Glen Pourciau ~ Three Pieces


 “Where are they liv­ing now?” my mem­o­ry-impaired broth­er asked. “I’d like to get in touch with them.” Whenever I vis­it­ed Dave he talked about our par­ents. “Do you remem­ber being in that house? Do you remem­ber when I built it? They nev­er stopped argu­ing, but I wouldn’t let go of the project until it was finished.”

            “You were two years old when we moved in. You couldn’t have built it.”

            “Oh,” he said, squint­ing. ”Why won’t you tell me where they’re liv­ing now?”

            “I’ve told you many times.”

            “What did you say?”

            I named a retire­ment com­mu­ni­ty in our hometown.

            “Are they hap­py there?”

            “They need a lot of care. They’re not doing well.”

            “I’d like to see them.”

            I said noth­ing. Our par­ents had both been dead for more than twen­ty years and would have been over 100 years old if they were alive. Dave had been to their funerals.

            His care­giv­er came into the room with a glass of water I’d asked for and half a sand­wich on a small plate. I thanked her and said I’d already eat­en. She nod­ded and left with the sandwich.

            “She’s very nice,” Dave said. “I don’t know where she came from. She doesn’t like me to be out on the bal­cony. She thinks I could lean too far over and fall. I can’t go any­where on my own any­more because my keys have been tak­en away. Will you help me vis­it them? How long has it been?”

            “It’s hard for them to see vis­i­tors. They wouldn’t be able to talk. Are you sure you want to remem­ber them that way?”

            “Maybe not. I want­ed to talk. Sometimes I think you’ve told me they were dead. Did you say that?”

            “Maybe you should think of them that way.”

            “Have they been here to see me?”

            “They can’t travel.”

            “Why haven’t you been coming?”

            “I have been.”

            “Oh.” He paused. “How are Mother and Daddy doing? Have you seen them?”

            “They’re hav­ing a hard time.”

            “Where are they liv­ing? Are they together?”


            “How old was I when we moved into our house?”


            “That doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I remem­ber things differently.”



 I went for a drink at a local hotel bar. I like the place, and a drink helps me for­get how lit­tle I remem­ber. I ran across a tall man in the lob­by who began to stare at me. I kept mov­ing, but he stepped into my path.

            “I remem­ber you. Don’t think I don’t.”

            “I don’t exist,” I answered. “I’ve been forgotten.”

            “I know you.”

            “If you can’t stand the sight of me, why keep looking?”

            I con­tin­ued to the bar and ordered my drink. His eyes stayed in my head. Was he at the hotel to check in? Was he check­ing out? What did he say exact­ly? Did I remem­ber it right? What could I have done to him?

            The bar­tender brought my drink and I paid him. He’s prob­a­bly for­got­ten me, and I can’t remem­ber his face. What day was it? Did any­thing real­ly hap­pen? Did the tall man approach me? Why would he do that? Did he stare at me? Was he pun­ish­ing me? For what? I’ve fall­en into a hole in my head. Was star­ing at me going to dig me up?

            I imag­ined his eyes every­where I went. What if I’d seen them? Would I have stared back? Would I have been star­ing at mem­o­ries I’d for­got­ten? Would I have gone right at them to see if they’d reappear?

            I returned to the hotel bar and ordered a drink. No sign of him. I sat at the bar and did not look back.



Despite sur­round­ing fog I make it to the gro­cery store for my week­ly shop­ping, push a cart with a bumpy wheel through the slid­ing doors, wind­ing it past the large tables of cakes, pies, and oth­er baked goods crowd­ing the entry. I dig in my pock­ets for my list, the left pock­et and then the right, through keys and glass­es and smart­phone and tis­sues, hands sore from twist­ing and wrig­gling. I accept that I’ve some­how for­got­ten the list and press for­ward to pro­duce, easy on my achy right knee, whis­per­ing from mem­o­ry, bananas, berries, and so forth. I gath­er four or five items, pause, what am I for­get­ting, my mind trans­port­ing me beyond pro­duce, keep mov­ing on.

            I try to recall the hard-to-remem­ber items, or those I think of as hard to remem­ber, the bread crumbs, where the hell are they hid­ing the bread crumbs, buy them once a year and can’t keep track of them. I stop at the milk, stare at the vari­eties, pick one up just to have it decid­ed. Store bustling, too many carts com­pet­ing for space. I turn my cart, short of breath, think­ing I’ve for­got­ten broc­coli. I start back, detour­ing into the cere­al aisle, one way and then the oth­er, scan­ning left and right and up and down for my brand when I see Eugene ahead. Is there still a chance to escape him? No, he spots me. Should I pre­tend I don’t see him or rec­og­nize him, is it too obvi­ous to piv­ot and flee? He advances his cart toward me as I wan­der inside my head for an exit. If he asks a ques­tion I pre­fer not to con­tem­plate should I choose not to answer? He’s not smil­ing, but he is watch­ing, the hunter siz­ing up his prey. Am I exaggerating?

