Judge Santiago Burdon

Get Forked

“Johnny, wake up man. I think you need to take me to the hospital. Come on, wake up!”

“What? What’s going on Bigotes? You have asthma attack? Where is your bomba?”

He sits up in bed and turns on the lamp on the night stand.

“No Johnny, that crazy bitch stabbed me in the back. I can’t tell how bad I’m bleeding or how deep the knife is in. Whatever you do, don’t pull it out, I’ll bleed to death before we get to the hospital.”

“Okay okay, tranquilo carnal, let me take a look.”

“I’m serious Johnny, don’t fuck around.”

I turn my back to him so he can get a closer look. 

“Santi, I don’t think it is knife in your back. I think maybe it is fork she stab you with. What did you do to make her to stab you with fork?”

“A fork? Are you sure? Take another look. Turn on the ceiling light.”

He flicks the wall switch, shedding more light on the severity of my wound.

“Yes Bigotes, it is fork not knife. You should have me pull it out. I can’t tell how deep it is in.”

“Wait, let me think about it for a minute.”

“Santi, tell me why she stab you?”

“She wanted more cocaine and more cocaine and more cocaine. She was acting all strange and sketchy. I told her there wasn’t anymore, she got pissed off, started screaming at me, calling me a liar. I got up out of the bed, started putting on my clothes to get away from her, then I felt her stab me. She picked up her shit and ran out the door. Where’d you find that psycho bitch, man?”

“She is my cousin from Medellin.”

“What the hell. Of course another crazy person from your family. I should’ve figured as much. Are all your relatives mentally ill? I thought you were calling her prima (cousin) as a nickname. Like how I joke and call prostitutes prima.”

“I know, I am sorry. Everyone in my family is crazy with mental problems. I’m so lucky to have nothing wrong with me.”

“Are you serious? You’ve gotta be joking. You’re the craziest, most psycho Colombiano, mentally unstable individual I have ever been associated with.”

“Bigotes, why you say such mean things to me? I sometimes get crazy in a party way or when I get drunk and stuff but that’s all. Maybe you can get somebody else to take the fork out. You don’t want some crazy person doing it.”

“Sorry Rico, I don’t mean anything by it. You know I love you despite your quirks. Okay, let’s get this fucking fork out of my back and see what kind of damage we’re dealing with here.”

“There is not a lot of blood, Bigotes. But she sure stuck you good. I didn’t know a fork could be a dangerous weapon. Okay, you are ready?”

“No, I’m not ready. But go ahead and do it anyway.” 

“Wait, I think maybe I should have a towel in case maybe you start bleeding a lot. Then we need to have the cut circlesized with alcohol for no infection. Oh no, I hope you will not need switches, the hospital is very far away Bigotes.”

Despite the pain I’m in, I can’t help but laugh at Johnny’s mispronunciations, casting the incident in an entirely different light. He’s acting so dramatically. I don’t remember when I’ve seen him so serious, as though he were a doctor giving me the prognosis. 

“Why you laughing Bigotes? Because you don’t want to cry?”

“No Johnny, I was laughing at the words you used in English. I’m very proud of you J.R. You have come a long way with learning English, but sometimes you use a word incorrectly or mispronounce a word and it ends up being humorous. I’m not making fun of you my friend, it’s just funny is all.”

“So what you think I’m funny? Funny like what like a clown? I what, I make you laugh? How am I funny?”

“Now that’s hilarious, Johnny! You remembered that from Goodfellas. You do it better than Joe Pesci, very good.”

I’m laughing hysterically, applauding his performance until a twinge of pain reminds me of the fork still in my back.

“I’m happy you laugh. I always want to do that. Tell me what words I say wrong when I get back with towel and some alcohol. I think we can use tequila. Is there still some Patron?”

“Yes, it’s in the freezer. Good thinking, Johnny.”

He returns drinking from the bottle.

“Now we are ready you think? Yes?”

“Let’s do it!”

The fork was stuck in my lower left shoulder, just out of my own reach. I still had my shirt on with the fork having been stuck through it. I unbutton to remove the shirt, but as I go to drop it, it just hangs from the fork in my back.

“Bigotes, I don’t know if I can do it…” 

“For Christ’s sake J.R. just pull the goddamn fork out already. Do it! It won’t hurt. In fact, give me the tequila. I need a drink.”

