Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim
When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older siblings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every night. In exchange he only communicated by notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails through the laundry drop.
A Medical Dressing
One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey.
The family nearly forgot he existed.
Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue sky and fortitude. A mélange of mercurial designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons.
They all craned their necks toward the basement.
When He Left it all to Me
He had to leave he said
though we’d met only days prior
and like with any men
breaking boundaries we’d lain
together despite barbed wire
fences, pools with fathomless bottoms.
The morning he split, he thrust
his blue down coat into
my arms, said I won’t need
this, but it was a bitter
cold day that December I
found the tape in its pocket.
Eva Cassidy sang Fields of
Gold and I can’t forgive
her for dying so young. Where
did you go? Still can’t listen
to more than the first half;
no, less than a quarter of that song.
Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu
1. A smile when you read Brave New World, a sort of smirk, like you’re getting away with reading literature that was once banned. Like this is better than Japanese ever was. Except one time when you dreamed that Yoko Ono walked all over your back and ass. This doesn’t come close to that.
2. You took up whistling, jingles from television commercials. Samsonite, Sony, tampon and yogurt ads. It was almost as bad as my ex, Tony, who whistled “If I Only Had a Brain” until I accidentally called him a moron.
3. One morning I woke up thinking, I can’t remember the last time you used the L word. And then I can’t remember the last time you went down on me. Then I recall they used to be linked together.
4.The first time we hooked up was in the back of your truck. It was a hot summer night in the Haight, mosquitoes, scant moon with flutter clouds. It was rough and fast, and you pinned me at one point so I couldn’t move. My neck hurt for a week. And nothing has compared to it since.
5. When you started seeing Brandy, and I’d run into you, you seemed so happy. So alive, when I just wanted to crawl into a hole for a year. I remember thinking what’s she got that I don’t? I mean, besides the obvious. And when I found out she was knocked up , I knew.
6. All that dog shit I shoveled out of the back yard. And it was your dog. Not mine. My yard. But your dog. Yours.
7. My sister would call on Sundays. You’d mouth “not here” and point at yourself. Which clearly was a sign of your inability to commit. Or mine. I’m not sure which.
8. I’d left the gym and saw you that day sitting on a sofa in a coffee shop. Really close to that girl, Tracey, who used to sell us pot. You were laughing in a way that I knew. And for a split second I was thrilled that you were cheating on Brandy. When I got home I drank a six-pack in less than an hour.
9. The weekend before you moved out, you farted in my sister’s elevator and other people got on and you said my name and fanned the air. I pretended it was funny. By then you farted so many times I honestly thought it was me.
10. Seems like someone’s always missing someone. My sister told me that she doesn’t have time for missing anyone- let alone loser ex-boyfriends. Thing is, I don’t really consider you a loser. A little gassy, perhaps. Something always takes the place of missing pieces.
Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim originally appeared in Flash Fiction Chronicles and won second place in the 2013 String-of-Ten Five Flash Fiction Contest. It also appeared in Vaughan’s Addicts & Basements (CCM).
When He Left It All to Me and Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu also appeared in Vaughan’s Addicts & Basements.
Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction at locations like UWM, Red Oak Writing, The Clearing, Synergia Ranch and Mabel Dodge Luhan House. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). He was the head judge for the Bath International Flash Fiction Awards, 2016. His short fiction, ‘A Box’ was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (CCM), RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press) and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). His blog: http://www.robert-vaughan.com.