Tag Archives: Family

HOME MOVIES by Adam Gianforcaro

The clicking of the Super 8 film,
grainy on screen.
My mother pregnant and then a mother
for the first time.
My brother splashed naked
in an inflatable pool on their tiny city porch
off of Simpson Street.
My dad said he has class then:
low class. 1982 and smiling.

ADAM GIANFORCARO is the Social Media Director of Philadelphia Stories literary magazine and has been published or been accepted for publication in 50-Word Stories, Battered Suitcase and The Stray Branch.

KNOWING ALWAYS COMES TOO LATE by Michael Radon

It was a bright sunny day, the day of Roxanne’s burial. From across the road I could hear children laughing, playing even. Just another slight I’d take the Creator to task for when I got a chance. The sight of that box going in that dirt hole was enough to wear me down. Knowing something is a lot different than seeing something, and the sight of that killed a big part of me.

I used to fawn over her and tell her how perfect she was, which certainly was not true. Every time she broke my heart without batting an eye, or made me cross with rage by some comment crafted just so to pierce right through my resolve, it was like I was plucking those flower petals to get to “she loves me not,” and when I got there I packed my things and left. I know that wasn’t the gentlemanly thing to do, especially considering that meant leaving her to keep raising Melinda on her own, but know that flower metaphor had an awful lot of petals.

Word came to me through one of her old friends, who I kept in touch with through the odd holiday letter. I’d ask about her, and Melinda, and didn’t feel like such a monster then, and for my diligence, I’d get some kind of report about Roxanne as a footnote. I guess the sickness came fast, because it had only been five months since the last letter, and there wasn’t any news of it in there.

She told me Roxanne had passed and I had to stop reading for the night. She asked me to attend the services, said it was the honorable thing to do by her, and to hell with what anybody might say to me. She assured me that it wasn’t a ploy to take Melinda on, she’d gone to stay with Roxanne’s mother, and even if I wanted to make an effort to get her from there, I doubt the respectful Mrs. Stevens would have even let me on the property without calling for my head. I spent a long time thinking about what to do with that. I wrote back and said I wouldn’t be able to make it, but I arranged to send some flowers for the thought.

That only made me feel worse.

Tried drinking it away, tried to forget it and just move on. Death just happens. No sense in making a fuss over it. But that made me feel more the asshole. Finally, I resolved to go in secret, pay my respects, and leave town again. That would just be a chapter in my life I’d finally have to turn my back on completely, and live out my days treating that history like a war – significant, but better not dwelt on daily. I owed her a lot more than an apology, but that was all I could focus on without blubbering.

It got me to thinking that I hoped that when you die, you get to take in the knowledge of everything. Everything people thought about you, and think about you, and what all transpires. You get to take it all in like a sudden eureka and process it without any of the fuss of having to be alive to deal with it. The thought of that gave me a little peace, that maybe she knew I was sorry for giving up and leaving.

All was said and done very quietly and somberly. I saw her friends, her family, I saw Mrs. Stevens crying, and I know she didn’t see me or she would have stopped to give me an earful at best. I lingered around in the shade of an oak tree a good ways off from Roxanne’s grave in the hopes that maybe I could get a few moments alone with her to put it all to rest. I sat against the tree, lit a cigarette, and smoked it in sighs.

It was getting dark, and the last few cicadas of the season were stubbornly begging for more summer. There wasn’t much wind, and if the kids hadn’t gone home already, I wouldn’t have heard them playing over the tires kicking up gravel as all the cars were leaving. A few more minutes and I’d say my goodbyes.

“Annie told me you weren’t coming.”

Surprised, I turned my head quick and saw Melinda, her face looking a lot more composed and strong than mine. I guess after everything she’d been through, her mother dying was just another drop in the bucket for her. Then I noticed she was holding a sleeping toddler in her arms.

“Shit, Melinda. I’m a grand dad?”

“No, just a father of two.”

I flicked the cigarette away to the side. “Can’t say that provides me any more peace of mind.”

“You piece of shit.” Melinda whispered. “So what, you sneak in through the window to get your kicks with mom and not have to see me?” She looked ready to hit me.

“Don’t go makin’ it dramatic, Melinda. Show some respect for your mother.”

“Respect? Did you respect her by walking out and leaving her to raise me by herself? Did you respect her when you got her pregnant again without even being a big enough part of her life to know between now and then? Tell me, dad, when exactly did you respect any of us?”

“What do you want me to do? Take you both in, take care of you? ‘Be a dad?’”