“Maybe you should drink more to not feel pain.”

“Another good idea, buddy. You’re really showing your smarts! Ooh, you know what, I have some Vicodin in my jacket. Can you grab it for me please?”

Johnny returns with my jacket in hand, sporting a huge grin. 

“Look what you have in pocket. Here are the pills, look what else you’re hiding, a vial of cocaine and two puros that we forget to smoke at the beach. Now take your medicine and when you feel no pain, we will take the fork out, okay?” 

It was 3:45am by this point, but it wasn’t like I had to go to work in the morning. Plus, I’d been wounded in action, so I could just lounge around all day if I felt like it. I think it was Saturday anyway, I didn’t have any appointments on my calendar, so fuck it I thought.

Here we go.

I swallowed a couple of Vicodin, snorted a cap full of cocaine. Johnny passed me the bottle of tequila and I took a nice long swig.

“Now, let me explain why I was laughing earlier. I think you meant to say ‘sterilize’ but you said ‘circlesize’, which sounds like ‘circumcise’, which has a totally different meaning. ‘Circumcise’ is when a doctor cuts the extra skin off the penis of a baby boy.”

“Why they do such a thing?”

“It was started by the ancient Egyptians then practiced by the Jewish people and on and on. I’m not going to get into the reasons why.”

“So you have circhimsize? I see your pene is different than mine. I am no circhimsize, I still have the skin.”

“Ya I know Rico, I don’t want to be talking about our dicks, okay?” I quickly change the subject. “Now, ‘stitches’ are what the doctor sews you up with, but ‘switches’ was the word you used. Understand now?”

Johnny lights a joint and passes it over to me.

“I have a question,” he says. “Why you always call marijuana ‘trisumman’? Why does it have that name?”

Immediately I start laughing once again.

“Hey, now I am going to get very angry, you laugh at me more.”

“Sorry, Rico. I’m saying, ‘try some man’, but you put all three words together. Maybe I say it too fast, so it sounds like one word.”

Johnny finally finds the humor in what I’ve been saying, laughing right along with me this time.

We sat there talking and joking around, with Johnny doing all sorts of impressions now that I had been amused by his Joe Pesci. They weren’t very funny but I laughed anyway, probably because I was a little drunk, high on Vicodin, coked up and stoned.

Suddenly we’re startled by a loud banging on the front door. I looked at the clock and it was 5:20. I still had the fork in my back, but I was no longer feeling any pain.

“Who the hell do you think that could be?” I whisper. “You think that bitch called the police?”

“I don’t know but I will go to the door and see. Okay? Just relax, I will take care of it.”

“Thanks Johnny.”

He staggers to the front door and I take cover down the hall within hearing distance.

“Quien es acá?” (Who’s here?) Johnny asks.

I don’t understand why he doesn’t just look out the window to see who’s there. I hear a woman’s voice but not well enough to know what she’s saying.

“Espereme uno segundo,” (Wait a second) I hear him answer.

He walks back over to where I’m hiding, shaking his head and chuckling.

“Bigotes, it is my cousin again. She has no money for taxi or bus and wants to say she is sorry to you.”

“What do you think? Does she seem normal to you, not all weird?”

“I’m not sure. You make the call.”

“Okay, let her in, but don’t let her come near me.”

He goes to the door, swinging it open to let her back inside. She struts into the room and heads straight in my direction, prompting me take a few steps back.

“Hey Rico, you better get over here…”

“Don’t worry Santi,” she says, “I’m not going to do anything to you. I want to say I’m sorry and to make it up to you. I didn’t hurt you real bad, did I?” 

“You stabbed me in the back with a fucking fork! Here, take a look.”

I turn my back so she can see her own handiwork for herself.

I barely feel a thing as she grabs and yanks the fork out.

“I’m so sorry baby, let me make it up to you.”

She drops her dress on the floor, grabs my hand and starts leading me off into the bedroom.

“Make sure she has no scissors in her purse,” Johnny yells after me. “She might try to circhimsize you!”

“Thanks for watching out for me, Johnny.”

She closes the door behind us and looks me in the eye.

“So, you have some more cocaine?”

