographic

potted compost tinges skins is
      the wind is he's mouthing

it's not trying to be anything if morning not while
      dipped fur and loving me

guttered jaw tasting lands on
      barbecued frozen fish lamps

can't stay out all night possibly goes swims
      hearing windows didn't

sure first night waiting a minute gives stopping
      some sauce for processed bread

baby where you going if not for fair trade
      turkish rugs like bubbled glass

connect the wheels to the microwave
      conservation compost consume compost

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

if then why'd you ever born about said 2


offered caramel fruit in of the walls
      sadly wooden moments bamboo

that too drinks bubble grass
      until lips percussion dying found her

wake me up in freshening
      tasting lands told me you loved

if morning not while and not shelving
      dipped fur before until after shivered

antelope skull taking the bus soothing
      wind-covered mouths chew

if then why'd you ever born about said
      dig in trees time start business but enjoy

set there fog as he above to whom dogs
      felt under that more nods see the beyond

barbecuing fish in an earthen cave
      when something not of nature

the because something not of nature makes
      that's still pictures possibly goes swims

other islet but will to through every though
      all still like in the cracks

it connects its own carries toward in spring patio
      didn't it sweet outdoors asks who slow

I felt their tips under waves
      right there in the parking lot

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

if then why'd you ever born about said


be thinking how strange it'd be
     to say wants rug or goat horns

or any future contexts of it
     and if music is permitted

the neanderthals are in mountains
     then don't miss you

there meaning to me
     nature mostly in windows

that hides are rugs too of bubbled glass
     pink flashes between trees

picture it puncturing antelope skull
     with walking stick

one time I say to him you've
     dug yourself into an earthen cave

looking like a succulent diorama one's
     on a bluetooth talks to self

freshening light green air let's say
     of a commune someone's planning

and then they come up they rip his limbs off
     right there in the parking lot

drunken of that so snow-driven
     trees and the brown hairs that cover

and some at the lake you're feeding
     processed white bread

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Wedding

“We have to get married,” she’d said. “My father’s dying.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t rush this,” I’d said (or something like that).

“We have to. He’s dying now.”

”Well,” I’d said.

“No one else can give me away.”

I’d thought about it for a few minutes, I remember.

“Okay,” I’d said.

The wedding took place at the hospital. It was late in the treatments, as the doctors had called them, and the old man was well past the point of walking. Her family had wanted to use the hospital cafeteria, but it wasn’t possible. Instead, they’d moved the old man to a bigger room, the largest they said, and her family had put up flowers everywhere, and a path leading right up to the bed, where they had the old man plugged in.

What we did, you see, was we stood in the hallway, all the doctors and nurses rushing past, folks in wheelchairs, her in her gown. And when the music started we walked into the room, where everyone (mostly her family) stood near the walls, and we walked through the flowers and around the small corner to the bed, where the old man lay in his tux. I found out later that the doctors didn’t really want to be moving him around much, during these last treatments, so her mother had, it turns out, cut open the back of the tux and sort of, well, draped it over him and tucked it under, which actually didn’t look so bad.

So when we got to the bed we turned and faced the same direction as the old man, her closest to him—she held his hand throughout—and the preacher came around from by the wall and read the vows with his back to the audience (or whatever you’d call them). It was hard for me to concentrate, I remember, with the old man laying there, that air compressor thing sighing every few seconds, a steady beep (was there I beep? I imagine a beep) keeping time. You see, he was in pretty bad shape at that point, as I said before, and so a couple times, and once even during the ring exchange, he’d give these big coughs that sounded just awful. I figured it was because he’d smoked so long, but the doctors said it was his way of cleaning himself out, or something along those lines. And then when it was time to kiss….

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I forgot to mention that when we came in at first that he was supposed to “give her away” to me, which is why we were getting married right that moment, and in that hospital room. But when we came around the corner, and I saw him lying there, tubes in his hand and tubes in his nose, the old man was fast asleep, snoring even. I remember a couple folks in the room even tried waking him up, making polite sounds like clearing their throats or “accidentally” elbowing the wall. But it didn’t work, you know. I mean, he was out of it at that point.

So what happened was that I guess the preacher figured maybe if he spoke for a bit, you know, quoted from the good book, the sound of his voice might wake the old man up. So he started in with something from Luke or John, if I recall (I’m not too good with that kind of stuff), something Jesus had said about loving each other and family and whatnot, but the old man still wasn’t waking up. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it but for a moment there I couldn’t help but worrying that he’d just died right then, you know, as we walked into the room. And I also remember wondering just why in the hell no one bothered waking him up before we came in the room, since he couldn’t have just fallen asleep that second.