“No.” Her voice started to shake. “Never.” She clenched her open fist and looked right in my eyes. “I just want you to go away.”

I stood up, brushing the dirt off the back of my pants and looking for the right thing to say, the fatherly thing to tell my daughter, but the words didn’t come and I don’t think she wanted to hear them. “Okay.” I took a last look at my young son and then walked away.

Melinda stood still. Didn’t run after me, didn’t want the last word, just wanted to make sure I was gone for good. I try not to entertain thoughts of her ever forgiving me, because that day may never come. I think about it a lot, though, the same way I saw Roxanne clearly when she fought with me; that’s the way I like to imagine Melinda as the years go by. Independent, fierce, her mother’s daughter.

Maybe when my card is pulled, I’ll know if she really hates me as much as she said.

MICHAEL RADON‘s lifelong obsession with digital media makes him an ideal addition to your local pub trivia team. His latest project is growing a beard in an attempt to make people believe him when he says he writes for a living. His irrelevant observations are recorded daily through his blog and twitter.

THE CANCER RIDE by James Valvis

My grandmother, rest in peace,
waited for us down below
while we rode the roller-coaster,
hands raised, screaming at her.
Too sick to go on, she stood
near the exit. The bandana
on her bald head flapped
in the wind like paisley hair.
A wave of her small hand, tears
on her face, though I can’t recall
if they were tears of happiness
or something even more painful.
She should have been made a saint
right there, cheering us while
she rocked and tumbled inside,
raced a thousand miles per hour
in the most terrible of all directions.

JAMES VALVIS lives in Issaquah, Washington. His work has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Confrontation, Eclipse, Hanging Loose, Nimrod, Pank, Rattle, Southern Indiana Review, and is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Crab Creek Review, Gargoyle, H_NGM_N, LA Review, Midwest Quarterly, New York Quarterly, River Styx, South Carolina Review, and many others. A book-length collection of his poems, How to Say Goodbye, is due in 2011.

DAD by Gretchen Hintze

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Did you see that?”

“Did I see what?”

“The thing that was on the side of the road.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Oh.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“We are headed to California right?”

“Right.”

“I won’t get to go back to Florida again, will I?”

“No. California will be nice. There is a lot less humidity.”

“Ok.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Will you play a game with me?”

“Sure, what kind of game?”

“Can we play I Spy?”

“Whatever you want.”

“Do you want to start or should I start?”

“You can start.”

“Ok. I spy with my little eye something blue.”

“That car?”

“No.”

“That sign?”

“No.”

“My briefcase”

“No.”

“Can I get a hint?”

“It is outside the car.”

“There is nothing outside besides desert and the occasional cactus.”

“It is outside.”

“I give up.”

“The sky.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Do you have parents?”

“Well, my father died five years ago, but my mom is around.”

“Does she live in California?”

“Yes she does. She actually lives in L.A., about a ten minute drive from my house, our house.”

“Will I get to meet her?”

“Yeah. I don’t know exactly when. She is on vacation in Aspen right now.”

“What does she look like?”

“She is rather short; you’ll tower over her in a couple of years. Her hair is curly and blonde. It should be gray, but that woman visits the salon every week. She sometimes wears glasses, but that is only when she is at home with no company. She couldn’t see a deer in the bathtub, but that doesn’t matter when her girlfriends come over for Daiquiris. ‘I will not be put out to pasture like a 300 pound flight attendant. I am going to strangle my youth into obedience until Beelzebub himself wiggles my fingers loose.’ I get to hear that phrase every time I talk to her about going to the doctor or taking it easy.

“Ok.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Where are we?”

“Somewhere in Texas.”

“That is a George Strait song.”

“You like country music?”

“Yeah, what kind of music do you like?”

“I like Jazz mostly.”

“When are we going to get there?”

“Tomorrow night.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“What is your house like?”

“It isn’t exactly a house. It is sort of like a condo. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Floor to ceiling windows. There is a media room and my office. On the ground floor there is a gym, restaurant, and pool. They will send up room service 24 hours. It is one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants.

“Ok.”

“Does that make sense?”

“Is a condo an apartment?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Didn’t you just go a half hour ago?”

“Yes.”

“How can you have to go to the bathroom so soon again?”

“I drank the two liter of Squirt.”

“You drank that whole thing!”

“Yes.”

“We have a few miles before another gas station so you better hold it.”

“Ok.”

***

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Never mind.”

