Tommy Dean ~ Temporary Housing

On those nights when our par­ents fought, we crawled into their clos­et and closed the door. The muf­fled sen­sa­tion of dart­ed-words ham­mered at our backs as we dug through the rem­nants of our par­ents’ past lives. Yearbooks, and melt­ed can­dles, track batons with sharpied time tri­als, baby blan­kets wrin­kled with mildew. Love let­ters and class rings, old foot­ball stats. The sheet music for “Somewhere over the Rainbow” that she played for the tal­ent com­pe­ti­tion when she was a junior. Our father said that was how they met, but our moth­er waved us away, said she could­n’t pos­si­bly talk about it.  There’s a lot they won’t say to us, forc­ing us to inter­pret at night— their barbed words rip­ping through our minds fenc­ing off our curios­i­ty. So we hud­dle togeth­er wrapped in the leathered arms of their Letterman jack­ets. We try to imag­ine the peo­ple they used to be, the peo­ple we might become, the peo­ple they were afraid to be.

Now, my own kids set­ting records, com­ing home smelling of dry­ing sweat, the funk of exhil­a­ra­tion car­ry­ing them upstairs. My wife sit­ting at the sewing machine try­ing to thread patch­es firm­ly to the stiff woolen shells of jack­ets we nev­er earned.  You missed a stitch, I say, just an excuse to touch a sleeve, to scratch a nail across dates already too far into a future I could­n’t imag­ine. A place I don’t know how to name.

Forty-four years old, and both jack­ets hang in the one clos­et of this tem­po­rary hous­ing. I’m too often jolt­ed into the imagining—a dark night, sharp curve, the glow of a cell phone screen, the refract­ed words of a text bob­bing across your eyes like a buoy at the end of a pier. If you came in the door tonight, yelling my name, you’d find me in the clos­et, leather arms wrapped around my shoul­ders, phone cra­dled against my ear, breath­ing col­lec­tive­ly with my sib­lings, lis­ten­ing to our moth­er’s song, ask­ing where did we go wrong.


Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two chil­dren. He is the author of a flash fic­tion chap­book enti­tled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Flash Fiction Section Editor at Craft Literary. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His sto­ry “You’ve Stopped” was cho­sen to be includ­ed in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be includ­ed in Best Small Fictions 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.