Timothy Willis Sanders

Roy and I wave at each other, then when close, we slap each other’s hands. Most days until dusk, or until Roy gets tired of getting schooled, we play basketball.

Roy's cheeks and chins move when he speaks, “You know Frieda and your dad. They’ve been seeing a lot of each other.”

Roy says it so chill. I expect a shit-talking chuckle to follow. I expect a snicker full of shit to follow. Roy doesn’t chuckle or snicker. Roy lobs the ball. The ball bobs on the rim and drops, brick.

He rebounds the ball under the basket. Palming it at his beer gut, he elbow swats at ghosts. I watch the blob of him wobble. ‘Seeing a lot of each other,’ he said, all chill before his brick shot.

Roy passes the ball. I catch the ball, bounce it hard, and pass it back.

Most Fridays Dad stays at Frieda’s overnight. He comes back to give mom a kiss, me a pack of basketball cards. Roy plumply jumps back and releases a jumper, just short, brick.

“All the boys were there. We were too drunk to drive home,” dad said. Roy’s arms flap and he hooks like Robinson. Air ball.

Roy weaves the ball between his hock knees. The ball strikes his Nike, and dives at the street. He pretends a pre-game warm-up and springs after the ball in tight little leaps, his teeth wrapped in his lips. I leave without a slap or a wave.


My parents are reclined, watching Roseanne. Dad is a see-through thing that socks droop from and beer disappears into. Mom’s body is creaking from a week’s worth of selling done in one day. She sips her iced tea and takes a looks at the beeper on her waist. When it beeps, she will go back to work.

Roseanne gets sassy with Darlene. Mom laughs like a squelching radio. The cat spieson the sock drooping from dad’s toe, then splits into ten directions.

Finally a commercial break comes, “Can I talk to you for a second mom?” I point to my bedroom and walk. The hallway is dim. I step dumbly, almost blind. Mom steps in a sure, gentle stomp. Could I say it chill like Roy? I wish Roy were here to say it.

The cat bats at a wadded piece of paper near mom’s feet. She kicks it back towards the cat. He pounces, bats at it. Mom’s beeper beeps.

Timothy Willis Sanders is the author of Orange Juice and Other Stories. His work has appeared in Muumuu House, Hobart and VICE. His new novel Matt Meets Vik is available now. He lives in Austin, Texas.


Willie Fitzgerald

America is a Different Country

Two old Italian women were confused about where they were going and were arguing about it. They were sitting together at the back of the people mover. The first one, who was wearing a black shawl and a red jacket, was adamant they were heading toward the C and D gates, which was not where they wanted to go. She was admonishing the second woman, who was wearing a blue blouse, a white skirt and several brightly colored rings, for getting so hastily onto the people mover. She was also asking, aloud and to everyone in the people mover, in Italian, Why anyone would have designed an airport this way? Were people stupid?

The airport was large and very busy, and a number of terminals were set off from the main building. The airport was building an underground rail system that would connect all the terminals, but the project was behind schedule, so everyone had to take the people movers from the main terminal to one of the auxiliary ones. The people movers themselves looked ungainly and illogical: a body like a double-wide subway car set high on a dump truck chassis with enormous wheels. The interior of the people mover was carpeted, with bench seating covered in the same material as the carpet. The carpet had an intricate geometric pattern of little blue chevrons in parallel lines atop a field of red and gray interlocking squares.

The two women weren’t going to the C and D gates. They were going in the right direction, and I wanted to reassure them.

I cleared my throat and said in Italian, “Excuse me, but you’re going the right way.”

The women looked at me in surprise. I still spoke Italian with the awkward grammar and funny, robotic pronunciation of a foreigner, but I knew enough to be conversational.

“Parla?” the second one, the one in the blue and white said. She used the formal with me, even though I was much younger than her.

“Un po. Di dove sei?”

“Genoa, in Liguria. E tu?”