***

“I think you will like your new school.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. It’s private. There is an Olympic size swimming pool, a fencing club, the teachers all have graduate degrees. I met with your teacher and he seems to be very nice. He seems as though he really knows how to handle a third grade classroom.”

“Will I have to wear a uniform?”

“Yes.”

“I never had to wear a uniform before.”

“It won’t be that bad. You won’t have to pick out clothes to wear each morning.”

“Mom picked out my clothes.”

GRETCHEN HINTZE is creative writing student at Concordia University and has had work previously published by Foliate Oak and Clutching at Straws.

THE GALAGAN PATIENT by Ronald Montgomery

Together, he and I play. The game, the event horizon of programmed priorities and desire. I meditate on him. I’ve been in this place before, with you.

You…you, my…

No. Back to the game.

It’s black. Is it night here?

A construction site, the steel skeleton of a squat building. I’m climbing a shaky ladder when the ape throws a flaming barrel of petrol on me. Knocked from the rungs, I fall down, down to the rough floor, the barrel pinning me, drenching me in burning fuel. Pain like water washes me with its dexterous fingers

I never knew I could hurt this badly. I can’t breathe. I can’t scream.

I die for the first time.

On my eleventh try, $2.75 spent, I navigate the maze of floors and ladders to reach the top, gasping. My son Steven waits, dressed in blonde wig, pink muumuu dress, and All-Stars. A heart, pixelated curves of red, appears in the space between us.

The ape slides from his perch, quiet and menacing.

“You suck, Jumpman,” Steven sneers. “Is that the best you’ve got?”

The heart cracks in two.

I try to warn Steven, tell him of the danger he’s put us in, but my bit depth is wrong, the dynamic range of my voice limited. I don’t know how to speak in this game.

Steven dances the Cabbage Patch, carries the ape up the ladder.

Act One: They Meet

The video game cutscene. Interstitial,timeless intersection of lost moments.

The mausoleum has a reflection pool inside. Moonlight seeps in a window, brilliance cleaving dark waters. You’re there in capri pants, t-shirt, and a frayed sweater with pearl buttons; the one that smelled of soil and sweat and sun, the one you wore in the garden.

You sit on the edge, feet in the water. You smile like in the pictures. The words I wish to say.

Mr. and Ms. Pac Man re-unite, outrace their ghosts. Share a kiss.

It’s $3.25 later. I’m down to $4.00, sixteen quarters left.

We’re hurtling down a racetrack. Heady smells of gas and hot metal, the roar of engines. A crowd of pink and brown dots cheer from my periphery.

I’m racing the gray car, Steven is green. I’m riding his ass, waiting to bump his axle and crash his car into the grandstands. We can’t stop and talk. We have to move move move —

“Leave me alone!” Steven says, veering to the outside.

“We can’t stay here, Steven. Come with me–”

Steven takes a sharp turn in the corner. I brake and skid, twin tails of smoke escaping melted tire rubber. A blue car zips from behind, cuts me off.

“You can’t tell me what to do any more!” Steven screams. “It’s your fault mom’s gone!”

“That’s not fair,” my face flushes, hands shake with shame. “I loved her.”

“Then why did you leave?”

Silence. I’m near position to bump his axle.

He laughs. “You don’t care. All those nights you couldn’t make my games, the weekends working. Because you were fucking your–”

“Don’t you talk to me like that.” Anger, drawn into stalling. “I know, I know I made mistakes.”

Closer, a little closer–

“Mistakes?! You hid in your lab!”

The clock ticks down. End of this race. Time to win it.

“I’m hiding, Steven? Look at you. Look at you.”

I swerve in. Steven pulls ahead, and I careen into the grandstands. Pink and brown dots scream and blink out.

Minigame.

Two A.M. I’m on a downtown street in the DeLorean, going over the instruments. The summer night air is heavy, redolent of fire and sulphur. Chuck Berry drifts from an abandoned radio in the park, music carrying in the night.

Straight down the street is a glowering,red hemispherical mass, spotted with black, like an astronomer’s photo of the sun. It’s consumed City University and the new firehouse, halted at the county courthouse.

The Professor leans into the cabin. He squints through his bifocals, furrowing thick eyebrows. He clears his throat.

“Zee emulation superstructure is closed and highly entropic, but with a predictable decay rate. With zee inflection point now passed, it will soon collapse upon itself.” The Professor palms me a roll of quarters. “You haff forty tries to generate a kill screen in zee emulation and to convince your boy to leave. Two big ifs.”

