“I never went fishing,” said the doctor. “Instead, I did homework. For my son, I have bigger plans. I’ll catch a fish for him one day.” I brought home a vial of medicinal balm. You insisted on putting bread in the refrigerator, to reduce the likelihood of infectious spores. You went for the discount toaster, so it’s still cold in the center. I could guzzle down broth in the time it takes for you to toggle the thermostat. When there was still time for it, we would take strolls down the muddy embankment, wade in the shallow region, and catch tiny minnows in our palms. Now there is nothing but cinnamon and ginger ale on ice. “There seems to be a problem with your prescription,” said the doctor on a call. “The most obstinately intellectually devoid among us have seen fit to saddle me with ill advice. Cease all ingesting of the tablets. Come to my office as soon as possible. You know my extension.” We tried to lug the couch into the parlor area, but could barely lift it up before dropping it again.
It was the first morning of frost, and I noticed the leaves broken beneath my shoes. I was in the midst of negotiations with the CEO. “Sentimentality blooms like flowers nowadays,” he said. His office was adorned with a large oil painting of several multicolored horses on a plain. I was complimenting the décor when, without warning, he blurted, “I am no longer able to continue this conversation,” and ran out of the room. He left half a mug of black Italian dark roast coffee. It hung in the air. I was tempted to drink. It was early. You always advised me out of speaking and into listening. Your gift of that nice leather chair helped me, to such an end. Out to lunch, we could see the glistening tubs of chopped pork behind the glass. That tone you set, the one that always wakes me up, took all the germs from me. I can constrain myself with a necktie, and fall in love with my shirts, but everything flows, and flows like rain. The CEO left me an odd voicemail. “I have not yet begun to fight,” was all it said. Thanks to you, we are never wanting for the newest scents. For that, I am thankful.
Frequent stops: gas hub, feeding station, rubber emporium, discount cattle outlet. Communiqués to party headquarters, screaming matches via fax machine. “I’ll murder this job before it murders me,” you said. “What do you suppose they make figs out of?” I said. We departed the fruit barn just in time for the industrial fudge squirter. “Obscene?” you said into the phone. “Of course it’s obscene. Don’t distract from the real issue at hand.” Onward to the semi-legal explosives warehouse. “I can’t look at anything colorful,” you said. “I must look away.” At the hospital, scrubbed nurses stitched my wounds while chatting about the recent banking scandal. Outside the room, doctors stared at clipboards while chatting about the latest baseball scandal. “I have my own life too, you know,” you said, perhaps into the phone. Machines next to my head beeped like flugelhorns.
Anthony Hagen holds an MFA from Hollins University. His writing appears in Caliban, Boston Accent Lit, Clarion, Bird's Thumb, The Hollins Critic, and DenimSkin.