flashes sideways and I haul my wife’s
from our garage and into the middle of
the street. I say tin, but it could be
any metal, whatever scraps are made of
when artists dig through junkyards and
weld enough of it together that it looks
tin koala (Kansas is its name) is about six
its eyes made of the heads of desk lamps,
and its overall color a collective
shade of whatever my lawn is during a storm.
A small notecard sits between two
claws. I drag and it scrapes across the
driveway. Sparks leap like grasshoppers
and I take frequent breaks. I stop when I
reach the middle of the street.
Thunder cracks. The forest at the end of the
street grasps west as one.
Hurricane Irma isn’t quite here, but should
be before the next morning.
Near my mail
box, two boys bend low and drink rain
it pools against the curb. They take
turns, laughing at the absurdity of their
actions, perhaps. One of the boys, round
with flat brown hair, taps on the
shoulder of the other boy, lean and
“Be careful. You might swallow a tadpole,
and then a frog will grow inside of
you,” I say.
Gru,” the dreadlocked one says. They both
about eleven and I do look a little like
Gru from Despicable Me, if only a
little more worn.
The rain comes down harder and my house
rests like a freshly dead corpse. The
inside my garage flickers and goes out. My
Civic beams warm and dry. The back
is open, a mound of my shirts stacked
inside, glowing underneath the small bulb
of my trunk.
you guys hungry?”
dreadlocked kid looks like he might swear
again, but his
plump buddy matches the posture of Kansas.
There’s something appetizing about
bad ideas. The sense of immediacy they
place on lives. When I pursue a bad
idea, my skin seems to fit better around
me. The few muscles I have are
conscious of the work they’re doing.
“What’s to eat?” the dreadlocked one says.
the plump one says
I direct the
two to the back of my Civic and
avoid Kansas as I pull into the street.
My steering wheel shakes and I turn onto
the boulevard, sharply, noted by the
clink of the bottle beneath my passenger
seat. I forgot I cut my seatbelts out,
and the two boys tumble across the
backseat. More absurd laughing.
The storm is
worse closer to La Napolera. The entire
northwest. Wind occasionally pushes me
into the other lane and curtains of
rainfall blind us for stretches of road.
The sun will set soon and it might be
impossible to go anywhere, so I step on
the gas. The dreadlocked kid is named
Chris. The plump one Seth.
“What is that
dumb shit on your chest?” Chris says.
I forget I’m
not wearing a shirt and my tattoo is in
sight. “It’s a hermit crab,” I say. The
tattoo covers most of my chest and the
top half of my abdomen. There’s no real
story behind it, other than I like the
idea of moving from one shell to another
when I’ve outgrown the first.
metal Koala?” Seth says.
My wife made it.”
hermits lived alone.”
“Well,” but I
don’t finish. It’s difficult to find the
that are both accurate and coherent enough
for two eleven-year-old boys. Katie
is an artist, I can’t deny that. So she
does artist things. She revels in
doubt. She sleeps elsewhere for nights at
a time. She tells me my indifference
is a virus, one with no known vaccine. She
started a fire so she could fuck a
fireman. The last time I saw her, she
strapped skates to her feet and slung an
empty duffel bag over her shoulder.
curtain of rain, more sideways lightning.
bag in the middle of the boulevard.
I run over
it, the driver side of my car popping
More bottle clinking, more boy tumbling.
They laugh at the bumps, the way their
heads clang against the cup holders. Bugs
of unusual sizes smash into the
windshield. The rain clears the evidence.
We pull into
the parking lot of La Napolera, and
firetruck out front, an ambulance too.
happened?” Seth says. He’s since taken off
as well, stretch marks glowing in the
overcast. The boy will be tall one day,
perhaps handsome, but not before he
narrowly kills himself in the ninth grade.
will turn you into a killer,” Chris says,
the pomp of someone familiar with Yahoo!
sign of a fire, so the three of us hop out
Civic and approach the restaurant.
I was a boy
when my dad found out about my mom’s
buckled me into the back seat, my older
sister Kyle sat in the passenger (she’s
since died, a belligerent punch on the
Brix dance floor. I don’t think about it
when I don’t have to). My dad knew the man
my mom was sleeping with, they’d
played billiards together at the single
bar on the Naval base. He drove us to
the man’s house, pulled a cheap softball
bat from the trunk, and knocked three
times before taking the bat to the man’s
The boys and
I sit on a curb because a fireman won’t
“Can we go
home?” Seth says, his shirt tied around
“No. I’m not
ready for my mom to freak,” Chris says.
