three shorts by Joseph Veronneau
When it finally ends, I think there were some nice evenings. Some of them taste the way most of my life does. Like the night that my neighbor gave me a few dollars to dance half-nude on his picnic table. The stars smeared across the sky like a smokescreen. My mouth laid open, air all around, engulfed in the situation, his face lit by the end of his cigarette. I was twelve and didn’t realize what he wanted. Virginity a memory of stumbling in on so many surprises, like how she had pulled down my pants when I was five and said it was a game she had seen her parents perform. As I age, I think of myself as that thing dropped into a puddle of the past, forever lost. Tonight there is wine and music and everyone is beautiful sleeping, and at the other end you say you wish to remain in this tub with me ’til the end. I tell you it’s ok, relax. We are slowing down. Your breasts have started to sink below the suds.
I don’t think you should go. The trees are dying off quickly as of late. This terrible miracle of winter is coming too fast for my liking. You stand strong in the doorway, and I can hear your heart from a few feet away. When you say you’ll be back, I believe your tone.
This is how dad looked: dark hair and eyes much bluer than mine, skin much paler, hands so much stronger. When they carried me to mother small and purple as a plum, she must’ve paused. She had to have thought, “this is not mine.”
I was seven when she said there was no Santa, let alone a God. I swore that at least Santa had to have in fact existed. I still believe in nothing to this day. Her lapse in faith was a short one when her health failed. The birds take off quickly when the storms arrive. Don’t leave me here.
Mother looked strong as an Ox, yet pale and radiant. All of those years with beauty but didn’t shed a tear when her colon was removed, a bag accompanying her at her side. She said she would return when she left.
Something is coming along fast again. It took both of us to realize there are no second chances. She was angry to see me upset. She stayed tall and fervent with an appetite for life. Do you remember when you held me up on your shoulders to watch the parade passing through? I swear after I turned fifteen I stopped growing. I would take long glances in the mirror, imagining just a few more inches to the frame. It never came.
Now you stand like a marble statue, perfect, spared of this. What will happen here? The new parade is coming on, fall is rising. The betrayal birds float out, too weak for winter but strong enough for a marathon flight to Florida. The sun declines. This memory of my mother debating faith with a child.
“What do I really know, she said. Just decide yourself what there is.”
Just Before Massachussetts
“Oh, I forgot something,” he said, running back into his folks place, coming out with a bag. The drive wasn’t relatively long, but there were too many houses at first, then not enough. He pulled the sawed-off out and the window went down. We looked at each other up front; it was quiet in the back. The back window framed the blur of rooftops, though it appeared as if dust flew off after a couple of shots. The trains sounded off where we didn’t.
There was no mercy: the Coke machine took it the hardest, point blank and the lights shorted out in the dealership lot. Beyond our laughs a town stayed in their homes, not looking out of their collective windows.
The guy in the big rig saw us standing on the side of the road and sounded off, the flab of his arm pulling the chord harder than four guys trailing beer piss onto the side of a podunk town.