He looks like Lincoln, but not the smiling one. He leaves his hat on the bar, drinks Kentucky whiskey, and raves about John C. Breckenridge. We try to admire him, but it's hard. He makes jokes about Koreans and buys ten dollars of hair metal from the jukebox. He pinches the waitresses.
Tell us something for the kids, someone calls.
A proverb of my youth, he says: a woman who is not beaten is like a house that is not cleaned.
The Fall of Richard I
After a thousand years of feudalism, even Nixon seemed a good choice. He moved into the manor on the hill, and, for a time, everything was fatcakes and goose liver. We danced the summer solstice and twirled our wives like queens.
But soon we caught Kissinger and Haldeman nosing around the livestock, changing brands. A herald announced the reinstatement of droit de seigneur and our daughters returned to us disheveled and sullen, with stubble burns scoring their cheeks. We took up pitchforks and muskets and stormed the gate, but he escaped by helicopter and we had only Pat and the kids to half-heartedly string up in the town square.
Now we're looking into anarcho-syndicalism, and our wives hang cross-stitches that say The Only Church We Worship is the Church that Burns. But even as we cull the ringwormed goats from our herds or dibble holes for our onions and leeks, sometimes still we watch the sky and wonder how long he can ever, truly be gone.
A Real Story: Couplets
1. When World War I ace Georges Guynemer was finally shot down over enemy lines, French schoolchildren were told he had flown so high that he could never return. As I burn the letters you still write to our daughter, this is what I think of.
2. Thieves, you are being photographed, the sign says, but she smashes the glass and slips into the garage all the same. A flowerpot, his baseball glove, a broken rake.
3. The day after the Janjaweed drag her husband to death behind a horse, the workers of the IDP camp give Fatima a double portion of millet. She boils it with onions and kudra, divides it among her children, and decides that she will live.
4. The Reds don't expect much from Admiral Schlei, even with two outs and the sacks jammed, but all the same he bings a Stoney McGlynn spitball past Champ Osteen and into left field. That night he sneaks his lover Fred up the back stairs of the Hyatt Regency and falls asleep in his arms, thinking, so that's one more day before I'm old.
5. The first recorded use of the word “boredom” was in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, an early example of a work teaching its readers how to read it. The first recorded use of the word “collago-coupletism,” on the other hand, was just now.
6. Hector plows a young dental hygienist on the dinette, but his heart's not in it. After, he walks naked through her apartment, peeling a tangelo and thinking of Greenland.
7. When a male anglerfish locates a female of his kind, he latches on with his fangs, leeching blood and nutrient, until he atrophies to teeth and testicles alone. Still, the bathypelagic zone sees few divorces--they make it work.
8. Finally Kiara can no longer stand the blare of Keith Olbermann raving about Sudan and the pastel tension of the waiting room, and she sneaks out to the dumpsters for a cigarette. The thing you have to remember about Marcus Aurelius, she hears one custodian say to the other.
9. I wish you'd write a real story, my wife says. But where else can I tell you the way that, when I lie down at night, she snorts and rolls and, even in her sleep, presses her bedwarm body to my side?
A former Peace Corps Volunteer, David Yost has served on development projects in the United States, Mali, and Thailand. His stories and poems have appeared in more than twenty publications, including The Southern Review, Witness, Pleiades, Asia Literary Review, and The Sun.