But anyway so the preacher kept getting louder and louder, you know, but he was sort of doing it, well, incrementally I guess, or in time or something, because it was kind of going along with what he was saying, getting more passionate I guess. And what happened was the preacher just kept getting louder, I think he was nervous or something, and soon he was practically shouting these words Jesus said about loving each other, which is pretty funny if you think about it, at least to me.

And finally the old man woke up, just as the poor preacher looked about out of hope, since he’d already read something like half a page or so. Everyone in the room sighed. And then, probably worried the old man might pass back out, the preacher guided the old man into “giving her away,” and of course a lot of people got teary-eyed, you know. It was actually pretty touching.

Then he’d read through the vows and all that, and we did the ring exchange thing, and it came time to end the ceremony and do the kiss. I remember we looked over at the old man during this, because what they’d had us do for the final part was move over to where the preacher had been, so everyone could see us clear and get their cameras and camcorders and all that ready. And so we looked over at the old man and he was staring at us, you see, staring as though he knew just what was going on. It was the first time he’d looked alright in a few weeks, and that just about broke everyone’s heart. My girl started crying a bit, and if you look at some of the pictures of us kissing you can kind of see her makeup running down a bit, if you look for it.

Then the ceremony ended and we all hung out for a couple hours in the hospital room, since that’s where we were doing the reception, too. We drank cider (the hospital wouldn’t let us bring alcohol, not even wine, inside, since it was supposedly it was against the law) and had cake and all that, and my wife looked real happy about it, and though it’s not really how I’d expected everything to go down, I guess I was pretty happy with it, too.

It would sound better if the old man died the next day or so, but it didn’t happen that way. Truth is, he actually hung on for a while after that. Everyone kept expecting it to happen, you know, any day, but he actually turned around quite a bit. They even let him out for a while, and he got to go back home one last time, though he still had to stay in bed. We’d go by and visit a lot and then one day he wasn’t taking his pills so they had to bring him back and give them to him through an IV or whatever. And he got worse and then better and then worse again and then finally he died, about a month or so after the wedding.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


In creosote bushes
and deep puddles
of Coors Light,
the desert had fallen
to raise a spraypainted yard.
This is where we are
camping with dinosaurs
(can be tough). Monks'
shirts and serviettes will
keep you in animation.
We are open to something,
still alive in oil and tar,
the magic of not-caring,
especially of not-knowing.
We learn how to share
our bodies even when
we are disassembled online.
The sky is emptied by
moonlight that colors
the dirt blue. Our feelings
seem ocher, and are
embellished when disgusting,
quieted when true.

(Rylynn frowns at the bourbon
on the belt conveyor.
Nedra smiles knowingly
and shakes her head.
Tacy, Brock, Amberly,
Bevin, and Briffany
back away frightened.)

He would have liked
to call her. Where have you
learnt this good news? she
might ask. He'd look at
his rough palms questioningly.

I see everything culturally—
even plants and geology,
the backgrounds to epochs
and genres.
Saturdays under the bridge,
I'm raising a family of reptiles.
I believe it without understanding.
God save the King Cobras.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Pup

The boy, low on money, went to visit his father. Angry with himself and feeling weak for having to do so, he vowed not to show any gratitude. Normally he wouldn’t accept the money, but he’d quit is job and his father had offered and, really, he needed it. Rent was due.

The drive down the washboard dirt road was long and therefore annoying. It was hot out, his AC didn’t work. It puzzled him that his father couldn’t just live in the city, closer to his job. He could appreciate nature but this, this dry and hostile land of cactus and rattlesnake, was too much. A rabbit darted in front of his truck and he pushed down on the gas, forcing the frightened creature through a barbed-wire fence. He hated the desert.

His father’s trailer, a single-wide, sat at the end of the property line, fifteen miles through dirt and mesquite. A decorative yet dangerous patch of cactus lined the front porch, installed the year previous by his stepmother. Unlike his father, his stepmother was a good person, honest and compassionate. A once pretty woman, a woman who’d actually raised her children rather than allowing her over-worked spouse to do so while she drank herself away and watched football. Apart from the fact that his father had aged well, appearing fit and handsome into his fifties, the boy couldn’t understand why his stepmother was attracted to the old man. The entire family, especially his sister, kept telling him to give his father another chance, that he’d changed. After all, he didn’t drink or smoke anymore (though these were doctor’s orders) and he’d had his job, a well paying one at that, for over two years (though it was his first in fifteen.) “I’ll give him credit for that,” the boy told his sister, “if he keeps it up another year. It never lasts.” This upset his sister but she knew it was true: their father had lost many jobs, and usually his sobriety ventures lasted less than a month. “Still,” the sister had said, “he’s trying.”