The kill screen — breakdown, unexpected and unpredictable, illogical behavior in ruthlessly logical levels. For the games were not designed to be played and played, to be taken to the frontiers of their simple designs. If I push us through enough levels, Steven and I can break through and escape. Orpheus and Eurydice. The limits of our love.

“You know, zis is suicide–” the Professor halts.

Death. The final arrangement of information. Your hands clasped, bluish in the casket. Beautiful face sunken, a collapsing retainer wall eaten by despair and time. Grooves worn in my soft memory, soundtrack to a forever-locked world. Do you wait for me there?

I blink, flensed.

“I’ve calculated the entry vector.” I hand him a clipboard, fit goggles over my eyes. “Goodbye, Werner.”

I close the car door, gun the DeLorean, watch the Professor wave in my rearview mirror.                 Accelerate.

At infinite velocity I breach the superstructure. A flash. Pop and crack, soothing hiss of analog static. The arm carries the needle across the record, sets it in the cradle.

The Heavenly Father blows dust from my cartridge.

Reseats me.

I’m on a bare field, tall grasses in the distance. I grip an orange plastic pistol before me. A dopey hunting dog sniffs the ground, and, catching a scent, jumps into the tall grasses, barking.

A…duck? A duck zig-zags across blue sky, bouncing forward and back. It laughs at me. Steven.

I carry on the conversation from before. Time I had my say.

“You can’t even act like a man! Face me, Steven!”

“I’m thirteen, asshole!” He quacks. “I hate you! I’m staying here forever!” He flies from sight.

The sky turns pink. White letters appear above me: FLY AWAY. The hunting dog rises from the grass and laughs at me.

A pause. The next duck bounces in the sky.

“Steven. This shit stops now. You freed the emulator from containment and half the city is gone, destroyed. I’m going to prison, and you’ll be alone. And that’s if we’re lucky.”

“You never said you were sorry.” Steven says.

I raise the gun and shoot him. The duck spirals groundward.

I have to beat him. We have to keep moving forward. We can’t stop.

“You hurt me,” he whimpers. A mournful cry, phlegm in his throat. The way he cried when I missed his birthday.

The smiling dog comes up from the grass, holding the dead duck.

“Steven!” I drop my orange pistol. Fumble forward.

The dog goes down.

“Steven!”

The game is forgotten. The sun has set over the marsh, the wilderness sinks into dusk. I wander deeper into the grasses.

“Steven, come home. I’m sorry.”

Bonus Level.

Down to my last quarter.

A majestic glittering starscape sweeps below my star fighter, looping to infinity.

I’m shooting insects in space. The tricky ones have tractor beams. They catch me, and I have to rescue myself.

Steven is silent. I begged him to talk, raged, and begged again. Stubborn. Like you were.

I feel alone in the game. But I’ll punch a hole in the night. Pull him through, to the other side. To a place where we speak in true voices.

Beyond the timeless intersection of lost moments.

RONALD MONTGOMERY is an information technology professional in St. Louis, Missouri. He enjoys old comics, family, and Godiva brownies. Ronald has painstakingly plotted out a twelve issue sequel to the 1980’s Squadron Supreme series from Marvel Comics. Doctor Zero from Shadowline comics co-stars and fucks shit up. It will be awesome.

THE ANNUNCIATION by Valerie Valdes

It started the Christmas I turned ten. Like most horrible things, it happened abruptly.

“Did I ever tell you,” my mother said, “that you were conceived on Christmas?”

I paused, one hand holding a shred of torn wrapping paper while the other held my very own copy of King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. It had come out after my birthday and I’d been damn patient waiting for it since then.

“It was in a trailer at our friends’ house,” she continued, oblivious to my slack jaw and wide eyes. “What a night. We hadn’t brought any condoms, and of course your father wouldn’t take no for an answer. ‘It’s okay, it’s only the one time, nothing’s going to happen.’ Don’t you listen if a boy ever tells you that.”

“Mom,” I said finally. “That is so gross.”

“It wasn’t gross at the time,” she replied. “It was pretty great.”

I looked down at the box still clutched in my trembling hand. Twelve floppy disks. With any luck, the memory of that moment would be suppressed by the time my game finished installing.

But once my mother remembers a story, she tends to repeat it. For the rest of the day, she told and retold the tale of her unwilling seduction to just about everyone who called to wish us a happy holiday, then to family members over dinner. We probably had leftover lechon and moros and corn and yucca and plenty of other delicious things to eat, but it may as well have been cold placenta sandwiches. Playing hide and seek with my cousins only meant more time alone to ponder my concupiscent conception.