“Seattle. Ma ho vissuto a Roma per tre anni.”

The woman in the red said she hated Rome. The woman in the blue scolded her. I said, No, I hated it too. I was there for school, and then for a job. They smiled and nodded.

Other people on the people mover were looking at us. I thought they might be impressed. The old women poor hearing—the one in red kept cupping her hand to her ear—and I had to half-shout most of what I said to them.

They were going to New York to visit the woman in blue’s daughter, who was having her first child. I wished them congratulations. The woman in red smiled, but the woman in blue frowned.

“She is no married,” the woman in blue said loudly in English. A few more passengers turned and looked at us.

“L’America é un paese diverso,” I said, as gently as I could. The woman in blue scowled at me, and stopped speaking almost entirely. The woman in red tried to re-engage her friend, but it was impossible. I had offended her. I tried to apologize, but I lacked the vocabulary to do so in a convincing, emphatic manner. Instead I used a more conversational phrase usually used when talking about bad restaurants or long days at work.

“Fa schifo,” I said, which meant, loosely, “that sucks.” It didn’t make things any better.

The people mover arrived at the terminal. The woman in blue got her things together quickly and walked toward the exit. I got my bag and helped the woman in red up, and then walked with her into the terminal.

Neither of us could find the woman in blue when we got into the main area of the terminal, and the woman in red became angry. She said they were going to miss their flight, which was leaving in only a few minutes.

“Ho detto la cosa sbagliata,” I said.

“She is stupid,” the woman in red said in English. “She is very… determine?”

“Stubborn,” I said.

“Yes. Good. Stubborn.”

“Dami il tuo biglietto,” I said. The woman in red handed her ticket to me. I realized that, throughout the course of our entire conversation, I had forgotten to use the formal with them. They hadn’t seemed to mind. I looked again at the ticket. Their gate was close, just a few hundred feet away.

The woman in blue emerged from a Cinnabon holding an enormous iced coffee, which seemed even larger in her stubby, ring-adorned fingers.

“Lucia!” The woman in red said flatly, holding up one hand and snapping. It struck me that an American woman would have waved her hand, raised her purse, or shouted. But the woman in red merely snapped and Lucia saw her.

“Scusa per me,” I said in Italian as Lucia approached.

“Ah,” the woman in red said, dismissing me, but I insisted.

She looked at me and finally nodded.

I thanked her, and waved at Lucia, who was still slowly approaching. She was kind enough to raise her coffee to me and then the two women made their way through the terminal together toward their plane.

Willie Fitzgerald is the co-founder of APRIL, an annual festival of small and independent publishing in Seattle. His work appears in Hobart, City Arts, Poor Claudia's Ten Sources, and elsewhere.


Sabra Embury

There's a couple sitting tight and still on this train.
Their eyes are wide at their feet. They seem to be petrified.

There's a loud swoosh and a man he enters fast.
He's wearing a dozen shirts of various texture and sully.
His khakis are shredded. Laces untied. Sunday paper under his arm.
“Look at this shit,” he says. “All over the fucking floor.”
He's swaggering and reeks of sour booze and warm maple syrup.

"I just want ya'll to know I didn't do this," he says.
He lays the newspaper down on the pile of stink.
Raspberry marmalade is glistening in chunks looking slick.

"I'm just being a humanitarian is all, it wasn't me," he says, smiling.
Then he sits his wiry body in an empty seat beside me.
He seems confident. He's obviously pleased with himself.

“Hey, girl,” he says, “You like that champagne?"
His thigh nudges my thigh. I flinch and scoot to the side.
"Wearin' shoes like that on Sunday? I tell you what."

I rummage my bag past business cards and a tube of red lipstick.
I scrape a cellophane wrapped peppermint. Some change.
I offer it to the man who smells like hell. The train smells like hell.
And I smell like smoke and some ancient dipshit's cologne.
I focus on a tagged and mutilated Kindle ad above a window.

