3 Love Songs
Why We Will Always Love You, Vera Knightville
Because back then we could show up at your trailer any time, any day, on weekends, on holidays. Because while your kids were scampering about in newspaper diapers we were scoring pin joints for three dollars a pop. Because how-do-you-do’s were kept at a minimum, because questions about books or parents or tomorrow were never asked. And most certainly because you always supplied us with the sweetest kind bud. So yeah, when I say we will always love you, Vera Knightville, I mean this. And I think I can speak for all of us when I say this has nothing to do with the fact that Jimmy Gallagher, nearly gray, still lives at home and spends his days cutting beaver figures out of logs with a chainsaw. This has nothing to do with you. At the same time this is not about Mark Trophy, who continues to scream around your neighborhood in the same Volkswagen blasting Van Halen, twin boys in tow. Although you’ve been gone for some time you weren’t the cause of this. In fact, others like Raymond Stills and Charlie Carroll only ended up living in cabins off the grid because they liked to shoot guns without the hassle. Again – not your fault. As for me, there’s this takeaway: we had to laugh to look at each other. In those strange and wonderful visits, when you were smoking us with whatever, there’s shame in every home lines, I would be the first on the floor, hysterical. So maybe because of this silly truth, or perhaps because how dope is being slung today, so impersonally, the reality of some mother just trying to feed her family is not so funny any more.
The Man in the Chair at the Kitchen Table
He awakes to a man in a chair at his kitchen table. It’s three in the morning and so he’s rightfully alarmed. It’s three in the morning and there’s a man at the kitchen table, just there, slap-bang, in the chair. To calm his deepest fears he might tell himself it’s a dream. Or perhaps he may dismiss the
vision as simply strung out. Either way, he sees a man in the chair at the kitchen table and it’s three in the morning and he’s this close to diving for the window, which, if details matter, opens to a fourth floor drop to the walkway below. It’s a cement path. This is not a good option for any of us. Instead he forces himself to size up the scene further, reflects, taking it all in to the point of regret – a wishful do-over. Now what might be primal instinct survival has travelled into the cerebral cortex region normally assigned for past thought, toward post-trauma response. Without notice, this snap memory places him in a basement apartment in Dorchester on a cloudless, otherwise hopeful day. Although he never considered what things would be like after the needle works, what life would have in store post-prick, when affection would pack and leave. Honestly, how do we think about complications at a time like this? If not for those words in a Dorchester basement from the new best friend: We tight, holmes? there would be no man in a chair at the kitchen table, only the arrival of dreamless sleep.
Suppose one day you come home to an empty apartment. Suppose it’s Saturday and a late afternoon sun is shining through an open window in a way that allows you to now see certain outlines: this is where a kitchen table used to be, on that wall hung a tomato soup can print, over there was once an event calendar. Suppose then you move to the bedroom to find the mattress stripped (exposing the rude lumps of wear) only to appreciate a half-empty closet with hangers swinging in the breeze. Suppose the thought…hangers…as in…once hung. Now suppose when you walk through the living room picturing a loveseat next to a dog sleeper, you imagine sitting in an equally bright café with a friend in an astonishing hour much like this, maybe just a year ago. And suppose, as you are there talking with this friend, you knew deep down the affair is going to eventually play out the way that it will – no kitchen table, no soup can, no calendar, the same lumpy mattress, a half empty closet…no dog. Supposing all this: would you want then what you feel now?
Stace Budzko is published or forthcoming in Hint Fiction: Norton Anthology of Stories, Press 53, PANK, Hobart, Elimae, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, Brevity & Echo, Quick Fiction, The Southeast Review, Carve Magazine and elsewhere. He is a writing instructor at Emmanuel College as well as writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.