But even so, even if he was trying, did it make up for the years? The forgotten birthdays and complete lack of financial help, even in the form of federally-regulated child support. Yet in all those years of not assisting the family his father could still afford a case of beer and pack of cigarettes. Every day. What about that money? Not much, sure, but enough for lunch money, enough for a real haircut, enough to afford a yearbook at the end of senior year.

Climbing out of his truck he was immediately assaulted by the dogs, cute and friendly and dirty and covered in fleas and ticks, the large purple-bodied ones found deep in the fur and clustered in the ears. He recalled, long ago, watching his father burn the ticks off one of his dogs using a heated piece of metal. “It’s the only way to kill them,” his father had said, red tick-juice dripping from his fingers. He patted each of them, including a new pup he’d never seen before, and made his way up the porch to the front door, knocking. His stepmother’s son, a bright but indifferent young boy answered, beckoning him in with feigned interest.

It was cooler inside. First he cleaned his hands of the dogs, using the dishwashing soap above the sink. His stepbrother trailed off down the hallway and soon lasers and screaming were heard. He stood alone in the empty kitchen, which adjoined the living room, wondering if maybe he should just leave, find a new job, sell some stuff. He checked the fridge, finding a six pack of non-alcoholic beer. Pathetic. A door closed behind him and he turned to find his stepmother drying her hair with a dull pink towel, beaming at him.

“Hey honey,” she said, embracing him with an authentic smile. “How are you?”


“I almost forgot how handsome you are. You know, you look just like your father. Let me go wake him up, he’s taking a nap.”

“I can come back another time?”

“No, no, no. He wants to see you. Plus he has some money for you, but don’t tell him I said so,” she said, and entered the master bedroom attached to the living room. He wasn’t surprised to hear his father was sleeping at this time. It wasn’t even six yet, and it was Saturday. The old man had probably awaken early and was already passed out drunk, hence the six NA’s left in the fridge. It was all so typical, and he laughed inwardly at his sister’s naïveté.

“He’ll be out in a minute,” said his stepmother, emerging, “he’s getting dressed.”


“Sit down,” patting the couch cushion beside her, “tell me what’s going on.”

In the twenty minutes it took his father to get dressed she managed to fill him in on every detail of her life since she’d last seen him, around Christmas.

“And did you see Banjo?”


“Our new puppy, the beagle. Your daddy got me him for my birthday. He’s such a sweetheart.” The boy didn’t know if she meant the dog or his father. After a few more laser blasts from the other room and what sounded like a school-bus being dropped from the clouds into a rock quarry, the master bedroom door opened and his father came out, wearing a pair of torn jeans and looking quite awful. His hair was disheveled, his eyes bloodshot. Twenty minutes and he couldn’t even manage a shirt.

“Hey, kiddo,” said the old man, placing a large hand on his son’s shoulder and giving a not so gentle squeeze. “What’s up?”

“Not much,” said the son, watching his father ease into a recliner. “Same old.”

“You still in school?”

“Yeah,” said the boy, masking his irritation at the question. “I’ll be done next year.”

“Cool,” said his father, who leaned back and sighed. The old man’s flesh had loosened up a bit since the last time the boy saw him, and it now sagged more around his once hard stomach. Most of his chest hair was grey now, overcrowding the dark brown hairs that somehow still prevailed upon his head, much like his sons’. And his eyes weren’t even bloodshot, but completely red, a solid dark spot forming in one corner that didn’t look very healthy. The tattoo on his arm was nearly faded, and white spots of what was likely some form of skin cancer flecked his shoulders and biceps. The old man had spent his life in the sun, working construction jobs until they fired him for drinking on the clock or showing up hammered.

“Do you want something to drink?” asked his father. “A beer?”

“No thanks.”

“Do we have any beer?” the father asked the stepmother, whose smile was only partly sarcastic.

“No, you know we don’t,” she said playfully. Turning to the son, “We don’t keep any beer in the house anymore. I let him have one a week now, on Sunday or Monday, when he watches the game.”