I pray for an explosion. A slingshot launch into a tornado.
I can feel my pulse in my throat. I swallow hard and dry.
I haven't brushed my teeth and my feet are killing me.

A warm breath hits my ear. I feel fingers scrape my palm.
The trains slows. People stand, quietly averting their eyes.
The man stands. The train is stopped. He swaggers to a pole.

"First someone throws up on my train and now I have bad breath," he says,
"but I hope all of you have a good day anyway." And he's gone.

In my hand sits a crumpled five. And thirty-six cents in change.
It's mostly nickels. Warm and silver under a canopy of empty cellophane.

Sabra Embury writes for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her work has appeared in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Fanzine, As It Ought To Be, the Rumpus and NANO Fiction. She lives in Brooklyn with her son, Felix.


Kristen Iskandrian

Seemingly overnight, everything reaches its full bloom. The dogwoods burst forth. Bird song is so strident it makes people pause their conversations, or speak more loudly in order to be heard. Flesh is visible, yards of winter white leg and pretty clavicles festooned with glinting strands, as though celebrating their liberation from turtlenecks and heavy scarves. Surprise and a few of the girls from her business classes or young entrepreneur’s club or whatever she is involved with these days—I went from losing her little by little to losing her at a hundred miles an hour, this spring—“go tanning,” borrowing upperclassmen cars or taking the bus to the tanning booth to work on their “base tans” before baring almost all at Beach Week, when much of the college disperses north, along the various towns on the coast. The freckles Surprise had when we first met have resurfaced, and others have joined them. She has a red seersucker bikini and new jewelry from her boyfriend, and she walks like someone who has a lot of staid sex—a clenched swagger.

Overnight, too, I am swelling. I wear more and more layers. My mother’s loose dresses, now getting tighter, or tee shirts under long sleeve shirts under my denim jacket or oversized button-down sweater. My body rejects this weather, the seasonal call to undress. My pants still fit with my rubber band contraption holding them together, but they are not particularly comfortable. My entire biology is forging on ahead, carrying on without me. I feel like a citizen of a country with a tyrannical regime. Time is not heeding my ambivalence, if that’s even the right word for it. I smell different. In the mornings, I make my way to the shower, where I can safely be naked. I miss being touched but I can’t conceive of being touched, so the water’s steady pulse against my skin seems like the right compromise. I make it as hot as I can handle, and when I can’t take it anymore, I turn the faucet almost all the way to cold. Sometimes I vomit, quietly, right into the drain. At the end of the night the smell of me—like blood hatching, like an eruption of cells in a Petri dish—is so thick that I take another shower, soaping and re-soaping every crevice. I wear an old flannel nightgown of my mother’s and I make sure that when I finally pull it on and get into bed, I’m too tired to have any thoughts left in me, and fall thickly into sleep.

It’s getting harder and harder for me to find the right words for anything. Conversation has become thorny.

In three days, campus will shut down. I have not begun packing, have not made arrangements to go home. My father has called and left messages and I have called my father and left messages. We always say the same thing: “Hello, I’m just calling to say hello. Call me when you can.” My father says “convenience”—“Call me at your convenience.” Not inconveniencing people is the first tenet of his religion, a religion based largely on politeness and unobtrusiveness and yes, good-heartedness—but it is a religion too that reviles the dirt and grit and pus and indignity of being alive. Like in those World War II movies where one soldier plunges his hand into the wound of another, to fish out the shrapnel, to save his brother—I wonder, could my father ever be capable of that. If I lay bleeding. If my mother lay bleeding. Because even without the blood, he is too easily embarrassed, too fearful of the mess, of the risk one takes when one tries, in earnest, to save another. It’s not his fault. He wants to be invisible. Or he wants everyone else to be. He wants everyone to be always alive and always happy and always not immediately in front of him. Upstairs, or downstairs, but not too close. If he knows we are okay then that is enough. Maybe he knows my mother is okay. Or he forces himself to believe she must be. So that he doesn’t die, so that he doesn’t sweat. The point is, there is this point with my father where refusing to be a burden becomes its own kind of burden. We become burdens to each other, in our nonburdensomeness. It is contagious. Our bodies repel one another in a weird tango of deference.

