John kissed Marsha on his way out the door. He missed her mouth and
smushed her eye with his lips. Marsha didn’t even blink. “Late tonight,”
he said. “Don’t wait.”
I could suck her eye right out of her head, thought John.
“Save you something,” said Marsha, her eye tearing. Marsha was wearing
an apron. There was a rooster embroidered on the apron. She wiped her
hands on the rooster’s big red beak and thought about her eye.
“Boys,” she yelled, like a mother.
Little John and Jake came tumbling down the stairs. They were laughing,
“Jake took my lunch money,” said Little John.
“Little John took my lunch money,” said Jake.
Marsha put her hands on her hips and smiled.
A sack full of bricks and two little boys, thought Marsha. She threw
her arms around them and smushed the spikey hair on the tops of their
heads. “You boys,” she said.
“You Mom,” the boys said in unison.
Mom on a pogo stick, thought Little John.
“Pizza?” asked Jake.
“Okay, but don’t get pizza for lunch then,” said Marsha.
The boys looked at each other and smirked.
A sack full of bricks and a can of worms, thought Marsha.
“The bus,” yelled Little John.
“Don’t run,” said Marsha.
The boys ran out the door, down the yellow brick path, to the curb just
as the school bus pulled up. Marsha stood in the doorway and waved. When
she turned to go back inside, she nearly tripped over the dog. “Oh,
Spot,” she said.
Spot barked, like a dog.
Marsha took the pooper scooper and the leash from a hook in the mudroom
and put it on Spot. Spot pulled her out the door. She passed the Dodge
Durango in the double driveway. It needed to go to the carwash. Someone
had written WASH ME in the dust on the back.
Spot pulled hard, straining to get to the curb. He had diarrhea. “Oh,
Spot,” said Marsha, and frowned at the pooper scooper. “Good grief.”
A sack full of bricks and a shitty dog, thought Marsha.
Boys Will Be Boys, Bullies Are Cowards, the Wheels on the Bus Go
Little John and Jake sat in the back of the bus. They sat there because
Butch, who was a bully, made them do it. Butch sometimes made Little
John give him his lunch money. Sometimes Little John lied and said he
did not have any. Then Butch would take Jake’s lunch money instead.
Butch liked to sit next to a girl he called Batty Cathy. Little John
told his mom Butch called her that because she was on the spectrum.
Marsha asked him how Butch knew she was on the spectrum. Little John
said because she was batty. Marsha asked Little John, how would he like
to be called batty? Little John said he was not on the spectrum.
Butch and a bullhorn in the boys bathroom, thought Little John.
Butch pinched Batty Cathy and she yelped. “Listen to this,” said Butch,
like a bully, and pinched her again. Cathy yelped again. The children
laughed. Mr. Barter, who drove the bus, pulled over and got out of his
bus driver’s seat and yelled “Butch.”
Butch yelled, “Barter the farter,” and the children laughed. Mr. Barter
said, “You’re on report.”
Butch said, “You’re on report. For bad touching.” Mr. Barter sat back
down and started the bus.
Where the wild goose goes, thought Mr. Barter.
Mid-life Crisis, To Err is Human, Oh You Kid
John called Tina into his office and asked her to shut the door. Tina
came around his desk and began to massage his shoulders. Tina had magic
fingers. John could feel them from the top of his head to the tip of
his—“Tina, we better forget tonight.” Tina stopped massaging his
shoulders, came around the front of the desk, and sat down. She crossed
her legs. She was the only woman in the office who wore a skirt.
“It’s not you,” said John. “You’re—well, you’re—” John made a funny
sound, like a gargle.
Tina smiled. She made a sound of her own, like Tina.
A tuna melt on rye in the eye, thought Tina.
“It’s just—well, I kind of have a perfect record, you know? And two
“Of course,” said Tina. “What’s a girl to do? All the really good men
She fingered a little American flag pin on her blouse.
“It’s different in France,” said John. “Men who work hard and are
successful are kind of expected to have a girlfriend. A mistress. It’s
okay. As long as they support their family, you know?”
“I didn’t know that,” said Tina.
“Roger told me. His father was French. Roger speaks French.”
Tina got up and walked behind the desk. “You are just a bundle of
Gordian knots,” she said and began to massage John’s shoulders again.
“Oh shit,” said John.
Prairie oysters in the deep freeze, thought John.