“Yeah,” said the old man, who seemed to begin thinking about the game.

“He’s a lot grumpier now, the old fart, but maybe he’ll live to see some grandchildren now.”

“Yeah,” the old man repeated, half-asleep.

“Oh, you know what,” the stepmother said with bright wide eyes, “I’ll go pick up some from the super-market, I need to pick up some things for dinner anyway.”

“Don’t worry,” said the son, “I’m fine.”

“You do like beer?”

“Yeah.” Pause. “Occasionally.”

“I’ll be right back then.” She leaned over the old man, kissed him on the forehead, picked up her truck keys and vanished out the door. Silence closed in, the son looked at the mix of southwestern kitsch and football memorabilia covering the walls.

“You see that new Scorsese?” the father asked. This was the usual. Hour-long movie discussions, their film tastes being about the only thing they seemed to have in common.

“Yeah, it was good. Did you?”

“Yeah. Oh, that part where they’re all lined up and the camera just goes down them, all getting shot, that fucking rolled, man,” his father said with a laugh.

“Yeah,” said the boy, trying not to agree too much, though he did. It occurred to him how strange it was that they always did enjoy the same movies, at least since he was a teenager and developed some opinion. In other regards there wasn’t much common ground. The old man only listened to classic rock, the son liked reading, the old man loved sports, the son was able to enjoy a few drinks here and there without his life falling apart.

“Seen any other good flicks lately?” asked his father, who got up to pour a glass of water.

The son began to answer but the front door interrupted him, bursting open as his stepmother came flailing into the house, screaming with black tears flowing through her mascara.

“Oh, God! Oh, God!” she moaned, “I hit him, I hit him with the truck!”

“Hit who?” the father shouted, already out the front door, his wife clinging to his arm. “Hit who?” he asked louder, grabbing her.

“Banjo,” she cried, “I hit Banjo.”

“Goddammit,” the old man said, halfway down the drive. The boy followed them outside, his stomach turning upside-down.

“Where?” asked his father.

“By the truck,” moaned the woman. “I couldn’t stop, he just ran out in front of me. I couldn’t stop oh God oh God I hit him.”

They approached the truck. The engine was running, driver’s side door still open, headlights glaring through the dusty southwestern air. The old man crouched in the tumbled dirt; the pup was nowhere to be seen.

“I killed him” wept the woman, wiping her face across her sleeve.

“Where is he?”

“He ran off, over by the house.”

“Well Christ then, let’s go find him.”

The boy’s stepbrother, watching the commotion from the porch, came and took his mother’s arm. “Take her inside and get us flashlights,” instructed the old man. The young boy hurried his mother away and into the trailer.

The son and his father walked together in the last of the dusk, pink screaming from beyond the mesas, outlining the ridges. The snakes, warmed, slithered back to their holes. The young step-son came out with two flashlights.

“Go back to your mother,” said the old man. Then, to his son, “Come on, let’s find the stupid fucker.” They split up at the porch and the son watched his father walk away. He noticed the old man wasn’t wearing any shoes, and that they also walked the same, a fact his mother pointed out year’s ago, when he was proud to be his father’s son. He hunched over and directed the light below the trailer, walking its perimeter while stepping over bicycle parts and mesquite thorns. Enormous ants and fluffy white bugs covered the desert floor, fleeing from his footfalls. The sun was gone now. He called the pup’s name.

“Banjo!” in a loud whisper. “Banjo!”

“Banjo!” the father’s voice came from the dark. “Where are you goddammit?”

The boy edged in closer to the trailer, cautious of rattlesnakes and scorpions. Something like a whimper came from below.

“I found him,” yelled the boy, crouching down to see the pup, careful not to get his pants dirty. The pup sat far in, below some sort of tank, wide-eyed and shaking. They called to it, clapping and whistling. It refused to come.

“At least the dumb bastard’s alive,” said the old man.

“Maybe she just hit his foot or something,” the boy hoped.

They returned to the trailer, the old man stopping for a moment to remove a thorn from his calloused heel. The stepmother, near hysterics, rushed into the old man’s embrace.

“I killed him, I know I killed him!”

“He’s okay,” said the old man.

“Don’t lie to me,” the woman moaned.

“He’s okay.”

“Don’t you lie to me,” the woman pulled away, grabbing the boy’s father by the flesh of his arms and staring him in the face.

“I told you, dammit, he’s fine.”