Tia Mitsinikos

The Sixth Dimension

What a perfectly queer place
This planet we inhabit
The ludicrous, fortuitous cocktail of elements
And precise proximity to our insignificant star
And here we are

Infinite possibilities swirling in the cosmos
Every whim an alternate universe
How can one decipher the most
Optimal course from the worst
Path to traverse?

The answer is in the crackle and pop upstairs
How appropriate that the most defining feature
Of Homo sapien sapiens, man twice wise,
Is the least understood

In the animal kingdom,
The concept of altruism
Is when an organism acts
Selflessly for the benefit of another

This is explained by kin selection
The need to pass on one’s genes
For the survival of the species

The human race need not be so concerned
So be warned
Behind every kind act is a reward
Donating all your worldly possessions
May seem charitable
And indeed it is

But the resulting pat-on-the-back
And self-satisfaction
Is no coincidence

Is there even such a thing
as true altruism?

Shit, I’ll come clean
I’m just a dope fiend
Jonesing for some dopamine
Going all in for seratonin
Endorphin Tunnel Vision
Brain screaming
“For the win”

Like mice in a lab
Neglecting their physical needs
To drink, to feed

Coming again and again
For the pleasure button
We’re just animals on a track
For that neurotransmitter crack

So when faced with questions like
Why are we here?
How am I going to get by?
I got one answer for you:

I’m just trying to get high

Aimee Nicole


When I let you tie me starfish style to 
your childhood bed, what I’m saying is 
take all my trauma and digest it 
slowly like a Thanksgiving dinner.
Use your calloused hands to begin a 
conversation with this body bloodied 
and disregarded by lovers past.
Drip paraffin candles on my bare chest, 
flames licking my wild regrets into silence. 
In this room, I release my natural 
chaos to your steady hands for repair. 

Julian Grant

Number One Fan

Simon leaned over to me, his hair falling across his eyes as he stroked my thigh and asked me if he could suck my dick. It was the first time a guy had ever asked me that and the first time I called someone a fag to their face.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when he punched me hard for what I said.

He was a couple years older than me, and way smarter, a local guy I’d met randomly at the skatepark downtown and we’d become friendly once we both noticed each other’s moves on our boards. We skated the small park smashed into an old supermarket in a shitty part of town where they’d jobbed-up hardwood half pipes and skateruns inside the old Loblaws supermarket at Lansdowne and Bloor as kids from the burbs (me) and from the inner city (him) all flocked there to thrash. It was a dump of a place but it was our home for one whole Summer and a Winter before it got shut down for not paying the heating bill or something.

Of course, this is where I heard the Ramones for the first time. They’d slap Rocket to Russia on the shitty house PA that used to play canned shopping muzak and the boys from NYC kicked out the jams. We’d rip and thrash in the open freestyle area and smoke Export A’s headbanging all night and day. I’d even score angel dust, which was a thing back then, from the scary black kids that hung around the makeshift snack bar but never skated. They’d just watch the stupid white kids try to kill themselves all fucked up on dust and laugh when we fell.

One time, I got too high on something Simon and I had split spending all the money we had, and I ended up out of my cheese-eating head in the grey winter snow, not wearing my jacket, my board forgotten, my brain fried. Simon bundled me up and took me back to the place he shared with his mom down on Dufferin about a block away. She worked nights then and by the time we got to his place, I was hopelessly lost and shivering badly. He’d slipped me into his own single bed after giving me a double dose of codeine cough medicine while my teeth grated back and forth until I passed out.

I know I slept because the next thing, he was in next bed next to me, pushed up tight, spooning me from behind. But I was warm and safe as I smelled the fresh mouth he would offer me once he knew I was awake. I could feel his wintergreen breath of my cheek, his arms around my waist warming me as his thick cock stiffened against my ass.

I think it was his evident chubby that finally brought me back.

We fought, he kicked me once I called him a fag and his bright tighty-whities shrunk in anger as he told me to get out of his place and never come back. I said crueler things to him, got dressed in a rush and stomped out of his place, no idea where I was, in the middle of the night. I’d lost my skateboard, my mind and my only downtown friend all because I got scared that he was queer for me. See, I’d had zero experience with guys back then — I was from Etobicoke. There was this one guy, Steven Tiesdale everyone tormented at school, a totally out kid long before being gay was fashionable or even safe, but apart from that, I was clueless. I just knew about fairies and fags from TV and the movies and thought they were the enemy or wrong — fucked in the head. They liked cocks and just wanted it up the ass or in each other’s mouths and that was sick and stupid and not for me.

