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We Will Call Again.

In the refridgerator is the following:


Half a jar of peanut butter.


A quarter of a gallon of milk.


Twelve stale crackers, soft enough that they would not snap but gently surrender.


The sharp tang of soiled nappies,


A sheaf of letters pinned to the refridgerator, with big red letters at the top of each of them. On the front one is scrawled in clumsy cursive, FUCK YOU.


There’s a photo, a woman dazed from giving birth, cradling a pink, frail baby and looking up at everything with unfocused black eyes.


A folded card, brought at a copy shop in large packs. WE WILL CALL AGAIN.PLEASE BE IN.  FAIRFAX COUNTY CHILD ADVOCATE.


There’s a padlock on the bedroom door.




In the refridgerator:




The musk of bad sex and alcohol filtered through sweat.


An ashtray filled to the brim,sat on a table scarred with the careless anger of lit cigarettes.


A photograph pinned to the refridgerator. A little girl, smiling like she only just learned how to do it, holding up a picture she drew in school that day.


A manila folder, swollen from where it had beer spilled on it. NAVARRO VERSUS FAIRFAX COUNTY printed on the cover. The sebum from where a finger has traced it, night after night, hoping to draw some meaning from it has discoloured the material.


The padlock is gone. Along with the door.


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The Boys And Their Mothers (NSFW)

Clea kept flexing her right hand as she waited in the queue. The surgery had been successful but she would never have full function again, and the painkillers merely took the edge off the pain but never removed it entirely. She would shift the small pile of books from one arm to the other. Her library card was, out of everything, the most valuable part of her new identity for her.

Books were her only escape now, aside from the painkillers and the SSRIs. The therapy, a condition of her parole, left her scrubbed raw for days afterwards and she needed these library visits to give her some sense of herself again.  She had spent the last five years under the eyes of several institutions, none of whom looked upon her with kindness. She had her supporters but their generosity of spirit was short lived. Another cause, another victim to raise in their estimation and she was left to deal with herself again.

She would have googled herself but she was not allowed to use a computer with access to the internet. Life for her was lived in the margins, defined by where she could not go and what she could not do. Who she could not speak to, or call, or write. A small apartment, so damp that the walls breathed, paperwork and everything cracked, worn and patched up. A second act as depressing as a Werner Herzog documentary.

Today was her son’s seventeenth birthday. She had spoken about it, the therapist sat there, digging into his furred nostril when he thought that she wasn’t looking and staring at his faded brown loafers when she was. She had arranged for a card to be sent, but she would never know if he received it. Christmas had been especially difficult for her this year.

Christmas was always difficult. It had been a time for family, for love and contentment, defined by the pressure for bigger presents, brighter and larger lights, more food and for her to show the world that as a wife, a mother she always went the extra mile.

Steve worked hard, long days and even bringing work home with him, barking numbers into the phone as he sat in his wood panelled den. He loved her, not in the way that she wanted but as a symbol, a symptom of his invention and his determination. He looked at her but barely even saw her.

Unlike Finn, her son’s friend.  Cerulean blue eyes, jet black hair and honeyed skin. Lean from track, ungainly as though his limbs had a life independent of his will. Shirts versus skins in the yard, watching him with a frosted glass of lemonade pressed against her cheek. Flush with heat as she watched him.

It had seemed so small a thing, to express an interest in him. Both his parents were absent in their own ways, Greg ran a car dealership and Rebecca drank. He bloomed at her attention and her thirst grew more complex, sharper and richer. He had come over when she was alone in the house one afternoon, thirteen years old and trembling with curiosity and confusion. A stronger woman would have turned him away.

Clea would have turned him away.

But her name was not Clea then.

Later, with only dry literature to sustain her, she had come across a quote from Oscar Wilde. Had missed it during the cycles of mom memes, photos and passive aggressive status updates. That he could resist anything except temptation.

Then, Finn had brought a friend.

And another. Feverish, damp knots of flesh in the basement.