It didn’t stop there. Every year on my birthday, and on Christmas Eve or Day, and at sporadic points in between, she would remind me of the reckless lust and the rocking trailer at which savvy folks would know not to go a-knockin’. My overactive imagination and the onset of puberty provided me with unwanted images of my old, dumpy parents going at it like dogs in heat, although the California winter had probably been pretty mild at the time.

“Mom,” I would plead. “Please, don’t tell that story, it’s embarrassing.”

“You wouldn’t be here without that story, you know,” was the amused answer.

I was, in a sense, the anti-Christ; instead of coming out on Christmas, I went in. My mother was the deflowered Mary, or maybe more like Leda and the Swan. A shudder in the loins, Yeats had said. A frequent reminder that my parents didn’t just have sex, they had wild sex. In a trailer.

This continued until the year I turned 30. Like most horrible things, it ended as abruptly as it started.

Christmas Eve. What remained of a fractured family with multiple divorces and deaths and aging grandparents was clustered around a long table under a clear night sky. I’d made the lechon that year, and the rice. The leftovers the next day would be fabulous.

My husband cleared his throat and said, “We have an announcement to make.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said quickly, before the speculation could start. The whooping and congratulating lasted a few minutes. My grandparents in particular were ecstatic.

“You know,” my mother said, looking at me but talking to everyone, “you were conceived on–”

“Mom,” I interjected. “If you tell your story, then I’m going to tell mine.” I waggled my eyebrows and gave her what I hoped was a lascivious leer.

VALERIE VALDES was born on a pirate ship that was attacked by merciless Humboldt squid, who killed her entire family in front of her infant eyes. Saved by a pod of dolphins, who raised her as their own before being captured and trained as Seaquarium performers, Valerie has dedicated her life to eradicating the scourge of the seas by eating calamari as frequently as possible. http://candleinsunshine.com/asthemoonclimbs/

NOSEBLEEDS by Seann McCollum

Dad took me to a baseball game but he only had money for the nosebleeds. That’s what he called the seats we got. When I asked him why he said it was because if you go up up high like on a mountain the air gets hard to breathe and you can have a nosebleed because of it. My sister gets nosebleeds a lot but not from going up up high, it’s from picking her nose. She says she doesn’t but I know because I see her do it all the time even though Dad tells her not to because it’s gross.

We were kind of late because of so much traffic so the game had already been going on a while when we got to our seats. Dad asked if I wanted a hot dog and I said yes so he called to this guy who had a big box hung around his neck and bought us two hot dogs and Cokes. We were so high up the players looked like the size of my toy army guys but there was a big screen you could see what’s going on like watching TV.

I was a little bored but I liked the part where the team mascot came out on the field and did tricks and chased the players around, that was funny. The team mascot is a big green animal with a big green nose and I asked Dad what he is and he said I think he’s supposed to be an aardvark or something. But he didn’t really look like an aardvark and anyways aardvarks aren’t green and I told this to Dad and he said well I don’t know then Kurt. The mascot was pretty funny and one time when the manager was on the field the aardvark thing tried to pull down his pants! I thought that was pretty funny but I don’t think Dad thought so. When I tried to show him he just told me not to point and seemed like he was looking at something else like maybe just the sky.

When he wasn’t on the field the man in the aardvark suit went up and down the aisles waving to people and pulling stunts like stealing their ball caps. I didn’t want him stealing my cap so when I saw him coming I put my hands on my head and held on tight. The man in the suit came over to me and put out his big green hand so that I could shake it but I knew that he just wanted me to take my hand off my cap so he could steal it and so I didn’t shake his hand. He kept putting it out but I wouldn’t shake it. In the aardvark’s neck was like a little window that was green too so you couldn’t see it from far away but up close you could see it was like a window screen and I could see the man’s face through it a little.

I heard the man say Come on kid, don’t you want to shake my hand? I shook my head no and then he said Shake my hand! Come on! You know who I am, don’t you? I’m the Phanatic! Did you see me down there? I’m not gonna take your cap! I just want to shake your hand, Slugger! And his big red aardvark tongue came out of his mouth and hit me in the face and then rolled up again. And Dad said Come on Kurt, he wants to shake your hand! but I just shook my head no and so the man pulled his hand away and through the screen I could see him looking at me and I got a little scared because he looked really mad. Then he turned away and kept walking down the stairs stealing peoples hats and everybody kept on laughing.

