In high school, after I ran my mouth too much and Ronnie Bosman dropped me with one hammer punch to the face. I remember that when I came to my best friend, Lance, was already saying something about how it wasn’t that bad and nobody would remember anything in a week or two. He’d sat me up, I guess, and propped my back against the side of a dumpster in the alley. At some point he’d taken off the handkerchief he usually wore around his head and pressed it to my nose to stop the hemorrhaging. While I waited for the stars to clear, I lit a cigarette and inhaled. It tasted like the blood trickling over my lips and onto my tongue, and the whole fucking thing was far more satisfying and desirable than it had any right to be.
Before my sister’s wedding. Hiding outside the church with the groom’s uncle Steve who lit my smoke with one of those trashy torch lighters. The flame was pure blue, and it made the kind of aggressive whooshing sound that likely scared most normal people away from using it at all. I don’t think Steve knew anything about the way his nephew treated my sister, how he used the kind of threatening, emotional language that could only lead to something physical, the way a blast of lightening always ends in thunder. And still there were no real moves toward drawing any lines or preventing any catastrophes.
Alone in the parking lot of 7–11, finishing a few puffs before heading inside for some soda or Slim Jims or something equally juvenile. My phone rang, and before I could take the final drag, have a second thought or brace for impact, my mom told me how dad was found dead in the garage. I remember what he was with and what he was without when they discovered him – a gun, a shirt, a bottle, a pulse. Lots of people make plans for how to end things, innocence, bad habits, toxic relationships, but on that day, minus any plots or promises, everything came to a close suddenly and with a bang, which is the only sure way to eradicate something truly burdensome from your system.
Simon A. Smith teaches English and debate to high school students. He holds a BA in creative writing and an MAT in secondary education. His stories have appeared in many journals and media outlets, including Hobart, PANK, Whiskey Island and Chicago Public Radio. He is the author of two novels, Son of Soothsayer and Wellton County Hunters: Book One of The Search Team Trilogy. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son.