Stace Budzko

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

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.