“No he’s not!” the woman screamed. She slapped her husband’s face. The boy stepped back into the kitchen; the old man grabbed his wife’s free hand.

“He’s okay.”


“It’s true, he’s okay,” said the boy. His stepmother looked in his eyes and resumed her weeping, burying her wet face into the old man’s grey chest. She sobbed with violence. “He’ll be alright,” said the father, massaging the woman’s back.

“I thought I killed him. He ran right out in front of me.”

They sat on the couch. The boy paced the kitchen. Ten minutes or so passed and his stepmother calmed down.

“Will you check on him again?” she asked the boy.


Outside, below the trailer’s tank, the pup sat in the same spot, still shivering. He called again, again no luck. He went back inside.

“He’s okay.”

“Where is he?”

“Below the trailer. He’s scared a bit but I think he’s just fine.”

“Oh, thank God.”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” said his stepmother, a bit shy, “I am now.” She placed her hand on his father’s leg and squeezed. “Now how about those beers?”

With the woman gone the father and son went back to films, as the younger expected. Throughout the conversation the old man continued to sigh with every movement, as if lifting his leg were really that exhausting. He was only fifty, the son twenty-five. Maybe, the son thought, if you’d done a little less drinking, you wouldn’t be so worn out. You’re even lucky to be alive, what with your own father drinking himself to death before I was even born. He told his father about new movies in the works by respectable directors, and the old man wrote the names of a few on the margins of a local newspaper, leaving the pencil between the index and middle fingers of his right hand and occasionally lifting it to his mouth and biting it. When the topic of movies was finally exhausted the old man started in with personal questions, much to his son’s chagrin.

“So you got a girlfriend?”

“Yeahp,” lied the son.

“What’s her name?”


“Cool,” said the old man. “That’s good.”

The boy’s father checked his watch again and yawned. His once well-defined jaw hung slack; his breath came with the wheeze of a lifetime smoker; hard stubble dotted the lower half of his face, the skin between hairs a shade lighter than elsewhere. The man walked into the kitchen, stepping from carpet to linoleum. He removed a large container of tea in what was once a pickle jar and poured most of the contents into an equally large pink plastic cup, holding the lip of the container with one massive hand, his fingers on the interior. Rather than returning to the living room he leaned against the counter and tucked his left hand into a faded pocket. Silence.

“I’m gonna check on that dog again,” said the son.

Out in the desert stars were shining, and in abundance. No city glow, no planes overheard, just stars and a helicopter blip far away. Cicadas ruled the night, rattling passionately on all sides. Tapping the flashlight against his thigh the boy circled around the trailer, pausing across from an open window to watch his father standing motionless in the kitchen. His eyes were closed. The boy continued on to where he’d found the pup. Kneeling with caution (no point in getting clean pants dirty) he flipped on the light. He called its name, Banjo, Banjo, Banjo, and watched its stomach fail to breathe. The dog was dead.

“Fuck,” said the boy. He swallowed a gulp of spit, opening his constricted throat for air, and retraced his steps to the living room. When the door opened the old man’s eyes came wide and awake and stopped on his son.

“I think Banjo’s dead.”

“Fuck,” said the father, closing his eyes again, tight this time, and shaking his head. With clamped eyelids he rubbed his forehead either in deep thought or migraine prevention. “Goddammit. Where is he?”

“Same spot as before.”


The father took the flashlight from the boy and they walked out together, the old man still barefoot, trudging through stickers and anthills. “Stupid fucking dog,” the father muttered as he walked, “God fucking damn it.” At the same spot the father dropped to his knees and half stuck his head under the trailer. “Banjo! Banjo! Goddammit!” he yelled, reaching, with no luck. The pup failed to respond and the father gave up on stretching and climbed without hesitation under the trailer, dragging his flabby belly across the desert floor, hopefully-evacuated cobwebs bunching in his graying hair. He finally reached a hind foot and drug the limp pup out without delicacy. Its eyes were dead wide; dry blood flecked its mouth; flies were already buzzing. The boy, stomach aching, failed in holding back his tears, but wiped them away long before his father could see. The old man brushed the webs from his hair with a dirty hand while staring down at the pup. For a moment he looked almost livid, and the son feared his father might start beating the lifeless creature. “You stupid fucking idiot,” the father said, his head falling in a sigh. “You dumb son of a bitch.” The boy turned away, tracing the outline of the nearby mesa against the moon-bright sky. “You dumb fucking son of a bitch,” the father whispered, “she’s gonna flip when she finds out. Goddamn you.”