So, I bought a new skateboard and kept chewing out a rhythm in my safe little ‘hood not ever going back to Lansdowne because I might see Simon and I was too embarrassed by how everything went down. He’d been nothing but kind to me and I introduced me to Joey and Johnny and Tommy (Forever) and Dee Dee and I’d had my little hissy meltdown and then totally fucked up our friendship. He’d given me the gift of the world’s greatest band and I’d been unforgivably cruel and naive. I just tried to push him out of my mind, conveniently forgetting about the musical education he’d given me and our past friendship and even our skate park before long. So, I dropped him but kept the Ramones and moved on as best I could. I’d cut out the pictures of them I’d get occasionally from Creem magazine if they even covered the band, hating the grainy black and white newsprint pics but cherishing the fact that I knew about them and nobody else did where I lived. Guys at my school were still into Triumph and Rush or Genesis and all the old bullshit dinosaur rock gods and whenever I dragged out Rocket or Road to Ruin and tried to put it on at the parties we’d have, I’d get shouted down by drunk gals and guys telling me to turn that punk shit off.

But I never did. Not until they made me.

I bought more than a few LP’s of the same albums that got trashed by the assholes I called my friends. These were the fuckers that would throw beer on the band on the stupid Monsters of Rock tour they ended up being mistakenly booked on years later. I heard that Johnny flipped the audience off and the band raced to safety after just three songs. It was a mutual fuck you. You either got ’em or you didn’t. Gabba, Gabba Hey, One of Us. One of Us. Or a Pinhead forever.

I carried the torch for the Ramones out there in suburban Etobicoke all through high school by myself, at least until “that” movie came out. That changed everything. We’d always used to get fucked up at the Kingsway Theater, a local movie house where they didn’t care if you smoked pot or drank and when Rock n’ Roll High School played, now all of a sudden it was okay to love the band if you wanted to be with it. That 15-minute mini-concert in the middle of the movie became the new sweet anthem at school and I’d jumped to the top of the cool kids list because I was there first and everyone knew it. Even Julie something or other, this smoking gal in Biology back then was into them now and she asked me to maybe recommend some of their albums for her to pick up at Sam the Record Man down on Yonge Street when she went downtown with her girlfriends. I lent her mine for a couple weeks to copy on cassette and we got friendly, I thought.

When the Two Gary’s, the local Ramones ticket promoters announced an all ages general admission show at the Danforth, I was the first one on the phone calling in and scored five tickets using my mom’s credit card. I ended up asking Biology Julie to go with me and sold the other tickets to Triko, Blyth and McConie at double the face value because I’m not stupid. On the day of the show, I arranged to meet Julie out front of the venue as she had to lie to her mom about where she was actually going and had to pack her “costume” in a bag. I remember that distinctly, her costume. But I wanted to fuck her so I let it slide.

I took the Bloor West bus with the guys into the city and we swung by the LCBO on the way and picked up a big 40 oz bottle of Gordon’s Gin to share as we waited in line all day because it was general admission and we wanted seats up front just before the pit. It was fucking freezing out and we didn’t want to get cold waiting so we got hard liquor to keep warm because getting fucked up fast was a big part of being young. So, we drank the 40 oz quick as fuck, swearing at each other, the cold and pissing off pretty much everyone else in the line.

When Julie finally showed up, she changed at Tim Horton’s into her secret sexy leopard skin leggings and shorty leather jacket and then shivered in line with the rest of the drunk and restless crowd. By the time they let us all in, we were all cold as fuck, I was shitfaced and I had lost all chance of scoring with my kinda-date Julie. Being handsy and drunk and clueless is not a good look.

Then it all gets fuzzy.

I do remember throwing up on her leather boots, Julie screaming at me and calling me names, me passing out in the front seats we had bum-rushed and then sleeping through the opening band. I was pretty sure it was Shrapnel, Joey’s brother’s band.

The rest of the night was flashes only after.

The sour smell of gin all over me, Triko, his nose bloody and busted from moshing in the pit, McConie’s broken glasses and Billy Blyth laughing at me as I tried to stand up on my seat when I heard Dee Dee count it out for another two-minute salvo.