            “Are you search­ing for some­thing?” he asks.

            “Nothing of interest.”

            “What have you been up to?”

            “Daily liv­ing.” Keep it basic, a min­i­mum to build on.

            “You don’t seem hap­py. I can tell you miss her.”

            I restrain the impulse to give him a look, bet­ter not to hint at what he’s churn­ing up. Can he real­ly tell I miss her? Is he fish­ing? Will he remind me she’s nev­er com­ing back? Does he hope I’ll give him a sto­ry of his very own he can repeat, a sto­ry to con­firm that I’m not doing well? I wave and roll my cart by him, sac­ri­fic­ing the cere­al. Maybe I’ll return to it when the aisle is not crowd­ed with him and his obses­sive desire to put his voice in people’s heads. I hear it on my way to the pro­duce, grate­ful I’ve got­ten free before he’s bad­mouthed anyone.

            Can’t recall why I’m in pro­duce, and I stop, on the look­out for the for­got­ten item. The answer comes to me and I roll to the broc­coli, already plan­ning where I’ll go next. I slide the broc­coli into a plas­tic bag, no trace of him as I pro­ceed. I don’t glance down any aisle, dread­ing eye con­tact or the sight of Eugene ges­tur­ing at me to wait a moment for him. Is it safe to try the meat mar­ket, a like­ly place for him to be? I park at the end of an aisle and view the meat shop­pers from a dis­tance know­ing that if I were close I’m too slow for a getaway.

I catch sight of him, angling his cart at anoth­er shop­per, who shakes his hand, a man in a ball­cap, don’t rec­og­nize him from here. I look away and see an acquain­tance with a cart, Cathy, a nice per­son, met her at a local canas­ta class for seniors.

You were talk­ing to your­self,” she says. “Your eyes were on something.”

The meat mar­ket,” I con­fess. “Avoiding some­one I know.”

She takes a peek.

Would that be Eugene?”

You know him?’

He should be jailed for men­tal tres­pass­ing. My nephew just got out on parole and Eugene will want to hear all about it. He’s talk­ing to Bryce, one of the cranks on the newspaper’s online forum.”

I’ve learned not to read that guy’s posts. All I want over there is a pound of ground meat, but it’s not worth it. Is this store haunted?”

He and Bryce may be feed­ing each oth­er for anoth­er ten or fif­teen min­utes. Get clos­er and we can hear their stom­achs growl­ing. I wouldn’t step near them.”

A young woman close to us is brows­ing pick­les. Cathy walks slow­ly to her.

For five dol­lars will you grab one pound of ground meat and bring it here to my friend?”

Is this a trick? Will you pay in advance?”

Upon deliv­ery,” Cathy says.

I’ll do it for noth­ing. Any par­tic­u­lar kind?”

I like chuck,” I answer.

She’s off, walk­ing fast and look­ing both ways, alert. Eugene sees her com­ing, her self-con­scious­ness and sense of pur­pose draw­ing his atten­tion. Could there be a sto­ry in her? Bryce turns and observes her stride. I pull my head back and con­sid­er the possibilities.

They’re watch­ing her,” I tell Cathy. “He’s already chewed a bite out of me once today. Is he approach­ing her?”

I’d rather not look.”

We need to know.”

Okay, she’s com­ing back. She looks as if their eyes are chas­ing her.”

Let’s move down the aisle. If they see her hold out the beef as she rounds the cor­ner they’ll know she’s pass­ing it off.”

It’s been good see­ing you, but before I sink in any deep­er I’m bail­ing. We shouldn’t have sent her on that errand alone. Enjoy the beef, and I’m sor­ry for your loss.”

She leaves with her cart. I retreat, knee aching, halt, and pre­pare to wave to the young woman. She looks sur­prised not to see Cathy.

Next time, get your own meat. It’s creepy feel­ing sus­pense and not know­ing why.”

She ignores the pick­les and push­es her cart away from me. I start toward check­out, hop­ing Eugene stays tied up with Bryce. Forget about the bread crumbs.


Glen Pourciau’s fourth sto­ry col­lec­tion, Under, is forth­com­ing in 2025 from Four Way Books. His sto­ries have been pub­lished by AGNI Online, New England Review, The Paris Review, and others.