I pull a
cigarillo and lighter from my sock. A
steps to us and smacks the lighter out of
my hand. “Are you out of your mind?”
he says. There’s something about the way
his nose breaks right and I remember
he’s the one that fucked my wife. He
doesn’t recognize me because I’m perfectly
happy right now. Perhaps the hermit crab
is a distraction.
“When can we
go in and eat?” I say.
are other Mexican establishments.”
umbrage to his saying establishments instead of restaurants.
It feels deliberate, the posture with
which he drags a flaccid hose behind him.
The boys stand up, head towards the car,
and wait for me. Everything inside of
La Napolera is dark except for the
occasional flashlight. I see no cats, no
smoke, no rubble to sift through. When I’m
on my feet, I press my chest, give
the crab a little life, but my chest sags
these days, my gut melts over my
waistband, rain water drips from my belly
hair. The firefighter that fucked my
wife puts his hand on my chest as I walk
past but it doesn’t stop me. The hose
preoccupies his other hand until he drops
it and wraps his arm around my neck.
of the kids says.
Kyle and I watched my dad and my mom’s
lover trade blows in his front yard.
Fights were different then, a little more
dignified. They were missing a man in
stripes, sure, and some squared rope, but
there was a pulse of understanding
between the two. The other man had slept
with my mom and my dad had destroyed
his front door, his property.
bleed, Dad!” Kyle yelled from the car, but
waved her off.
back-to-back blows, one to the man’s ribs
other to his jaw, and perhaps it was
because the man didn’t love my mom, was
simply sleeping with her, that he lost. I
think about this often, the weight of
a cause. Where does passion factor in the
shape of an action, and is the moment
we recognize our buckling leg the moment
we’ve doomed ourselves to failure?
helped the man off the lawn, exhausted
swamping compassion, and led him to the
broken door. He returned to the car,
started it up. Kyle reached for the blood
sitting atop his lip and my dad
smacked her hand, pulled a cigarette from
the glove compartment.
When I told
this story to my wife, she wanted to know
of my mom. Why did she cheat? Where was
she during the fight? How come we
didn’t invite her to the wedding?
the bout with the firefighter. He’s yet to
his hold on my neck, despite my repeated
attempts to throw him over my
shoulder. In high school, I would have
braced my legs, prepared a squat, but my
legs do nothing. They wriggle like roach
firefighter pulls us apart. I gasp, choke
rain water. The firefighter that fucked my
wife manages a kick to my ribs before
he’s pulled away again. A gust drops in.
I’m reminded how little control I
should go home,” Seth says.
“This is not
as cool as YouTube,” Chris says.
the blades beneath me. I don’t remember
hit in the mouth, but I spit a little more
and drag myself to my feet. A dog
barks from one of the cruisers parked
across the street by the abandoned
gastropub. The water from the St. Johns
creeps into the street.
In the car,
the two boys don’t talk anymore.
tortillas at my place,” I say.
for seat belts.
Koala is gone when we return home, removed
where I left it. Water flows, coating the
street, into drains. A couple of
teenagers try to shoot the basketball,
time it with the wind, but miss by a
couple feet each time. Two other teens use
the top of a storage bin to skim
along the curbs.
I park the
Civic in the garage and the kids jump out,
through the yard, and fade into the haze
of the storm. A call after them dies
before it leaves my mouth. Perhaps I
taught them something.
Soon I’m in
the street. Through the rain water I can
make out the drag marks from where Kansas
once stood, but it could be branch
shadows, the sun is just about dead. The
shadow marks lead to the garage of
Bill and Barb, the seventy-year-old
Brookylnite couple we used to drink coffee
with. Maybe their son is visiting? How
else did they move the koala?
up their driveway and there’s this
Something like a peewee whistle, but a
little more desperate. It only rings for
a second. I try to lift their garage open
and I hear the screech again, clearly
from the grass to my right. A moat has
formed around this curved palmetto and
in the water a tiny rodent sits perfectly
still. Its thin and purple with shut eyes.
I hear the screech again, see that the
rodent is a baby squirrel.
fills. I spit leftover blood onto the
it flows into the street. I’ve heard that
you aren’t supposed to touch baby
animals with your bare hands, so I pull my
shorts down and kick them off. Using
them as a small barrier, I scoop the baby
squirrel out of the moat and hold it
close to my chest. Rain drops lands on its
body. It spasms like a nightmare. It
rubs its snout against the shell of the
hermit crab. It pulls its own tail into
its mouth, tries to feed from anything.