Title Our Authors

Stick of Measurement

By Lee Nelson

"I almost didn't kill him,

my first kill.  But he didn't

hesitate.  He had the drop.

I got lucky, so lucky.

And I aimed and fired.

I'll probably forget some

as I get older, but I won't

forget him.  Him and the dogs.

So help me, I'll never forget
the dogs," he said.

 

"The dogs," I enquired,

both of us pausing

to sip our bourbons
by the campfire.

 

"Never mind.  I can't.

I won't," he said,

ice slapping his lip

with the gulp of bourbon.

"I won't ever.  There's no place


n the world for that."

 

"Do I have breasts?

Tell me,
do I have them?"

 

She demanded honesty.

That much was plain.

"No," I answered
with butterflies.

 

"And that was the beginning

for everyone else, my mom,

my mom's boyfriends,

boys at school, all my friends.

I knew by twelve, who I was,

and the tits, no tits,

that was it.  I had it,

but then I really got it.

My mom was cruel.

Everyone

was so cruel.

People, at any time,

are so fucking cruel,"

she said,

lifting her overpriced

herbal tea,

the tea she said

wasn't worth it
as a man assessed the both of us.

 

"I don't care.  That's her problem,

and she can own it until the day

she dies," he said, slugging his beer

on a grand summer day, venison steaks

pluming and daring

 the gorge behind us

in Ithaca.
"Fuck her, he said."

 

"We are family," I said.

"Just try, will you?

The family needs it.

That goes without saying.

Get over it for the family

if not for her.

We all need it,

and you know what?

You'll regret it,"

I said,
and slammed some beer.

 

"Fuck her," he said.

"She knows," he said.

 

After a silence,

they said "Nobody

knows to question normal

like I do, like anyone

like me
has lived."

 

They didn't say it to me.

I was just there.

I felt as uncomfortable

as I'm confident
anyone would.

 

"Just get this behind you,"

said their mother.

"It's just a setback.

We all have them.

You've had them.

You'll have more,"

their mom said,

as the nurse anesthetist

delivered indifference,
and on we went.

 

"You could've done more.

You knew," he said.

"You were there.

Don't get me wrong,"

he said, eyes welling.

"I love you.  You were on

my side.  You had my back.
Why didn't you stop it?"

 

I looked at my food

waiting for me.

It was getting cold

as I drank,

and looking back,

I'd done plenty,

always choosing

the best battles
as I saw them.

 

"This is why you're here

and not there," I said.

"You are home.
I love you too.

 

Let's eat," I said.

 

"It's the fat kid,"

I said.

"He'll always be with me.

I lost 63 pounds in a summer,"

I said.

"Who does that?

People don't believe it's true,

true that anyone can lose

that much weight

in one summer, but I did it.

Well, I began to lose it in the spring,

but the summer is when it really happened,

so that's how I remember it," I said.

"I did it as soon as I realized I'd always be ostracized

if I didn't. 

Fat sucks.  The world hates fat.

I hate fat ever since.

I won't ever be fat again,

and now this country nurtures

 fat people. 

We're normalizing

morbid obesity.

That's a big deal,"

I said, excusing the pun,
because puns are never funny.

 

"You'll never let it go,"

he said,

"and that's okay.

It's a terrible but perfect way to look at things,

so I'll tell you something:
it didn't kill you."

 

"No, Jim, it didn't kill me!

But what's supposed to kill me,"
I responded.

 

He gulped his drink.

 

"Nothing that isn't designed to kill you,"

he said.

"Everything that's supposed to make you stronger,"

he said.

"You're here.  You're you. 
You are you," he said.

 

And we drank

and I hated him
for putting it that plainly

 

As he lives the same fights

we all do,

the fights that make us strong

until one day,

if not for anything else,
they kill us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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