I walk around, aimless. Everything I see feels like the first thing I see, feels like the last thing I will see. I wonder if my eyes are different. I go into the chapel one morning and each of my footsteps sounds like four footsteps—the step, and the step’s echo, and the echo’s echo, and the echo’s echo’s echo. Amazing, I think, that one person’s being here is louder than many people’s, that without other people to absorb the noise of my movements I am terribly loud, noisily alone. I sit in the first pew and look up at the ceiling, the solemn sturdiness of the exposed beams, the iron chandeliers hanging from thick chains. I feel moving through me like spilled water an inexpressible love (is it? Who can know?), messily filling in the corners and fissures. I imagine the moisture getting trapped there, mildewing like in the dorm showers, a sealant of dead bacteria to protect me from the contagions of fear that are also seeping inside, from some other hidden inside.

What is this love? Why am I beholden to it? Is it strictly hormonal? Some conditioning of the body, some biological coup?

Or is this not at all love. Is this something else.

I have no idea, I’m learning, what love is. Each day I am certain of a little bit less. I am getting bigger but there is less of me. There is size but no space. All that I was, all that I knew, is being squeezed out by this void-growing-a-body. What will transfer, I wonder. Is there any such thing. What am I giving away, and what will I get back. And what is mine in return. If anything. If nothing.

I leave the chapel and wish for another chapel. I wish for a room filled with people. A room filled with people all feeling the same thing in the same measures, heads bowed, unspeaking, together in our separateness, the air around each of our bodies hemming us in, holding us down, commingling, air doing the work that we ourselves usually do, touching, talking, acknowledging. I want to do none of it, now. I want to see how still I can be, to see if stillness leads eventually to nothingness.

Kristen Iskandrian lives in Birmingham, Alabama. This piece is from her novel long in progress. She recently received an O. Henry Prize. She has been featured on Everyday Genius before, here and here. Her daughter would like her to tell this joke: Knock Knock / Who's There / Shelby / Shelby who? / Shelby comin round the mountain when she comes...


Stella Corso


Some people don’t know their own ruby.

Are surprised little inklings just posting in the universe.

I run around screaming cockroaches!

This deli feels dirty.

We can teach each other self-management, though.

These are our private benefits.

For instance, a playful monkey bought a bank.

What fantastic idea will swim up next?

God walks into a door I mean a bar.

Let’s get back to questions.

Who put these sinners on loop?

Would you like to try a sample?

Guess cancer is the new waiver for summer semester.

Stella Corso lives in the Pioneer Valley where she runs a vintage clothing shop called Pale Circus and teaches at Western New England University. Some of her poems can be found in Coconut Magazine, jubilat, Caketrain, notnostrums, and H_NGM_N. She is a founding member of the Connecticut River Valley Poet's Theater, also known as CRVPT.


Amy McDaniel

Delta Flight 2024

The man giving the safety
demonstration does not expect
our attention. It is a fully
private performance. If there is
an audience, it is not us,
the passengers on the plane,
it is imagined. I believe
at least 60% of men would
fall in love with me. 70%
now that another man is
actively, publicly in love with me.
I am in love with no more
than 20% of people. I can
think of only 9. The man
next to me said, “Jesus!”
when the woman in front of him
reclined her seat. He looked
at me for confirmation and yes,
it was very sudden and very
disruptive. If a man had
reclined that thoughtlessly, it
would’ve been mannish. A woman
did, so it was womanish instead.
Emotion is the province of women,
which happily situates women
as emotion’s defenders. Men
are emotion’s enemies. They fight
emotion, they are overcome. They
are colonized by emotion.
For $18 extra, I flew first class.
I skipped half the security line. I
got chardonnay and a
small, very cute banana. That’s
all. But the whole sky looked
like one rainbow.

