Immediately after my nine-year-old twins
their Tangy Orange and Cotton Candy
ice cream cones, they lick their fingers clean and
the rock in Anderson Park, the same rock that at
one time, when they were mere toddlers,
had caused them great hardship and
My son and daughter leap off the rock, victorious,
hands, dance and prance in the long grass,
make wizard wands from tree branches, while I
on a park bench, in awe of Hermione and
of their magical friendship,
I had a sibling still
with me. Then I am reminded of the 700,000 Americans
who have died of Covid, and the
surfaces between my toes,
travels within my fiber and core
until it anchors in my gut, wallows up, and I am
Will we come back tomorrow to
and climb and leap and dance and prance and sit and brood
and pretend in Anderson Park? The forecast calls for rain and another 1,000
Americans. What kind of world
have I presented
to my children? Perhaps one more day and one more game of
Harry Potter might
entertain the young and distract their tired, old
Playing paddleball with Joey. Kids in black, concert t-shirts smoking pot and drinking Budweiser tall boys by the school’s back door. I don’t know if Joey is afraid. I’m afraid. Heavy metal on boomboxes. Do they go to my school? Do they even go to school?
Running home, Joey and I pass Mrs. Albert sitting on her stoop waiting for car service to take her to OTB where she and the dysfunctional dreamers cling to racing sheets as if they are clutching a lover’s hand on a busy street. She squanders her disability checks right up until her final days when lung cancer sweeps her from this earth. Mrs. Albert looks up from her newspaper, cigarette dangling, and scolds me: “Don’t slouch, Richie. Stand up straight or you’ll end up hunched over for the rest of your life.”
Saturday night, my father asks where I’m going. “Up the block.” We toss whatever money we have into the circle then buy six packs of warm Schmidts and bags of potato chips. Just before it’s time for me to go home, Joey pukes his guts and thanks us for being his friend. Then Joey’s tears start over a girl or his father calling him fat. We hold him while he kisses our sweaty cheeks.
Beer breath blowing between us.
We carry Joey home. He sprawls on his father’s manicured front lawn. The old man drags Joey inside by his ankles over the sprinkler, garden stones and plastic white fence. Cracks of a belt and slaps, shrieks and pleas the crickets fail to drown out. Then I say, “See ya later” and hunched over, slip away before my father whistles for me. No reason to give my friends an opportunity to roast me just ‘cause I have a curfew.
The next day, a black eyed Joey beats me to the paddleball court.
Richard Fulco’s debut novel, There Is No End to This Slope (Wampus Multimedia) was published in 2014. His second novel, We Are All Together (Wampus Multimedia) was published last November. Recently, Richard’s essay “My Alternative-Pop Poncho Band” was included in Music Gigs Gone Wrong (Paycock Press).