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Agreeing To Disagree

by Sterling L. Cathala, 3908 days ago

Agreeing To Disagree

“Is this how normal couples do it?” She asks.

I tell her that there is nothing normal about this.

“So this is abnormal?”

I nod yes.

“If this is abnormal then how are we going to raise a kid?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t want to raise a kid like this…you can’t raise a kid like this.” She plants the shovel in the cold hard November dirt and traipses around it like it had been a new lover. “If this is the world that we create, just think what that world will do to him?”

“Why do you always assume it will be a boy?” I watch a leaf fall from the maple and land on the rain swept hood of our shared car. “Why is it always boys with you?”

“They are less work.”

“That doesn’t say a lot for the males out there. You act like they are guns sometimes. Like as long as you keep them around and they make you feel safe, you never have to bullets into them.”

“You sound like a feminist. You should stop watching Oprha.”

She looks like she is about to laugh. I can see her mind replaying the joke in her head, as if she wanted to remember the delivery very carefully so when she says it again she will know how to make the crowd laugh, but when she sees the brittle maple leaf fall off the car and sink into a puddle she remembers the task at hand and stops thinking about brevity.

“I hate November,” she said.

“Who likes it?”

“I’m sure somebody somewhere likes this month. Everyone has a favorite month. Just like everyone has a favorite color or song.”

“I don’t think the calendar works like that.”

“…no, no I guess it doesn’t.”

I take the shovel out of the dirt and throw a few more helpings of soil into the hole and then tamp it down with the flat part until the seams of the earth disappear.

“Should we plant a tree here?”

“No,” I tell her. “Do you want to remember this?”

“No.” She looks at the scar on the lawn, the soft patch of grayish brown soil and the sea of fairway grass that surrounds it.

“Can’t you cover it up with something?”

“With what?”

“Those leaves over there.” She points to the ones scattered across the driveway like cigarette ash.

“The maples?”

“Yes.” She holds her arms around herself trying to ward off the wind that is biting into the back of my neck as well as hers.

“They will all blow away.” I tell her. “They always do.” They do, I think. They always do and that is why we never rake them up.

“Will they last the night?” She asks.


“Then do it,” she said.

I start picking up the leaves in big bountiful arm loads and throw them across the patch in the soil. She tells me I need to spread them around to make it look natural.

“Look natural?”

“Yes,” she said. “Make it look natural.”

I toss a red one here, I flick a yellow one there, and I throw an orange one here and so on. I make it look like god could have done it and then we walk back to the house.

“I thought you said you were going to make arrangements for the neighbors to take care of the cat while we were in New Mexico?”

“I thought that you were going to take care of that.” She tells me.

“Do you want to agree to disagree on this one?”
“No,” she said and we never talked about it again.


Turning Things Over

by Sterling L. Cathala, 3952 days ago

Turning Things Over

You didn’t ever think you would find yourself buying condoms with cash at a gas station at three in the morning because you were too afraid to pay with your ATM card or check. She would have found it you know? She would have found out the hard way, harder than you think she would have or will. When you throw the pack of condoms on the counter the clerk spills his coffee, not because of the condoms, maybe what they were going to be used for, but more so who they were going to be used on or rather in.

She is a tall pint glass with pink lips and dark eyes like the tips of flamingo beaks. She has her arms full of Charleston chews, taffy and grape bubble gum. You can hear Octavio the sales clerk ask her if you are her boyfriend and she looks out the window at you smoking a cigarette which you are not supposed to be doing and tells Octavio no, that you aren’t her man. He is not listening to her, he is only scrutinizing her cleavage and the length of Charleston chews she has in her hands. He is sizing them up and feeling the bravado kick in. You can hear him ask her if she is gonna treat you right tonight and if she is going to make you feel good. She blows a bubble which pops in slow motion and smiles out the window at you like she always does because she is not as close to it as you are. Octavio tells her that she can have all the candy she wants, so she runs through the store and fills her pockets with Lifesavers and Rolos and she looks up from time to time holding a candy bar in the air waiting for Octavio to say that that is enough but all he does is nod, smile and lick his chops. She is like a kid in a candy store you think.

You put your cigarette out on the gas station cement and open the door for your lover. When she gets in the cab you tell her that you hate Charleston chews and she laughs and tells you that they are not for you.

The visor is down which still has a picture of your wife from the last canoe trip you went on in trinity. Your lover kisses you on the cheek and flips the picture upside down and you look at your wife out of place and the lake she was canoeing in turned topsy-turvy like a sky you would never see again.

You ask if this is how she wants it and she runs her hand up your thigh and looks at you with a sour apple stained tongue. She tells you that she has never had it before, so how would she know.


I've Never Seen Her Before

by Sterling L. Cathala, 3964 days ago

I’ve Never Seen Her Before

He has about a million photographs of women in this box up in the old barn at grandma’s house.

‘Who do you think this chick is?”