Amy McDaniel runs 421 Atlanta, a center of literary attention and chapbook press. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Tin House, PANK, The Agriculture Reader, Saveur, H_NGM_N, and elsewhere. Her most recent chapbook is Collected Adult Lessons.


Alex Gallo-Brown

I was awakened by a flow

I was awakened by a flow.
The television had been bleeding dimes.
I had spent too many days
luxuriating in its wholesome flicker.
Proletarian concerns propelled me
down hallways filmed with dusk.

I had been listening to some other voice.
I had freed myself from the grand plan.
The plane no longer included
whatever one might once
have considered
to be me.

Rummaging through flesh,
I fell down a runway,
trampling infinite machinery.

Grants would have to be written
to recover what was mine.
I was a vengeful and vindictive
son. I do not pretend to know
myself, though I do

pretend other things.

Alex Gallo-Brown is one hell of a center fielder. He lives in Atlanta.


Ronald Fisher

from Mid-City Errands

(Mid-City Errands is a novel set in 1959 New Orleans, about Vonny Foster, a precocious 7-year-old trying to find out who ran over his friend Jimmy Broom. That incident, along with his upcoming First Communion, prompts Vonny to ask some big questions, such as in this scene, when Vonny is caddying a golf game with some of his many uncles.)

One other time I went to City Park with my Uncle Martin because he had a golf match. Which is when there are two golfers and they play to see who’s better. Like a boxing match, except no punches. Anyways, the other man hit his ball into the same trees where my Uncle Gauthier was hitting his ball all day. And just like Saturday, guess who got to go and look for that ball? It was my first time being a golf caddy for my Uncle Martin and I knew some of the etiket rules. But I didn’t know about the rule that you’re not suppose to pick up anybody’s golf ball. So, when I found the other man’s golf ball and picked it up and said, “Here it is,” instead of everybody saying, “Hey, thanks a lot!” my Uncle Martin and the other man just stared at me, then at each other, then at me again, and then at each other again. For about a minute. Back and forth.
“You lose the hole,” the other man finally said to my Uncle Martin. “Your caddy touched your opponent’s golf ball. In fact, he’s holding my golf ball.” I dropped the ball right then and there. I thought my Uncle Martin was going to be upset. But he wasn’t. He just explained I wasn’t suppose to touch any of the golf balls when I find them. Just let everybody know where they are. Which I did. All that afternoon. And my Uncle Martin won anyways and after only fifteen holes too.
So, when I was looking for my Uncle Gauthier’s golf ball under the trees, I knew better than to pick it up and I just called out to everybody where it was. This went on all morning. Then after the ninth hole, my Uncle Stephen, my parain, said, “Fifty-two for Black, forty-five Charlie, forty-three Black, and forty-two for me,” and he pointed at my Uncle Gauthier the first time he said black and at my Uncle Martin the second time he said black.
“I thought I had a forty-two,” my Uncle Martin said.
“Nope,” my parain said back, “I got you down here with five, five, six, three, four, five, six, four, four. Forty-three.”
My Uncle Martin asked to see the scorecard. “Uncle Martin,” I said. I tapped his arm. Which is skinny and dark like mine. Not with a lot of muscles like Daddy.
“Just a minute, Vonny,” he said back, “I want to look at this scorecard.” Which he did. And then he said, “Bogey, par, double bogey, birdie, bogey, bogey, bogey, par, bogey.” Whatever that means. “That’s what I had.”
“But that makes forty-two,” I said to my parain. All of my uncles stared at me when I said that. So, I said, “Two sixes and a three make fifteen, three fives make fifteen, which is thirty, and then three fours make twelve, which makes forty-two total.” Then they all stared at me even harder.
“Where did he come from?” my Uncle Gauthier said after a while. “I mean, boy, where did you come from?” he said again. His eyes were twinkly.
“Give me that card, Black,” my parain said to my Uncle Martin. Which he did. Then he counted up the numbers again and said, “That little rat is right!” My uncles all laughed.
“How did you come up with that, Vonny?” my Uncle Charles said.
