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Was her name

The details of that summer now I no longer remember except, perhaps, like sweet slabs of fresh birthday cake, or also walnuts with the bitter surprise of unremoved shelling bits in the creases. Tastes shocking before swallowed and then forgotten. Cassondra was her name.

“Your hands. They’re so strong, so lively.” She said, half naked.

I was massaging her doughy shoulders, the hard shale bed of muscles beneath the skin, my thumbs torqued down between the blades.

The intricacies of this moment are now, in my memory, gone. Removed maybe.  Was she sitting up, rocking forward, as I pressed into her back? Was she lying on my bed, chest down? If so, was I straddling her, my knees bracing either side of her ribcage in a hold? Did I then become erect, as I so often do pinning willing woman down, and could she sense it?

There was no love there between us. There never was. Never. Never enough time for lust to make a chrysalis, to transform and to form it’s inner slink to a butterfly. Never love- I regret that now.

I regret dismissing her so quick. For dismissing the most comforting smell, a lush head of brunette hair, that my nose has ever snuck silent wiffs from. I massage her back, I stoop, I indulge myself in a nose-drunk keg of her smells.

There was never love- I enjoy that now. 

She returned from the washroom after swallowing my cum with breath reeking, insultingly, of my hyro-blue Crest mouthwash. How bad did I taste, I wondered, falling asleep ashamed. There was as much love, that is none, as there was engaging conversation. Our walks in the park were a funeral procession of continual bore. 

Dating in this town is unavoidable, Chicago, the great lonely snowed in wild cabin. Dating is an institution here, and its participants work their steady way towards becoming the institutionalized, so I have become convinced.

A massage, the blow job, a few rich dinner meals or sun soaked brunch dates, and those many locks of brunette hair that wove ropes around my heart- what else of any friend, any lover, in our minds, will ever really endure?

“Your hands.” She moans. “They’re so strong, so lively.” 

No one has ever landed a compliment on me so well. 

Cassondra. 

You smelled better even than the summer I can no longer prove existed.

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Shrink Wrap Them Before January

To the man who loved you first, so natural in ways you find effortlessly beautiful- hulking brunette wisps and whipped lids blinking over nethermost eyes, luring you,

to him

from me, away.

I barely understand this mans allure, having met him nonchalantly over only hurried hellos. To you his heart plays perhaps piano notes like strings humming into the coded center of your vibrating heart. Chomp, you have bitten, your gravity has itself been altered.

Occasionally I witness you in public and it seems now as though you are happy. Shopping the grocer with him, a quick laughing set of eyes linking, sharing the morning car ride to work; even vinegary winter wind is blowing somewhere nice, is it not?

But first it must pass these windows of which I now stare, blowing so capable, so vigorously on its way, howling.

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Red Marrow and Tomorrow

"Journal entry, November second." 

Eli mashed the Stop button on the digital recorder and let his hand fall loosely back to his side. He had finally warmed himself by nestling his limbs deep within his mattress’s plush bedding. Beside him, the nightstand, and on it were placed the familiar items. A lamp, a book, chap stick, and a water glass, which left a tiny rectangle spot perfectly sized for his digital recorder to live. It now lay atop the bedding beside his body as he clenched it in his palm. Feeling the thin plastic grate against the inside of his knuckles in a tight grip, he thought of the way some people carry journals and pens, and what those items might mean to the people carrying them. 

He thought of wombs and coddled children, and he thought of the special drawers mothers give to their pearls. 

He imagined the sanctity of a journal, the holy ground on which pens scotch. 

He thought of whiskey flasks on brisk nights, the joy of carrying familiarity on your person, and how flasks, like journals, hug the inside of breast pockets and are shaped just right for secrets. 

Above all he thought of ventilators, and iron lungs, and oxygen masks on old faces in hospital wards and all the other gadgets that help people survive for one more day, to just keep them breathing. 

With every salvation that journals offer, Eli likewise told everything to his recorder.

Head back against the pillow top, chin to the sheets, he created a new entry. He cleared his throat.

"Hooking the loose ends of a baggy sweater around my raw knuckles, I imagined the dresser top at home were the gloves I had forgotten sat dry and unused. When you bicycle through fifty degree rain in early November, being sideswiped by a speeding vehicle seems effortlessly more attractive than another mile of wet and cold.

Everyone looks at you madly. I must bike with an expression of rage in this weather. I suspect I can feel it too, tempering me, eyes scorning the Earth. To wipe my forehead with an ineffective wet sleeve only rips at the first layer of cold damaged skin upon my brow, and that's when I see them. A fantastic couple in Merino wool sweaters. Dry in their Volvo SUV. Foot heaters, most likely, on medium high. They smile through it all. Another quaint, rainy November night. Saying, 'I just love Chicago in Autumn, don't you?"

Eli took a swig from his water glass without stopping the recording and continued again.

"I once found a tattered Merino wool sweater at the thrift store for five dollars. I spent every day of a week wearing it, just to show it off. I kept asking friends to pull at the back of my collar to check the tag for authenticity, like looking for a serial number or dating code on an old oak RCA Victrola in a pawn shop. We are all the same poor here. you never ask my friends what whiskey they drink because you always figure it's bottom shelf.

It's easy to get sad. Hell, most days go by and if I'm not depressed about something, I feel misplaced. As though on the precipice of disaster, tragedy about to strike. Like in winter, they blast these heaters in shopping center doorways  before you exit. A bit of warmth before the frigid cold, but it only makes the chill outside worse.