Why didn’t you shake his hand? Dad asked and I just said I didn’t want to and that I didn’t feel that good and I was bored and couldn’t we go soon and he said No you’re going to sit through the game like a big boy and so we sat there and I was bored.

I kept asking Dad if I could go walk around by myself but he said No and so I sat next to him for the whole game which was boring. I was a little afraid I’d see the aardvark man again but he stayed down on the field and did his dance and everybody laughed, but I didn’t laugh because I kept thinking about that mean look he gave me.

Our team won but I didn’t care that much by then. When the game was over Dad said we should go buy a souvenir before we left and I said okay so we went down to the stand where they sell the souvenirs and he said, what would you like? And I looked and looked but everything they had there had a picture of the aardvark on it and so I said no thanks and he said you sure? and I said I’m sure and he said Well I’m going to get something for your sister, which I thought was stupid since she doesn’t like baseball, but I didn’t say so and he said Look I think she’ll like this don’t you Kurt? and I looked and it was a little stuffed aardvark. I don’t think she’ll like that very much I said. But he bought it anyways and asked if I wanted to carry it and I said no.

It took us a long time to find the car in the parking lot there were a lot of cars and Dad got us lost so we walked around for a long time trying to find it and finally we found it and when we got in Dad said Here hold your sister’s Phanatic and I said no but then I had a thought and I said okay and so he gave me the aardvark. It looked just like the big version but without the screen in his neck because there wasn’t a man inside because it was just stuffed and too small anyways. I know, duh.

We got on the highway and I was hot and asked Dad if I could roll down the window and he said No let’s just turn on the AC and I said I don’t like the AC I like to feel the breeze and he said okay but just halfway. So I rolled it down halfway and then a little more than halfway and then just a little bit more and then when it was down far enough I held the stuffed aardvark up to the open window and put his head out like a dog. Dad said Don’t do that Kurt and I said But Dad he likes the breeze and he said Kurt and then I pushed the aardvark out the window he went flying I turned around to look and saw it fall in the ditch by the side of the road.

KURT! Dad yelled WHAT DID I TELL YOU? I’m sorry I said. We need to go back and find that for your sister he said, but there was a lot of traffic and nowhere to turn around and so he just said a bad word and we kept driving. I could tell dad was really mad so I said sorry again but he just stared at the road ahead of us and anyways I really wasn’t.

When we got home my sister came running up to us and Dad picked her up and said Hey Petunia Daddy got you a present but your brother dropped it out the car window, and my sister looked at me and said I hate you Kurt, and I could see there was dry blood from where she picked her nose and got another stupid nosebleed.

Dad was mad all night and when I went to bed I could hear him and Mom yelling downstairs. I felt kind of bad but not about throwing the aardvark out the window. Just then I heard a bump like on the side of the house outside and then another one and I was scared but I got up and went to the window and peeked through the curtain.

Down there on the grass was a big fat shape and when I looked I could see that it was the man in the aardvark costume! And he was throwing baseballs at the side of the house and that’s what the noise was! I was really really scared and I ran downstairs to tell Mom and Dad.

I ran into the kitchen where they were and there I saw Dad and he was holding Mom up like she was falling over. Her eyes were closed and he was kind of shaking her a little bit and I said is Mom okay and Dad said Go to your room, Kurt! And I just stood there looking and he said again louder GO TO YOUR ROOM! I’ll be up in a minute! And he looked like he was really mad just like the guy in the suit had been so I ran back upstairs and I heard this sound and even though I didn’t want to I looked out the window again and the guy was still out there, only he was lying on the ground kind of rolling around or something and I could hear he was making this funny noise. There were baseballs all over the yard.

It seemed like a real long time then I heard Dad’s feet coming up the stairs and he came in and in a whispery voice said Listen, Kurt, put on your shoes, we have to go. And I said why? And he said I don’t have time to explain we just have to go. So I put on my shoes and my jacket because it was kind of chilly and we went downstairs and out to the car just the two of us. And I said What about Mom? And he said she’s not coming this time, we’re just going out for a little drive, just you and me. And I said but it’s night and he said I know it’s night, we’re going for a Night Drive, come on Kurt, be a big boy for me now. And he reached over and kind of patted my head and made it kind of wet and when I reached up to touch the wet part of my hair the touching made my fingers wet and I said Dad–

SEANN MCCOLLUM is head of the tiny Opuntia Press, through which he publishes his own poetry, stories and filth. He also draws and paints stuff. His blog, The Carrion Call, has been viewed by dozens and dozens of people. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his two cats and cardboard cutout of Eric Bana.