I just moved my shoulders up and down and then said back, “I don’t know.” Which I don’t. It’s like when I think something. I just think it. It’s the same way with numbers. I just add them up when I hear them. I can’t help it. Except I don’t ever have to put adding up numbers on my confession list.
Then my Uncle Martin rubbed my head and said, “You’re a great caddy, Vonny. Keeping my score in your head.”
“And Parain has a forty-three,” I said again. “Not forty-two like he said.”
“You little rat!” my parain yelled, and he came up to me and started to tickle my ribs. I couldn’t get away. “How do you figure I had a forty-three?” And then, while I was laughing because he was tickling me, I told him how I figured it out, calling out his score on each hole and then multiplying the number of fours and the fives and then adding them and then adding the threes and the sixes to them for the total. Which was forty-three.
“He’s right again!” my Uncle Martin said. Because he was looking at the scores again and checking the numbers.
“What did I have?” my Uncle Charles said.
“Same as Parain already said,” I said back. “Forty-five.” And I called out his scores too. And how I added them. And then I did the same for Uncle Gauthier. Whose score was fifty-two, like my parain said to begin with. Everything was in my head. Every single shot.
“How much are you paying this boy?” my parain said to my Uncle Martin.
“To tell the truth,” my Uncle Martin said back, “I wasn’t planning to pay him anything. Except for the two doughnuts he ate this morning. But I guess I’ll have to pay him at least a quarter now that’s he caught you trying to cheat us.”
All of my uncles laughed. My Uncle Gauthier said, “Where did Irene find this kid?” Who is my Mother.
Then my Uncle Charles walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Next time we’re in town, Vonny, you’re going to be my caddy. I’ll pay you fifty cents.”
All of my uncles laughed again. “Well, gentlemen,” my parain said back. “We have nine more holes of work to do.” He tossed the scorecard into the trash can on the next hole. “We won’t need this though. Vonny here is going to keep all of our scores in his head.” Which I did.
Some of the golf holes were very long and others were not so long. While we were walking, my Uncle Martin explained to me that some were par threes and others were par fours and still others were par fives. Which means that you want to get the ball in the hole after that many number of hits. So, for a par three, you get three hits. Par four, four hits. Like that. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a long hit or a short hit. They all count the same. Even little ones. It’s the same in my back yard. If I hit my little plastic ball all the way to the back of the fence, that counts as one. If I just hit it a few inches to get it in the little cup I used, that counts as one too. It’s not like baseball where it’s better if you hit it far. But that made me wonder. So, I said to my Uncle Martin, “What’s a perfect score in golf?”
“What do you mean by perfect?” my Uncle Martin said back. “For me, eighty is pretty good.”
“No!” I said back. “Not a good score. I mean perfect. Like in bowling. If you get all strikes, it’s three hundred.” I saw that on a TV program one time. “And in baseball, if a pitcher gets all three batters out in all nine innings, that’s a perfect game. Like that guy did in the World Series. Twenty-seven outs in a row. So, what’s a perfect score in golf?”
Just then we got to my Uncle Martin’s ball. Which was right in the middle of a pile of sand that was near the green. Which is what he called the place where the hole was with a little red flag on a pole in the middle of it. I never had flags on my golf course in our back yard. This hole was one of the shorter ones. A three par. “Oh, boy,” my Uncle Martin said when he saw his ball. “A fried egg.” Which I knew then he wasn’t going to tell me yet what’s a perfect score in golf.
“A what?” I said back.
“See how the ball is settled right down in the middle of that ring of sand?” my Uncle Martin said back. “It looks like a fried egg.” It didn’t to me. But I eat scrambled eggs anyways. Egg juice gives me an upset stomach. “Well, Caddy,” he said. “Let me have that sand wedge.” Which almost sounds like sandwhich to me. So I smile whenever my Uncle Martin says it.