“1-2-3-4,” Dee Dee howled as Johnny power chorded and I Lazurus-ed up and away, wobbling into the air, vomit caking my shirt as I screamed in drunken approval, cartwheeling on my wobbly seat.

That’s when he saw me.

Joey Ramone, salamander cool, his long body twisted at the microphone, pointed a finger straight at me. The spotlight hit and I fell backwards into the poor fuckers behind me, still screaming in ecstasy at having been seen by my idol.

I went down under their sharp heels and heavy boots, empty bottles rolling on the ground all around me as I tried to get away from the angry mob pissed that a stupid drunk high school kid had decided to crash their good time. Fists and feet and spit rained down upon me, and I think I remember kinda covering my head as I clawed my back up into the seats.

I vaulted off the back of the now-trashed chair, holding for one perfect still frame moment in the air, alive.

It ended badly.

I was close enough to bounce onto the stage, landing face first and leaving a streak of blood. There’s a photo of me in mid-flight, a damaged black raven, broken winged and blackout bad that I have somewhere, I think. I know they published it.

The onstage bouncer grabbed me by my belt loop and heaved me off into the risers. I bounced off another surface and went down into a heap.

The band never missed a beat.


I staggered up off the floor, my face streaked with blood and tears as the concert thundered on without me. I dragged myself out into the freezing night. The guys at the door all looked shit-scared for my safety. I know I heard someone call me back, maybe something about an ambulance.

My buddies and Julie all stayed inside without me.

I staggered off but it wasn’t long before I collapsed into the gutter, radiating sick and shame. I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it to wherever it was I thought I was going, and honestly I didn’t care by that point.

That’s when I felt a hand fall upon my shoulder.

I cringed, expecting a boot from a fellow concert-goer. That or the hard-knuckled fist of a cop sent to set me straight and drag my ass back home. I glanced up over my shoulder, prepared for yet another blow.

And there stood Simon, just smiling and shaking his head. He was still the same guy and I started to sob when I recognized him. He sat down next to me and took me in his arms. His breath still smelled of wintergreen.

He took me back to his mom’s place and cleaned me up. I sucked his cock and he sucked mine.

It was the best night of my life. Thank you, Ramones.


Your Number One Fan

Jason Melvin

Morning Wood

It’s hard
in the morning
when hoping for stiff
but the mind is limp

I fiddle
my pen
but it refuses
to wake up

As a younger man
every morning came
with something to grab
under the blanket

Stiffness still
rises with the sun
it just breathes
in my back and bones

A whisper
raised eyebrow
or simple suggestion
can still pitch a tent

But no matter
how much
I stroke
and stroke
thumb on the tip
click and click
an impotence of ink
nothing squirts out

Ben Newell

Man Cave 

“Tell me we’re not doing this.”

Randy cranked the truck and looked at his partner.  “We’re not doing this.” 

“Thank God,” Cecil said.  “What a nutbag.”   

Randy slammed the truck in gear and sped away from the house.  

The owner of 822 Poplar Street had some serious issues.  He had wanted a man cave, his very own place to hang out with friends, drink beer, and watch football without disturbing his live-in girlfriend/fiancé.  Randy and Cecil, the two-man team known as Custom Carpentry Inc., had worked on several man caves throughout the years.  But Grayson—if that was his real name—had wanted some strange extras.  A secret door.  Soundproofing.  Even a steel ring affixed to the wall.  

Randy braked at a red light and lit a cigarette.

“Sex freak,” Cecil said.  “Definitely a sex freak.” 

Randy didn’t say a word.     


The latter half of the following month found Randy sitting on the sofa drinking beer and watching the local late news.  A distraught father, on the brink of tears, pleaded for the safe return of his teenaged daughter.  “We miss you, Katy.  Your mother and I love you so much.  Stay strong . . .” 

Enough was enough.  

Randy got up and went out on the back stoop to smoke a cigarette.  Molly was at work, another split-shift at the Peking Palace.  She wouldn’t be home until late.  He was restless, anxious, drinking more than usual, sleeping fitfully.  Earlier this week, Cecil had asked him if he was okay.  Randy had shrugged it off, said he was just feeling a little under the weather. 

