Short Stories

Returning

19 Jul: Returning

Tucker was struck by how different Miles looked in his pictures. Time had been good to him. He was bronzed and broad-shouldered, muscular and bearded, a handsome, smiling buccaneer. Gone was the pale, waifish, gloomy boy of Tucker’s memory.  Tucker looked different, too, he knew. His hair was thinner. He was softer and flabbier, thicker around the middle. There was more flesh under his chin. He had, by his own admission, not aged as well as his friend. But he reassured himself. Looks aside, he had been pretty fortunate. He had a beautiful wife who loved him. He had sold more houses last year than any other Realtor in his company. He had financial security, a nice house on a good street, and a son on the way. By nearly every objective measure, he was doing quite well.

By the looks of his house, Miles was doing quite well, too. He lived in a large, impressive Tudor in the middle of a broad shady street lined with other large, impressive Tudors. As Tucker and his wife pulled into the driveway, Tucker estimated the house’s value. He figured it would go for about four hundred and fifty thousand if it were listed tomorrow. If he were the seller’s agent, he thought he could probably get five hundred thousand for it. He quickly calculated the commission in his head: a little over six thousand dollars after the buyer’s agent and the brokers took their shares. Not a bad haul. With that kind of paycheck, he could take a month off.

Tucker and his wife parked and got out of their car. Miles came out to greet them. Dressed in a tight gray t-shirt and form-fitting jeans, he looked even more chiseled and strapping in person than he had in his pictures. Behind him came a tall, trim man with a shaved head and dark, deep-set eyes. Tucker reached out to shake his friend’s hand. Miles ignored the hand and went right for a hug, wrapping Tucker up in his strong arms. He slapped Tucker on the back and pulled away. “Tuck,” he said. “It is so good to see you.  It’s been too long.”

Gig Night

19 Jul: Gig Night

“Turn that goddam music off kid, or I’m going to come upstairs! Shit Bird, no one wants to hear that damned noise.” Yea, when my dad was livid with me, he called me shit bird. He shouted from the bottom of my staircase, his words were sluggish and sloppy due to drinking a twelve pack of Coors every night after work. This night was no exception. He worked hard in construction as a plasterer, building homes around Fresno in the sweltering summer heat.

The Projection

18 Jul: The Projection

She led the boy to acquiesce to a break-up while standing in line for a motion picture. Which motion picture? The knowledge has flown. She remembers the boy as a curiosity, in the way that she might recall a well-meant gift. She remembers his face. Its hope. Its fleshiness. Had they quarreled?

The Calm

17 Jul: The Calm

Haiti was in ruin. Again.

It was one of those places outside my consciousness most of the time—couldn’t tell you anything about the local politics or even, with any precision, where to find it on a map, until it materialized on the news, the victim of earthquakes and tropical storms and hurricanes.

It was on TV. Sheets of rain, trees pulled up from their roots, homes torn asunder. “It’s coming for us, buddy,” Uncle Ron said.

Hurricane

17 Jul: Hurricane

I wasn’t, strictly speaking, happy about the hurricane. I knew it made my parents nervous to travel to the beach, and that plenty of the other family members were on edge. The bride and groom, to the extent I knew them, were compulsively put together, but in this instance were subdued, distracted, frazzled, and only charming in the spaces in between.

But it was exciting, too. The prospect of seeing tornadoes whip past, or a violent ocean, visible though the eastward facing upstairs bedroom windows of the beach house.

After the Storm

17 Jul: After the Storm

The hurricane passed in rain and in wind that threw sand from the beach against our windows. But none of the windows ever gave and we only lost power for couple-minute spans, never for the long haul.

That next morning, the sun was shining. It was still windy, but not the kind of wind that would overturn a car or uproot a tree. The kind that would, at worst, mess up your hair, maybe pry loose one of the balloons outside the venue.

Old News

14 Jul: Old News

In August of 1934, when my father packed his bags and went to bury his friend Otto, I was still too young to have any friends among the dead. Otto would have been a good friend to have, I suppose, if his keen sense of politics helped him to open any doors in the world beyond, but the sad truth was that I could barely remember his face. For obscure reasons he’d stopped coming to visit us long ago.

The Old-Fashioned Way

14 Jul: The Old-Fashioned Way

Ross was the type of guy one hoped never to run into at the grocery store because of his big, fat mouth. Really, he was not that fat; instead I would have characterized him as tall and hefty, like the magnolia tree he cut down in his side yard, only without the possibility of blossom. Back then he was just my neighbor, father to twin teenagers Allison and Ralph, and the wood shop teacher at the local high school, which might have led you to believe he kept up his property by painting the shutters, polishing the porch railings, or building birdhouses complete with turrets, terraces, and a colonnade.

The Story About the Broken Dog

14 Jul: The Story About the Broken Dog

My brother once told me a story about a broken dog. He swears it’s true. It could be, but it’s probably not.

This is how he tells it, every party and every quiet night we have:

He was walking home from his part-time bartending gig. Why he was walking, who knows. Maybe the bus was late. Maybe he didn’t have enough money for an Uber. Anyway, he started to walk home.