“Here’s your sandwhich,” I said back while I was handing him the club. I can tell the sand wedge from the other clubs because it is the fattest one that is made of metal. Uncle Martin didn’t laugh at my joke. He just smiled at me. He knew I know the difference.
When my parain is playing golf, my Uncle Stephen, he talks almost the whole time. He hardly ever stops talking except when other people are hitting or getting ready to hit. But when he’s hitting, my parain is talking to everyone around him like he wasn’t even doing anything. If he’s telling a story when he gets to his golf ball, he just keeps telling the story while he stands by it and hits it. He doesn’t even stop while he’s hitting it. Same if he’s telling a joke. He just keeps telling the joke while he’s hitting the ball and sometimes is laughing right when he is hitting. But my Uncle Martin is very quiet. And he wants me to be very quiet too. And he also wants me to stand in a particular place. Which is behind him. But not too close behind him where I could get clobbered by the club when he hits. But not too far away that he can’t turn around and just hand me the club without walking too far. This is part of golf etiket, is what Uncle Martin says.
So, after I handed him the sand wedge, Uncle Martin walked into the little pile of sand and was very quiet. And then he stood over the ball for a little bit. He looked at the fried egg, he looked at the red flag, then the egg again, then the flag again, the egg again, the flag again, and then finally the egg one last time. And then he raised up the club and dropped it down just behind the egg. Which was the golf ball. Which made sand blow up in the air and back at him and back at me too. I closed my eyes and never saw the ball or my Uncle Martin either. But then after a while, I heard my parain shout out in his very loud voice, “Great shot, Black!” I could hear my other uncles clapping.
Just when I got my eyes open again, my Uncle Martin was stepping out of the sand and handing me the club. We were both brushing sand off of us. “Now, Vonny,” he said as I took the sand wedge from him, “that is as close to perfect as you get in golf.” Which I didn’t understand what he meant. “Now, do me a favor, would you? Please run and get that ball out of the hole.” Which I did. Out of the hole? My Uncle Martin got a two! I hardly ever get twos, even on my little golf course in our back yard.
After my parain and my other uncles finished that hole and everybody made their first hit on the next one, my Uncle Martin first because he had the best score on the hole before, which is also part of etiket, I said to him, “So, would a two on every hole be perfect score in golf?” The next hole was a long one, so we had a lot of time to talk. My other uncles were walking in front of us, the three of them pushing their carts on the green grass with the blue sky in front of them and us just a little behind.
My Uncle Martin laughed. “Well, I guess one way to look at it, Vonny, would be to say that, in golf, par is a perfect score,” he said back.
That didn’t make sense though. Right away, it didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to contradict my Uncle Martin. But I couldn’t help myself. “You just had better than par on the last hole,” I said back. “You had two hits on a three par. One less than par. So, par can’t be perfect. If it was, then you made one better than perfect. And you can’t do better than perfect. That’s what perfect means.”
“Who says you can’t do better than perfect?” my Uncle Martin said back.
“But that’s what perfect means!” I said back. “It means the best. You can’t be better than the best.”
“But I can be better than my best,” my Uncle Martin said back. “Better than your best is something, isn’t it? To have your best score? What’s your best score on your two holes in your back yard?” Which my Uncle Martin knows about.
“Five,” I said back.
“Never scored a four?” he said back. I shook my head. “Well, what if you scored a three one day? Just three shots for your two holes. Wouldn’t that be perfect enough for you?”
“Perfect enough?” I said back. “That doesn’t make sense! Perfect would be just two shots. Just one shot on each hole. Straight into the cup. Both holes!”