She had been at the PTA meeting when the police arrived. By then, it was almost a relief. She had reached down into the fire of her need and been scarred by it. The trial, the sentencing, the comments online all spoke with either vulgarity, muted indignation or dissembling. Even prison had been brief, and Clea knew that had she been a man with a pubescent girl, or god forbid a boy, she’d never have seen daylight again. The shiv through her forearm had been the only notable incident and that had shaved some time off her sentence.

Today, she had picked up John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick and there was a copy of Germaine Greer’s The Boy that she knew would necessitate hiding but still, she needed something. Without making conversation, she checked the books out at the self service terminal and went outside. She could have waited for the bus but it was a nice evening and she wanted to walk. Such small pleasures were all she had left.

She could look through the Greer on the way.

The park would have taken ten minutes off the walk but she did not risk it, not at night and so she kept to the main streets until she saw the sagging building that she called home. She had the rest of the tagliatelle for supper, then it would be a cup of tea, a bit of reading and then sleep. She had the privacy of her head, at least, both heaven and hell to her dependent upon her mood and her circumstances. God loves a trier, her daddy had said.

Then she felt the cold hard object at the base of her spine.

‘Gimme yo’ fucken’ purse.’

She panicked, eyes watering as she put her hands up, dropping her purse and her books. She inhaled the tangy musk of perspiration, layers of that cheap body spray and the faint hue of pot.

‘It’s on the floor. ‘

She turned her head, looking into eyes that were tawny gold, like fresh cider, brown skin over high cheekbones and all of it framed in a faded hood as he raised the pistol up to her face.

‘Pick it up, ain’t got all day.’

She reached but her fingers touched the cover of the Greer book, the index finger blessing where the collar bone of the angelic boy on the cover, the face that made her ache with longing as Finn’s face had.

It had gotten to her that he had not coped well afterwards. The memory had been hidden for so long from her conscious mind that she began to turn, infected with the same fervour that had brought those packs of beautiful boys to her, their first and for Finn, his last. Someone had shouted at them and she looked up, the boy’s face was a mask devoid of sentiment and passion. Beautiful and terrible all the same.

He raised the barrel of the gun, and she did not close her eyes. She smiled at him and wished that she’d been given time enough to thank him.

She brought up her hand and the world went red.




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Gary Bear and Holly Boo IDSTL

Holly had gotten into the habit of hanging around after class had finished. She would have to politely shoo off the more earnest students, who would offer to help her clear up the classroom, but mostly she would find a small measure of peace when the cries and shouts of the children were at a remove. When her colleagues were either in their own classrooms or the staff room, and the shadows of the day had grown some length, then she would allow herself to weep.

Holly Mills had entered her sixties with elegance, letting the white hair and the papery texture of her skin accentuate the high cheekbones and regal carriage. She resembled a queen in exile, softly spoken with a smile that glowed like a summer evening. She was softer around the middle but otherwise she had maintained the lean elegance that she had held onto since adolescence.

Which was why she wept in relative privacy.

She had enjoyed forty five years with Gary.

Her husband. Her Bear.

A man not prone to impulse, who rolled rather than walked, never used a cross word even as he had made Mills and Porter into a solid accountancy firm. He read three books a week, had written poetry, earnest solid verse that he would transcribe into handwritten notes that he left for her around the house. One of the most delightful days had been when one of his pieces had made the local paper, and he had idly entertained the idea of putting a book. Their youngest daughter, Rebecca had tried to talk him into self publishing but he had shaken his head, blushing and passing it off as a silly affectation.  He was good with his hands, had built the cribs and most of the furniture around their house in the workshop that would be where he would go to find a measure of peace. She knew that his absences were simply part of his way. Three children, all of them conceived and raised with a love that made her blush to think of it. He spoke seldom but whenever he touched her, she would shiver with delight.

Holly had noticed how his silences had changed. Not secrets, but a vague disconnection. Once he had let the pan boil dry as he stared out at the window and she had sworn until he had turned and looked at her, asked her what the fuss was and then, staring past her at the ruined pan, sniffing the air and wrinkling his nose with embarrassed distaste.

