Jess Stoner

When Tad Was 17 He Wanted Something

My kid doesn’t stop by often (and only at night (he seems unconcerned with his safety (not that I would deliberately put him in a seedy position)—the Hungarian gypsies who own this area fear those of whom, (and this is a poor translation) “god has blessed with four trigger fingers.” Tad won’t be in danger here, as long as his ring-fingers can be seen. God help him if he wears gloves.)

He doesn’t know I’ve been sleeping with the woman who serves him mashed things in his school cafeteria. I tell myself it’s because of the way she binds her stretched thighs around me, the smell of steak between her legs—not because she spies on him. She likes to bunt the tube, gun the butt. It’s clever. She’s a good woman; she knows he’s mine and gives him two scoops of gravy—no charge.

He’s quiet, I tell her. She tells me at school he’s the Gemini from Hades. She says
she saw him while taking the trash out (heavy and wet from the insides of tater tots, skins of fried chickens, hard edges of hot dogs and the heavy mess of eggs cooked under-easy and left uneaten). He was fingering the vegetarian girl who puts salad dressing on her pizza.

For some reason Tad’s here today. He offers to run an errand, butter or something; I shit you not, the kid can, if the east wind is blowing south, smell my paychecks.

“Any new ones this month?”

“Yeah, this one’s new, just came out.”

I point to the wall with the garden gnome with a yam for an arm. (one of the few things his mother let me keep before she kicked me out before Tad was born, then gave him that humiliating name, a tactical fallacy; the kid was pinched repeatedly in kindergarten)

I live in a series of IKEA shipping containers. I hang my clothesline between them to
dry my things; it’s a wise burg, made of just tin. Wallpaper does not stick to crate tin. The word is a misnomer, much like the word “bagel.” Anyway, the new set of instructions is plastered on the wall (it’s a mixture best left to your most sundry thoughts), the Rationell interior fittings—drawer dividers—the “how to put this together” diagram without words had plenty of places he could color in. We spend our Tuesday afternoons doing this. Once he skipped school for nine straight days and drew on each empty space of wall-instruction-paper a series of mustaches.

Tad walks into my living crate room; he’s not a goddamn Gemini with me, and I’m pretty glad.

“Listen dad…I need your help.”

What am I gonna say? (I’m not exactly thinking Hallelujah. (I am thinking, “You gotta look into your inner-butter kid.”)

There’s an aura in the shape of an L around him.

“I told this guy I’d sell him a kidney, five grand, and now he’s coming around, looking to collect.”

Jess Stoner currently lives off an island off of Wales where the wind blows in every direction. Her work has been published in Caketrain, Memoir(and), Juked, Word Riot, and other handsome publications.

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