June 1st, 2013

Drinking the Kool Aid

by William A Browning

I’m in front of the TV helping my sister Marsha punch out paper doll clothes when I hear my Mom scream, “Oh my fucking God!” I look up.

Holding Margie, her youngest child–just 3 years old, against her chest, Mom runs full-throttle down the hall, through the living room and out our front door. My oldest brother Howard jumps up, bangs out behind her, and a second later I shoot out behind him. Already, Mom’s at the end of our building. Clearly something bad is wrong.

Howard shifts gears, gaining on her. Without first checking in either direction Mom runs across Bicknell Avenue and starts up Hazelwood. Howard catches Mom just past Fox’s Neighborhood Grocery, yelling at Mom, “What the fuck’s …”

“I need to get his baby to the hospital!” Mom pants.

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May 9th, 2013

Master Button Pusher

by William A Browning

I have dinner almost ready when I realize there is nothing but water to drink, and I also need bread. I walk to the buffet in the dining room. Me putting my wallet in my back pocket and sliding into some shoes catches Danny’s attention. “Where are you goin’, Dad?”

“I’m going to the Conven …” just the two syllables of “convenient” send the child into a sort of panicked tailspin. He runs. He darts and zigzags. He races down a hallway. He dashes back.

“Where’s my shoes, Dad?”

Dan is 3-and-a-half-years-old, and he loves Convenient Food Marts. These are little gas stations and stores that have sprung up on every corner in our city. They stay open 24 hours a day. And more than Disney World, more than boats or blue vans like Papaw’s, Danny loves Convenients. He calls them “The ‘Benient.”

“Listen to me, Danny. I’ll only be gone for like five minutes. I’m going to run straight in to the store and then back out. You stay here with Eric.”

“Stay here? No, Dad! Please! I need to go with you, Dad.” Danny spots a shoe under the couch and dives for it. “Dad, WAIT! Don’t! Wait, Dad!” Dan hurriedly slips on the shoe.

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May 1st, 2013

Invisible

by William A Browning

It’s 1984, and I’m driving down Third Street. Danny, comfortably situated in the back seat of my new Olds Derby Calaise, is almost 9 years old. Right now he’s perplexing both me and his teachers by refusing to write anything down on paper. The child feels, if things are for sure in your head, then there’s just no point in writing them down. He thinks you should be able to just say answers out loud.

I glance over at Barbra, my daughter who’ll soon turn 5, seated next to me. She’s had a big day and is noticeably tired. I have to have her back by 6:00 on Sunday evenings, her mother insists. … “No Billy, not 6:01. 6:00 sharp. Understand Billy?” … I understand perfectly.

After making a left turn, I drive by Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church where I once coached a mixed softball team called the Misfits. I feel sad. Another weekend’s closing too soon.

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April 20th, 2013

Fried Chicken On Tuesday?

by William A Browning

I work at a nursing home. I arrive there today at the last minute. I open my car door, and immediately a rooster greets me. Yep. A rooster. I work off Hurstbourne Lane. There’s miles of shopping, heavy traffic. It’s an area where you don’t expect to encounter roosters. This one’s red, a bit on the thin side, and doesn’t want to let me pass. I fake to my right and then cut left to get around it. I enter a side door and find the usual mob gathered around.

“HI, BILL!” Wilson screams. I fall and trip over old people while trying to get to the time clock before it clicks 2:31.

Ahhh, I made it. It’s then that I notice how hot the place is. The new air conditioner is still not installed. I put my book bag down.

Reba sidles over and rolls her eyes up at me. “I’m glad you came curry curr standin’. I need to go to daddy’s and fortitude with you maybe.” Read the rest of this entry »

February 13th, 2013

Homophobe

by William A Browning

George works with Jim. Jim’s just a kid, with a face that looks like it’s made from leftover parts, sweeping a floor, but I get a feeling about him. My guts say he’d be fun, a good guy to know and a good friend. George and I invite the young man to Denny’s. Soon, he becomes part of a growing posse I’m unwittingly putting together.

At the time, only I drive. George, Dan and Jim are all without licenses or cars or both, and when there’s a get-together or outing, I am ringleader and chauffeur. I go around and pick everyone up.

The third time I pick Jim up he steps onto a cluttered porch and a tall, thin boy — considerably younger than Jim — steps out behind him. Watching Jim approach the car, I wonder why the boy on the porch looks angry.

The kid bends at the waist. “GET OFF MY PROPERTY FAGGOT!” he screams. “I MEAN IT!” Read the rest of this entry »

October 5th, 2012

Mad About Mable

by William A Browning

George asks me for help with Mable. I tell him I’ll meet him in her room in five minutes.

When I get there George has already laid her on the bed. He’s red-faced and aggravated. Mable’s rearing up and taking big roundhouse swings at him. “Mable, Mable,” I coo. “Calm down, Mable.”

“Oh God, honey, I’m glad to see you. This big bastard is …”

I gently wrap Mable’s wrists with my hands. George pulls down her pants. “What are …?” Mable’s mad. “Honey! Let go of my hands so I can knock hell out of this bastard.”

“Mable that’s why I have your hands. So you won’t knock hell out of him.” Read the rest of this entry »

August 30th, 2012

Hiss And Slither

by William A Browning

Before starting the laundry I walk from room to room and look for soiled things that didn’t get sent down the shoot. There’s a dishtowel in the kitchen and a pair of smelly white socks on the living room floor. I climb stairs and enter the bedroom I share with Sam. I walk to the rumpled bed and pull out the tucked-in sheet. More white socks and several pairs of Sam’s underwear fall to the floor. On the left side of the bed, Sammy’s side, I pick up a pair of jeans.

Sammy’s Levi’s feel small in my hands and smell of mulch and sweat. Knowing he’s likely left change or a comb in them I absently search pockets. In a front left pocket I pull out what appears to be five torn ticket stubs. They’re a bright green color.

I frown.

Why would Sammy have tickets to a Haunted House in his pocket? And why five? Why would they have last night’s date on them? Sammy worked last night. … He said … Suddenly, I know the whys. Sam didn’t work. He lied. For months now … he’s been lying.

I sit on the side of the bed. I look down at his jeans in my lap and again marvel at how small they are. Almost like a boy’s jeans. A garment belonging to someone not old enough to cheat on you. Read the rest of this entry »