But that wasn’t the problem.   

Randy went inside and grabbed his keys from the kitchen counter.  Then he got in his truck and drove to 822 Poplar Street.  


Grayson, wearing a bathrobe and flip flips, redolent of deodorant soap and shampoo, came to the door.  He was visibly upset.  “You’re supposed to call first, Randy.  You know this.  Those are the rules.” 

“Sorry,” Randy said.  “I happened to be in the neighborhood.” 

“I was getting ready for bed.”

“You want me to leave?”

Grayson thought about it.  

“No,” he said resignedly, “come on in.” 

“Thanks, man,” Randy said.  “I really appreciate it.”    


The man cave was exceptional, his best work to date.  Too bad Cecil couldn’t see it.  Randy had returned that very same day and accepted the job.  It was a hard, back-breaking few weeks, working with Cecil during the day, then moonlighting at Grayson’s.

But he had toughed it out.  He knew, even then, that it would be worth it.  

They say it takes one to know one.  

Randy would have to agree.  

The two of them had bonded from the get-go.  Randy and Grayson.  Kindred spirits.  And this was a nice arrangement, far better than any cash payment.  Sure, Grayson was a little miffed tonight.  Surprise visits were forbidden.  But he would get over it.   

Now Randy stood before her.  “I just saw your father on TV.  You look a lot like him.”   

Katy hung there on the wall, naked and worse for wear.  Her spindly arms stretched upward, wrists shackled to the steel ring.  She whimpered, mewled.  An array of tools covered a nearby worktable . . . 

Randy opted for a pair of pliers and a sheet of sandpaper.  

Kaci Skiles Laws


Dance. Nicole was always telling me
what to do,
orchestrating something wild
that she called fun.

If I didn’t do it,
she’d badger me, threaten me,
go into mini rages.

You’d better or else. You’d better
or I’ll tell your dad what you did.

Half the time I couldn’t even remember 

what I did.
She was persuasive and conniving,
and beautiful in all the ways I thought 


I liked to look at blood.
Nicole would tell my dad. How sadistic
I was at age five asking to see
the cut my cousin got off the edge 

of a rusty bike with no seat.

The family would hold me 

under a microscope like a disease, disgust
written all over their faces

 as if they didn’t want to see the blood too.

At age six I’d seen a whole movie called,
Kids, about how you get AIDS.
Up in her room with the door locked, 

Nicole told me
if I ever even thought about having sex I’d die. 

I never told my dad.

Truth or dare.
Nicole demanded. I stopped taking dares 

because once
she wanted me to dance naked
in front of her
upstairs window with the lights on
while a car drove by.
I had to do it—
or I’d be banned from her room forever.

I didn’t want that 

because then I’d be stuck downstairs listening
to the grown-ups play poker, 

surrounded by clouds of cigar smoke,
smelling of whiskey while Nicole taunted me, 

calling me names
in passing, like a ghost whispering on the stairs 

or from behind a curtain.

I was stuck for days listening
to my dad’s wife talk
mad shit about my mom.
They’d see me
in the shadows and pretend
I wasn’t there, that I couldn’t hear.

I wanted to go home.
Nicole would say, it’s fun. Dance.


Previously published in Red Fez

Danny D. Ford

Death by a Thousand Cunts

The Chinese
had Lingchi 
used to slowly cut 
strips of skin
from the body
with a blade

then of course there was
the Spanish tickler
the rack
& brodequin

most would agree
Western Europe
has moved on
since then
become more civilized 

but here in Italy
if you’re not careful
they will still send you 
to the department 
of motor vehicles

and if you’ve been really bad

to the post office

James Babbs

The Man With the Gun

You open the door and step into the hallway where the man with the gun turns to look at you. He looks familiar as if you’ve seen him somewhere before but you can’t quite remember the place or the time. The man with the gun laughs showing his teeth before pointing the gun in your direction. Hey, he says. Don’t move. And you just stand there, watching him, wondering what he’s going to do next.

You notice the sunlight falling through the only window in the hallway and how it makes a rectangle of light on the opposite wall. You imagine it’s not just a rectangle of light but a hole in the wall through which you could escape if you were only capable of moving quickly enough. Maybe it’s not just a rectangle of light or merely a hole in the wall but some kind of portal pulling you into another dimension. Maybe it takes you all the way back to your childhood and the gray house on the corner.