After a silence, the old man stood.

“Well,” he said, “guess I’d better get him buried before she gets back.” He disappeared with the flashlight around the building and clanking was heard. He returned with a splintered shovel and handed it to the boy, then crouched again and tenderly lifted the pup, its limp head nestling against his arm. Then he walked away into the desert dark.

The boy trailed with flashlight and shovel, trying to illuminate a cactus-free path and keep up with the old man, who walked fast, looking away down the moonlit road. The boy remembered walking this road on dark winter mornings to his bus stop, afraid and cold, while his father slept, drunk and warm. The old man stopped muttering obscenities and trailed his eyes along the ground. He stopped walking and began to brush aside twigs and bugs with his foot. Setting the pup nearby he took the shovel and began to dig, stomping hard on the flat end to break up the dry Sonoran earth.

“Isn’t that deep enough?” asked the boy.

“I don’t want the coyotes to get him,” replied the father politely, pronouncing the word ky-oats.

When the hole was finished the father placed the dog inside and, after wiping his hands on the back of his pants, stared down at the animal for some time. The dogs eyes were still open, which bothered the boy, but before he said anything the man began loading the dirt on in rapid shovels. Blood from the pup’s mouth ran down the father’s arm, but he didn’t seem to notice. “God damn you,” he started again, picking up nearby rocks and covering the grave, “you god damned fucking idiot.”

They walked back to the trailer without speaking, the father in the rear, looking over his shoulder as if the coyotes were already moving in. Back indoors the boy washed his hands, wondering what was next and knowing it wasn’t movie talk.

“Don’t say a damn thing to her when she gets back.”

“Okay,” said the boy. He stood near a shelf of movies and tried to read their titles but couldn’t stop watching his father, who stood alone in the kitchen looking more exhausted than before, even though his bloodshot eyes were wide and responsive. His hands were clasped tight, his mind visibly racing while his breath came deep and slow, almost calm. The boy remembered that the pup was a gift for his stepmother, who he’d forgotten completely in the last ten minutes. He wondered what his father would say to her. How would she react? Would she throw herself on the ground? Drive away crying? Hit his father again? It was enough that the pup had died, but that she’d been the one who killed it was too much. Maybe he’d better leave now and avoid the upcoming scene. It would take long hours to console the woman, and he’d be stuck here till she calmed or fell asleep. His father would have to hold her all night, and talk to her, even though he looked so tired it seemed impossible. It occurred to the boy then that this wasn’t even an issue: his father would do it, and would not complain. No, not complain—he would not mind. The boy knew he couldn’t do it, but the old man, his father, could.

“You might wanna head out before she gets back,” said his father.

“Yeah, I think so.”

The old man walked away into his bedroom, the boy’s stepbrother came out of his own room, wearing pajamas.

“Are you leaving?” asked the stepbrother, whom the son had forgotten was there.


The boy’s father returned, handing him several large bills, which he’d also forgotten about.

“Is Banjo okay?”

“Yeah,” briefly smiled the father. “It’s bed time.”



“Will you tuck me in?”

“Yeah, give me a minute.”

The stepson hummed down the hall. His bedroom light flicked out.

“Thanks,” said the boy.

“Yeah, you’re welcome,” the father said absently.

“Well I’d better get going.”

“Yeah. Alright. Goodnight,” said the old man, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder and squeezing.

The son returned the squeeze, said “Goodnight, Dad,” and left the house and climbed into his truck and drove carefully away down the dark unpaved road.

Before he reached the highway headlights came toward him. He slowed and pulled right. The approaching vehicle stopped next to him, his stepmother’s face smiling.

“You leaving already?”

“Yeah, I have to wake up early.”

“Sorry I took so long.”

“It’s alright.”

“Did your daddy fall asleep on you?”

“No he’s still awake.”

“Damn him, he knows he’s gotta wake up at four. Well, you take this beer then,” she said, extending a six pack from the seat beside her.

“You don’t want it?”

“No, your daddy might try and drink it.”

The boy sat the beer next to his leg.


“You better come see us again soon. You hardly ever visit.”

“I will.”

“Okay then. Goodnight, honey.”


The stepmother drove away, home, to her trailer and her young son and her dead puppy and her tired graying husband. The son sat for a moment, his truck idling, thinking he might cry. The desert air smelled sweet and fresh and not like the air of the city. He didn’t cry, though. He opened a beer and drove away.