Two to Tango, The Harder They Fall, A Rock and a Hard Place
After they ate their pizza, Little John and Jake walked over to where
Batty Cathy sat with her only friend Janice, a tall African American
girl, by the fence in the school yard. Janice was not on the spectrum
but she was just to the side of it.
“Hey,” said Little John.
“Hey,” said Cathy.
Janice did not say hey.
“You shouldn’t let Butch pinch you,” said Jake.
“You shouldn’t let him make you sit in the back of the bus,” said
“I like the back of the bus,” said Jake.
“Yeah, who doesn’t?” said Janice.
I could slide down a greased pole in your butt, thought Janice.
“Do you like being pinched?” Little John asked Cathy.
“He’s just a bully,” said Jake.
“A big bully,” said Janice.
“He’s just scared,” said Little John. “A coward.”
“You can kick him in his private parts,” said Jake.
“Where are they?” asked Cathy.
Janice groaned. “Between his private legs.”
“He’d run like a chicken without a head,” said Little John.
A farting chicken driving a school bus, thought Cathy.
“You would be a hero,” said Jake. “So cool.”
Cathy looked at Janice.
Low lying strange fruit, thought Janice.
Variety is the spice, Absence Makes the Heart, Man's Best Friend
Marsha took the half bottle of white wine to the study and even though
no one else was home locked the door. She sat down at the desk and
entered her password into the desktop PC, turned on private browsing,
and took a long swig from the bottle. She logged into the chat room as
TomTool: Hi guys
Jocker!: Hey TT
Stanman: Bully for pretty boy
TomTool: 18, sissy, nice legs and butt
TomTool: Maybe later
Jocker!: Me too. 40, nice guy, uncut
A noise behind the couch made Marsha jump. Spot stretched and yawned.
Marsha put her hand on her chest. “Good grief.”
Stanman: Check your PM
Marsha clicked on her chat room private mail.
TomTool: Wow! Is that real?
Stanman: You bet your sweet ass, boy
Even though he was fixed, Spot was humping Marsha’s chair.
A sack full of bricks and dicks, thought Marsha.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, thought Spot.
What Doesn't Kill You, Do unto Others, Love Thy
Marsha and the boys sat around the pizza box on the kitchen table. They
ate off paper plates with paper napkins and drank from plastic cups.
Marsha did not like to dirty dishes on pizza night.
“Where’s Dad?” asked Little John.
“Working late. Save him some,” said Marsha.
“I’ve only had two,” said Jake.
“I’ve only had two,” said Little John.
“I’ve only had one,” said Marsha. “Save two for your father.”
“Can I have the last piece then,” said the boys at the same time.
“Cut it in half,” said Marsha, like King Solomon.
Spot sat whining at the foot of the table.
“Batty Cathy got in trouble today,” said Little John.
“Don’t call her that,” said Marsha. “What did she do?”
“She kicked Butch,” said Little John.
“In his private parts,” said Jake.
“Good grief,” said Marsha. “Why did she do that?”
“I don’t know,” said the boys in unison.
“What did Butch do?”
“He laughed,” said Little John.
“I don’t think he has private parts,” said Jake.
“But he went to the principal. He said Batty Cathy was violent. They
called her mother who came and took her away.”
“Butch is a fat little prick,” said Marsha.
The boys stopped chewing and looked at each other.
“I mean he’s not a nice boy,” said Marsha.
Mom smoking a cigar in the bathtub, thought Jake.
Be It Ever So Humble, When Hell Freezes Over
Marsha sat on the front porch finishing the bottle of white wine. She
used a glass. It was after ten when John pulled up into the driveway.
“Hey,” he said.
“Get a lot done?” asked Marsha.
“Enough,” said John.
“Got a lot left to do?”
“No, not really. I think I’m about finished.” John put his briefcase
down. “The boys’ lights are on. I bet they’re on Xbox.”
Marsha poured the last of the wine in her glass. “Batty Cathy kicked
Butch in the balls,” she said.
“Oh, nothing,” said Marsha.
“Are you okay, honey?” said John, like a husband.
“Of course, sweetheart,” said Marsha, like a wife.
“I better hustle those boys to bed,” said John, like a father.
“I’ll be up in a little,” said Marsha.
Marsha sat and watched the fireflies blink on and off in the dark room
of the night.
A sack full of bricks and shit and bricks and shit and bricks and….
Paul Negri is the editor of more than a dozen anthologies of fiction and poetry from Dover Publications, Inc. His stories have appeared in The Penn Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Into the Void, Jellyfish Review, and more than 50 other publications. He lives in Clifton, New Jersey.