‘I’m just tired, poppet.’

She had not said anything at the time. Not even to the children, instead she had made a joke about his cooking. Ordered take out instead and yet in bed that night, he had held her harder than normal, his thick hairy chest rising with each breath and his eyes squeezed shut. She had laid awake, willing the concerns away, shooing them with rationalisations that lacked any real substance.

When he came back from the doctors, he had sat her down in the living room, her pale, fragile hand in both of his. That he had been having gaps in his memory for a while now, and without discussing it, had made the appointment, gone into the MRI even though he had a man’s fear of hospitals and sat there as the specialist had laid out the diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s. Tangles of proteins, like the thorns that crept up around the castle of the sleeping princess. Tearing apart his memories, his capacities and in time, the life that they had built together. His big shoulders shaking with his sobs, scared and all Holly could do was stare at him, wait for someone to pop their head around the door and tell her that this was a practical joke.  With the admission, came a progression that soon had him discussing, in his lucid moments, arrangements for his care.

Holly had gone through the brochures with him, looking up reviews on line and dealing with the insurance policy that had been something of a rueful joke between them.

Golden Pines. She had entertained the idea of caring for him herself but he had refused. His eyes were damp as he calmly pointed out how he was beginning to slip away, that he could hurt her or himself without any recollection of it. His thumb spun the wedding band on her left hand as he looked into her eyes.

‘I wouldn’t hurt you for the world, Holly-boo. Don’t put me in that position.’

She had collapsed into his arms and they had cried together.

She did not tell him about where the bruises on her right shoulder had come from. Instead, they made plans. A last Christmas with the family together, too much sadness to truly seize the joy of saying if not goodbye then farewell. In February, he had moved into Golden Pines. She visited every day, endured the episodes where he had regressed to tearful confusion and enjoyed it when he would make wry asides about the other residents.

She cried just as hard in her car, no matter what.

What disturbed her the most was his reaction when one of the orderlies would pass by. A stocky, simian looking man who sneered when he thought no one cogent was watching. Dark blonde hair slicked back and the shadows of tattoos beneath his uniform. Benny.

It was when he was having a bad day that his stoicism receded, that his fear of the sullen young man with the eyes dead like pebbles came to the surface. When she noticed the small burn on his hand, the fingertip bruises on his right wrist. She reported it but Gary was a big man, and dementia had stripped him of the grace that had once charmed her out of her panties, made a more clinical and robust handling of him necessary.

Holly knew her husband though, and she watched him closely when she visited. He made himself scarce in her presence when he was on shift.

It was one of the last times with Gary that he put his hand on hers. Almost like old times, lying in bed, the endorphins of the good, hard love that they made fading and the quiet knot they would tie themselves into. How small she felt with her legs draped over his wide thighs. She wiped her eyes, such was the pain of the memory.

‘I don’t want to go out like this, Holly-Boo.’

She leaned forward, and he asked her. She could not refuse him.

She left the letter on the desk, went straight from school through and on the way, left bland messages for the kids. She loved her children, but she was not sure that she liked them all that much.

She signed in, and found her husband in her room with Benny stood there, his eyes wide with shock at seeing her. His hands were clenched into fists and Gary had the pillow against his chest, eyes screwed shut and a palm print against his cheek. She felt such a swell of love and anger, as she reached into her handbag.

The gun barked twice in her hand, Benny looked in disbelief as Gary’s head snapped back and the pillow exploded in a puff of foam and material.

‘Jesus, lady, what the fuck are you doing?’

She blinked away her tears as she aimed the gun at him. She used the memory of her husband’s tears, the burns and the slaps and all the little indignities that this boy had chosen to inflict on this man. A good father, a great husband, with a kind word for everyone and refusing to burden anyone with his dissolution.

‘No.’ she said.

She fired. He clutched at his throat, blood welling between his fingers as he staggered to his left and looked at her with a disbelief faster than his agony, and even that was not as quick as his passing.

She shut her eyes, brought the gun to her head and looked at her husband. The rest was easy.