Six Glimpses of the Uncouth

Robert Vaughan

Street: 1:34 a.m.

His raincoat was splattered with light spots of splayed dirt. The books behind him in the broken shop window were scattered and scarce. It was much later I recalled both his hands stayed in his pockets the entire time we made out. He was groping me through the jacket. Hands like clubs. It was diverse and hazy, like the winter was shedding.

House: 3:40 a.m.

Back at his place, he made me watch these home movies of some unknown person’s life. At first I kept wondering why, who is this, what are we doing? But then I felt privileged, like it was something exotic. A peacock. Then that made me excited. The wilderness stretched out forever; just you and me. And a prescription to keep the hounds at bay.

Statues: Monday

That week he asked me to meet him on the corner of 12th and Lafayette. On the steps of the huge statue of Gilgamesh. He brought Jean Genet’s play, “The Maids,” and when we read it aloud, he used more than ten different voices. I was amazed, like the first time you realize the tooth fairy is just another lie. Or that big girls don’t cry.

Dancing Queen: Valentine’s Day

We all ran around the back yard playing a home-made game, crazy valentine. And you acted like nothing left. We all ran all around. Susie had hers off completely, Danny poured beer all over us, Fern screamed so loud she spit. The back yard, running around. “Crazy Valentine.” And you lit my hair on fire. Poof, that acrid smell. It was really fun.

Iraq: 1987

After you left for another war, I went looking for him or for traces of him, like a correspondent, like a common genie looking for its self. I wore a uniform of the northern people so I would blend in with Susie, April and Fern. You went AWOL when I ripped my shirt off because of the spilled beer, Fern lent me her shawl. And we couldn’t find you.

Garage: 12:34 today

Another day at work. Phone call, meet me at the garage. I did. Scary because it had been decades, another lifetime. Then you walked in, raincoat still a mess. Talking gibberish and mumbling this and that. Pacing like a panda behind bars. We went walking and cast a pall over the shed skins of the misfortunate. What did I do to make you do the things you did.

Robert Vaughan is an award-winning author, playwright, and teacher. His books include Microtones (Cervena Barva, 2012), Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps, 2013), Addicts & Basements (CCM, 2014), RIFT (Unknown Press, 2015), Funhouse (Unknown Press, 2016), and Askew (Cowboy Jamboree, 2022). He was twice the runner-up for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction. His work has been widely anthologized, including the New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2018) and Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2019 (Sonder Press), His plays have been produced in S.F., N.Y.C., and Milwaukee. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Bending Genres.

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