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Lightning flashes sideways and I haul my wife’s tin koala 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 like something.

The tin koala (Kansas is its name) is about six feet tall, 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 water as 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 dreadlocked.

“Be careful. You might swallow a tadpole, and then a frog will grow inside of you,” I say.


“Fuck you, Gru,” the dreadlocked one says. They both look 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 light 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.

 “Are you guys hungry?”


The 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.


“Shit yeah,” the plump one says


I direct the two to the back of my Civic and successfully 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 sky spins 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 plain 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.


“And the metal Koala?” Seth says.


“Scrap art. My wife made it.”


“I thought hermits lived alone.”


“Well,” but I don’t finish. It’s difficult to find the words 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.


Another curtain of rain, more sideways lightning. A duffel bag in the middle of the boulevard.


I run over it, the driver side of my car popping upward. 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 there’s a firetruck out front, an ambulance too.


“What happened?” Seth says. He’s since taken off his shirt 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.


“Margaritas will turn you into a killer,” Chris says, with the pomp of someone familiar with Yahoo! headlines.


There’s no sign of a fire, so the three of us hop out the Civic and approach the restaurant.




I was a boy when my dad found out about my mom’s affair. He 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 front door.




The boys and I sit on a curb because a fireman won’t let us any closer.


“Can we go home?” Seth says, his shirt tied around his head.


“No. I’m not ready for my mom to freak,” Chris says.


I pull a cigarillo and lighter from my sock. A firefighter 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.


“Not today.”


“There’s no fire here.”


“Sir, there are other Mexican establishments.”


I take 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.


“Fight!” one 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.


“Make him bleed, Dad!” Kyle yelled from the car, but our dad waved her off.


He managed back-to-back blows, one to the man’s ribs and the 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?


Our dad helped the man off the lawn, exhausted into a 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 more of my mom. Why did she cheat? Where was she during the fight? How come we didn’t invite her to the wedding?



I’m losing the bout with the firefighter. He’s yet to release 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 appendages.


A different firefighter pulls us apart. I gasp, choke on 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 really have.


“Maybe we should go home,” Seth says.


“This is not as cool as YouTube,” Chris says.


Purple spots the blades beneath me. I don’t remember getting 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.


“I’ve got tortillas at my place,” I say.


They search for seat belts.




Kansas the Koala is gone when we return home, removed from 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, splash 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 just 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?


I’m halfway up their driveway and there’s this screech. 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.


The moat fills. I spit leftover blood onto the driveway and 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.

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