“One shot a hole?” My Uncle Martin whistled and his eyes looked up into the blue sky. He pushed his hat back on his head and then straightened it back where it was. “Is that what I need to be perfect? You’re tough, Vonny. You’re saying a guy has to shoot a score of eighteen to have a perfect round of golf?”
I just lifted my shoulders. “Eighteen is the least hits you have to make, right?” I said back.
“But that’s impossible, Vonny,” Uncle Martin said back.
“Don’t you try to get the lowest score in golf?” I said back.
“But it’s impossible even to just take two shots for every hole. Or just three. Nobody ever does that.”
“Just because nobody ever does it doesn’t mean it’s not perfect,” I said back. “Before anyone pitched to just twenty-seven batters in a baseball game, that was still a perfect game.”
“Only if none of them reached base,” my Uncle Martin said.
“Okay,” I said back. He was right about that. “But before anyone bowled twelve strikes in a row, that was still the perfect score, wasn’t it?”
“How many of these examples do you have?” Uncle Martin said back. We reached my other uncles who were all standing near his ball. He got to hit first again because he didn’t hit his ball as far as the other ones. That’s part of etiket too. “So,” he said to my other uncles, “Vonny and I were talking about what a perfect score in golf would be?”
“Par, of course” my Uncle Charles said back. “That’s what you’re suppose to get.”
“Wrong,” my Uncle Martin said back. “According to Vonny here.”
“One better than you ever did before,” my Uncle Gauthier said back. “What’s more perfect than the best you ever did?”
“Wrong again!” my Uncle Martin said back.
“Eighteen,” my parain said back. “A hole in one on every hole. That’s as perfect as it gets.”
I started smiling. My Uncle Martin laughed. “Well, Stephen, you’re not his godfather for nothing.” Then I started laughing a little bit. But then Uncle Martin turned to me and said, “Six iron, Vonny.” Meaning I should hand it to him. Which I did.
Everyone got very quiet. All of my uncles. And I stood behind my Uncle Martin. But not too close behind him where I could get clobbered by the club when he hit the ball. And not too far away that he can’t turn around and just hand me the club without walking too far. Then my Uncle Martin stood over the ball for a little bit. He looked at the golf ball at his feet, he looked at the red flag flapping in the wind a ways away in front of the blue sky, then the ball again, then the flag again, the ball again, the flag again, and then finally the ball one last time before pulling the club back and hitting it down at the ground just where the ball was. A big slice of green grass flew up in the air and landed on the ground a few feet in front of us. But the golf ball went out and up into the blue sky and flew right at the flag like it was a bird heading south for the winter. Except south was on the green about a foot away from the bottom of the pole that the flag was hanging on.
“Another great shot, Black!” my parain said. “Must be your caddy.” He smiled at me and bended over and kissed the top of my head.
“Vonny,” my Uncle Martin said, “was that perfect?”
I lifted my shoulders. “Did it go in the hole?” I said back.
My uncles didn’t stop laughing for about ten minutes.

Ronald Fisher was born and educated in New Orleans, Louisiana. He currently works from homes located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Mid-City Errands is his first novel. Find out more about it at and Twitter.


Mike Topp


Miniature ponies don't make me angry so much as disappointed.

Scientists say distance from earth to moon is 238,855 miles—but what's your opinion?

Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to hold hands with a cat.

A vegan is much more afraid of you than you are of him.

JOE: Moe, a word?
MOE: How about delicatessen?
JOE: That's a great word.

I treat objects as women.

Few books leave a deeper impression on readers young and old than Donna Tartt’s classic The Goldfinch. Interestingly, the novel is an extensive reworking of Tartt’s original draft, which was entitled The Drinking Fountain.

Under the image of Buddha
all this overdyed chambray
seems a little tiresome.

Maybe one day we’ll tip our hats to Count Chocula, not out of fear, but out of friendliness.

God, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death. (To be continued.)

Mike Topp lives in New York City unless he has died or moved. He is working on a book called CRAZY HEARTS with the poet Sparrow.