“I don’t know.” My brother cocks the BB gun and takes aim at a scrub jay. Shoots, misses then points it at grandma down below watering the Azaleas. “You want me to shoot her?” He smiles and takes a sip of the one of the Lowebraus he stole from grandpa’s secret ice chest.

“Jesus Christ, don’t shoot her,” I said.

“I bet she wouldn’t even feel it.”

I get close and grab the barrel and hit him in the face with it which leaves a little trickle of blood running down his acne chin.

“Fuck.” He wipes at the blood then takes another sip.

“You felt that huh?” I pull out a picture and put it in his face. “Who is this chick in the bathtub?”

“I don’t know. Probably that su chef he was banging at the old restaurant. You think she is Greek? I wonder how the Greeks are in bed.” He cocks his BB gun again and shoots at the plastic owl on the roof that is supposed to keep the woodpeckers from digging holes in the beams to hide their acorns.

“How many beers did you take?” I asked while I put the pictures of the women in a nice neat pile.

“Enough.” He takes another aim at the owl.

“Enough to get drunk or enough that grandpa wont notice.”

“Both.” He shoots and the owl teeters.

“What are you boys doing up there?” Grandma’s voice is hard to hear over the hose.

“Nothing grandma. We are picking out the silverware we want to take back to our apartment.” Charley points the gun at grandma and smiles, but she is so blind she doesn’t notice.

“You boys pick out what you need, it’s all yours, you know? He brought all that stuff home from the restaurant when it closed. What is grandma gonna do with all that stuff?”

We look at the boxes of ex-restaurant utensils. Box, upon box of creamers and sugar bowls, napkins and napkin rings.

“I don’t want this shit. Look at the pink rims of these plates.”

“I know.”

“Well I don’t want it.”

“We’ll just tell her we took what we needed.” I placate them both with the same stone.

My brother isn’t paying attention; he is looking out over the hill to see if he can see dad’s rental car and possibly the new wife in the passenger’s seat. “Where do you think he is gonna take us?”

“Take a look at this picture.”

He comes close and I show him the picture of a woman, stark naked in crucifixion. “Is that in golden gate park?”

“You got me, looks like it.” I look at the picture, her ample breasts, long legs and the mischief on her face. “What the fuck is wrong with this chick?”

“What’s wrong with her?” He shoots again and the owl falls to the ground spilling sand that held it weighted on the roof all over the asphalt. He cocks it again. “Dad’s a fucking playboy.”

Grandma calls to tell us that our father is pulling up the driveway so I put the photos in my pocket.

His rental car is a fast one and red like he always wanted also completely out of his price range. We both run our hands over the slick paint job. He comes out to hug us.

“How are my boys? Why don’t you ever call me?” His breath is sour and smells of pinot.

“Where are you taking us?” I ask.

“I am taking you to that restaurant we used to go to. You know that one?”

We both absent mindedly agree and then turn to the passenger side of the car to a woman much younger than us and very different than the women in the picture.

“This is Bonny.” He goes around to her side and puts his arm around her shoulders as she comes to greet us. She is taller than us and it is awkward shaking her hand. Her hair makes her look older than she really is and reminds us of some of the girls we made fun of in high school for being different. When he first announced he was coming he went on and on about how she was a kindergarten teacher and how he met her while she was trying to reach for an apple outside their apartment complex. He told us she was very kind and loved children.

“You can’t go into a fine restaurant looking like this.” He looks me over once and my brother twice. He goes to the trunk while the new wife tries to make small talk with our grandma. “I have these.” He pulls out two sports coats unfitted for either of us and we put them on. “Look at you guys! Suave! Honey, honey. Take a picture of me and my boys.”

She fumbles around with the camera while our dad goes back and forth between us and his wife making sure she has all the settings just right.

We pull out of my grandmother’s house just as the sun falls behind the mountains around six p.m. and we drive to a place we have never been to before.

“Do you remember this place you guys? They had the best sweetbreads. Almost as good as the way I make them.” We both want to soon forget the cow glands and the wife looks bewildered. She looks out the window watching the mailboxes sail by.

When we get to the restaurant, something French, he asks us if we are doing well in school, if we had met any girls, and if any of them were worthy. It’s real small talk and I can see my brother pretending to cock an imaginary bb gun and point it at the tits of the woman sitting adjacent to us. Dad’s new wife excuses herself to the bathroom.

“So what do you think you guys? You think you will let her be your new mom?”

We don’t answer and I figure it is a good time to bring out the pictures. I pull out the neat stack of pictures and hold them in the light so my dad can see them.

“Who are these women, dad?” I ask him.

“I don’t know.” He brings out his glasses.

“There your pictures dad. You gave them to us.”

My brother tells him that we found them in the old barn next to all the stuff that he took home from the old restaurant.

He blinks and looks at me. “I have never seen any of these women before.”


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Short Matches, Long Flames 2008 Sterling L. Cathala