Yet at the same time, if on any given day, I'm not overjoyed to tears about life's goodness and possibilities and whole heartedness, I feel just as odd. The most minuscule things can trigger my joy. I learn to pick up the pieces of people as they walk. Like small touches I cherish. Breezing past a friend at a party, they will just lightly extend their hand and smile from one room to the next, saying, 'Want another beer, Eli Salinger?" I love my fiends for that. For what they don't realize they do to me.

And that's how I know I'm doing it right. because I've started feeing things again. Like arriving home today, I could feel every nerve ending screaming, pealing off my rain soaked jeans from frozen thighs with cramped hands like paint stripping claws. And I've never been able to describe that before. I am more alive, more aware. More then when I had a car, arriving home warm and dry, and forgetting all the years so easily as they passed me by."

Eli let the recorder fall to the bed and they slept nuzzled there together, side by side.

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Dennis Higgins, author, father

This installment of Finding Your Writer hits close to home for me. Dennis is an author of light, fizzing, and youthful novels concerning time travel and murder. Dennis is also my father.

His novels, boarding pastism surreal science fiction, are far less concerned, to my joy, in presenting a grand addition to human literature, as they are in indulging us with a revelation into the author himself. Reading him, the feel is unmistakable that Dennis writes in order to understand himself better, a long tradition of artists grappling with their craft. Dennis writes to find his voice, to wrestle out distinctions of a blurry past, and as a means to self discovery. Biased or not, I love him for that; I believe in him for that.

The day he announced to our family he was publishing a novel, we had questions. Could he write? Did he always have an interest in literature? I remember his joy of journaling long ago, but here it was, a stack of fresh and glossy novels laid open in brown boxes at the foot of his stairs. It felt like Christmas. I reach in to grab one. It was this exact moment, in my confusion and wonder, that I felt I knew the very least about my father, that I had a world yet to know, and the day my copy arrived in the mail I began by reading though the inscription into chapter one, into a whole new insight of him, of me, of us.

Amongst other similarly cerebral novels he has written, for his work in Steampunk Alice, Dennis’s take on Alice in Wonderland, a naive young Alice is whisked away to a mechanical, leather strapped, 1900’s industrial revolution styled, Steam Punk alternate universe, and must find her way back home. Campy, fun, thrilling and brilliant. What else can I say?

Now, will Dennis write the next great American novella? Not in the next few years I suspect, but this was never the point for him, for me, and for my family.

Dennis writes novels of exploration into the human condition simply by writing himself, his fears, his joys and interests into each book. And so I have gotten to know him, that is, the universe expanding in his head, his heart, more than I ever have been able, as neither kid nor adult, and that is the true point.

My father writes.

Writing to find ones self.

Because perhaps, in an unfinished world, creation is far less about the art we sculpt, and more about the men we become at the kiln.

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: : : A man : : : A dog : : : And What These Taught Me Of My World

When we brought Dorian home for the first night, I had trouble deciphering who was more frightened in our group, him or Maura or me. Motherhood is not something to take lightly, and responsibility hung thick in the apartment, having now been prepped and readied for our new Dachshund puppy. And there was no way of predicting that this little lopsided walking dog log would be such a catalyst for the monumental change coming, and the inevitable damage that followed.

After peeing everywhere but his designated training pad, Dorian slept smoothly the first night through, nestled softly between Maura’s inner thighs, bleating. I think Maura cried a little too.

For the next two weeks, Dorian was a phantom in the house. I would search under tables and chairs and couch cushions with little success. And when he was finally found, like a bird from an open cage, he would bolt away into the bedroom closet, hopping up one shelving tier, laying shaking, scared, and immobile atop Maura’s sweater pile. “What a pathetic mess.” I would stand there, hands to hips, watching this tiny Dachshund make a god damned fool of himself, probably as well, pissing on my favorite hoodie.

Eventually, we became buddies. I would steal his pink rubber toy, vaguely moist with odorless saliva, and we’d chase each other about the house. Dropping to the floor I could hide my head in my knees and he would bury the sharp edge of his nose into the flank my thigh, searching for a face to commence licking, like he would some instinctual badger meant to be snoop out of some hole. I loved him. His little body, his little quirks. In the morning he could be found at my feet on the shower floor, soaking wet and shaking, but just wanting to be near me. ”It’s alright buddy,” I would tell him, and I would mean it completely. I have, in my life, been on the shower floor in such a way over people too.

Maura never took my last name after the marriage. I still do not know why. Like little foreboding clues of our future I guess, fate is a juggernaut when it runs, and in marriage it is always running towards you, instead of away. When we fought, she took to slinging her wedding ring at me from across the hardwood room, screaming. I once had wine thrown in my face. Frightening fights from frightening people, that is, the type of people we became around one another. She would drink to yell at me; I would drink to not listen. The juggernaut grew near. Sometimes she would say, “When I leave you, I’m taking the dog, just so you’re not surprised when I do. He’s mine, ya know.” The words would roll from her mouth so casually, as if, packed up in moving boxes within herself, there she already lay, along side her heart and her possessions, so far away from my needs.

I do not have a child, but there in Dorian I started to understand the love of small things that are able to love you back. Dorian was strong, and independent, never requiring the leash. But in him there was tenderness too, a codependency I recognized within myself. A need of touch, of love’s daily bread- the promise of I Do, without the anxiety of it. And as Maura and I drifted, we both saught solice in this little Dachshund, who’s simplicity and child like love could never imagine dividing himself in half over us, as Maura and I ourselves did. 

I miss Dorian. I miss having a dog. Simply that. I miss having that routine example of what love might be like without fear, without greed, without even a scrap of remorse. A love willing to go dripping wet and sopping into whatever world as long as it keeps them near.