You remember riding your bike into the front yard and dropping it in the grass before running inside. The sound of your father’s voice after he got home telling you to go out and put your bike away and you remember what happened if you ever forgot. You burst through the front door and the house looks the same as the last time you were there and you start to call for your mother but the man with the gun suddenly grabs your arm pulling you toward him and tearing you away from your thoughts.  

Come on, he says. Let’s go. And you wonder if you should try to resist him but there’s nowhere to go inside the hallway. Where are we going? You ask and the man with the gun squeezes your arm and laughs. Wherever I say, he says.

He drags you down the hallway and out through the door bursting into the sunlight and you feel it warm all over your face. Where’s your car? The man with the gun says and you point to the parking lot in front of the building. The red one you tell him. He pulls you over to the car and you wonder if there’s anyone behind one of the curtained windows in any of the buildings witnessing what’s happening to you. Open it he says.

The man with the gun pulls you around to the driver’s side door before pushing you into the car.  For a moment you wonder if you have time to jump out through the passenger’s side but the man with the gun is already there, pointing the gun at you. The gun is less than a foot from your head so you don’t move. You stay where you are and wait for more instructions.

You drive through the city streets passing people here and there and they don’t pay any attention to you.  You feel the man with the gun watching you but you don’t look at him. He tells you which way to turn and you just keep driving. You drive out of the city and get on the interstate. You travel for about an hour while the man with the gun doesn’t say anything at all.  

Then the man with the gun points at the windshield telling you to take the next exit. You read the name on the sign and you have a strange feeling inside. You know this town. It’s the town where you grew up. The town you left behind so many years ago.  

The man with the gun tells you where to turn and how far to go and when he points to a house and says pull in here you can’t help but exclaim. I know this place. I used to live here.

Good for you says the man with the gun. Why are we stopping here you ask him. Shut up, says the man with the gun.

The man with the gun shoves the gun at you and tells you to get out. Nice and slow he says. He gets out of the car. The yard around the house doesn’t look much different from the way you remember it. Maybe there are a few more flowers around the sidewalk leading to the front door. Maybe there are some different trees but you still recognize the place and you’re filled with the strangest of feelings.

The man with the gun stays close behind you. He walks you to the back door and you enter the house remembering this is where the laundry room was when you were growing up. You see a washer and dryer and a small sink in one corner of the room. You imagine your mother standing over the washing machine pushing dirty clothes into the opening. 

The man with the gun pushes you into the kitchen and it looks the same way you remember it and you can almost smell bread baking. The man with the gun guides you to the stairway at the far end of the kitchen. 

The man with the gun tells you to go up the stairs. That’s where my room was you say aloud and the man with the gun thrusts the gun at you and says Go! The sound of your feet on the stairs reminds you of your father’s footsteps. Your feet on the stairs remind you of the way your father’s steps sounded when he made his way up to your room. His footsteps so heavy and so slow.

At the top of the stairs you see a window without a curtain but there’s a metal curtain rod above the window. It’s the same window you used to look out of so many years ago. There’s a glass angel with a broken wing dangling from the curtain rod. The angel catches the sun and dances in the light. You try to remember who it was that put the angel there but the name doesn’t come to you. The man with the gun points you away from the window and into the other room to the left of it.

This was my bedroom you tell him but the man with the gun just snorts as if he’s trying not to laugh. The man with the gun tells you to open the closet door. How do you know about that you ask him and it almost sounds like a chuckle escaping from his throat. You feel your father’s rough hands touching your arms again. You feel your father forcing you into the closet and shutting the door again. You hear your father locking the door as you slide down into the darkness of the closet. You don’t know how long it will be this time. You never know how long it will last.

The man with the gun raises his arm and aims the gun at you. You see the hole in the end of the barrel. You think about the small cave in the side of a hill you once crawled into when you were just a little boy. You don’t know what made you crawl into the cave or why you stayed in there for so long even when you heard the voices calling your name. The man with the gun fires two times and you fall backwards against the wall and you feel your breath catching in your throat. You feel something warm moving over you and then you can’t stop shivering. You hear the sound of your mother’s voice calling up to you from the bottom of the stairs. You better get down here and eat she says or it’s going to get cold.