Don’t tell

Don’t tell me what to do, I said.

Oh yeah? What’d she have to say to that?

Jesus. Jesus, you wouldn’t believe. She picks up the frying pan, right, the cast-iron frying pan. I mean, cast-iron, that thing’s heavy, y’know? And she holds it up in the air, over her head for Chrissakes, I mean her arm is like, shaking, ‘cause the goddamn cast-iron pan is so heavy and she’s got this thin little arm, right? So she’s got this goddamn pan up in the air like this and she puts her other hand flat on the table, and she’s looking down at that hand and then she looks up at me. And her eyes, her eyes are like, broken, her whole face is broken, and I can tell she’s about to bring the goddamned cast-iron frying pan right down on her hand lying on the table.

Jesus. Jesus Christ. What the hell did you do? Jesus Christ.

I…I don’t know. I mean, I blacked out, I guess. I mean, all I remember is looking at her face, her face all broken like that, and picturing that cast-iron pan coming down on her hand on the table, and the next thing I know I’m on the floor.


I’m on the floor, and she’s gone, she’s not in the kitchen anymore, and my head hurts like holy hell, I put my hand to my head and I look at my hand and there’s blood on my fingers; I sit up, there’s blood on the edge of the counter where I must’ve hit my head after I blacked out. I stand up, my head is like, throbbing, and I can feel this trickle of blood down the side of my face, and my ankle’s real sore like I twisted it or something, my whole body’s kinda sore and like, shaking. I grab the dishrag from the sink and I put it to my head, I look at it and it’s all bloody and I press it back against my head. I go to the doorway, I’m kind of limping, my head’s throbbing like I don’t know what, I go to the doorway and I put my hand on the doorframe and stop for a second, and I look up and she’s sitting there. Sitting right there on the sofa, cool as a cucumber, sitting there next to the open window with a cigarette in her hand and her legs tucked up under her like a cat, just cool as a cucumber. And she looks at me and she’s calm like the sea, when the sea is calm like that like a goddamn sleeping baby, and she looks at me like that and she says, What happened. Just like that, she’s not asking me, she’s just saying it, What happened. And I look at her and it starts to go kind of swimmy and fuzzy, I can tell I’m about to pass out again. And the last thing I remember, the last thing I remember is she takes a drag from the cigarette, all slow-like, like it’s slow-motion, and all slow like that she turns away from me toward the window and I see the smoke coming out of her head like this ghost coming through the window and out of her head. And I hear this ghost, this smoke thing say, Do whatever you want, real quiet and slow, and then I don’t feel anything anymore.


Notes: Not sure when this was written. Guessing late ‘09, early ‘10. I have no idea what the specific inspiration might have been. There’s an obvious Raymond Carver-ey influence in it, to me at least, and the first time I ever read any Carver was around the same time period, within the same span of a year or two. I found it when I was going through old writing, had totally forgotten it existed. Again, as with “Blue”, my sense is that it was written during a time when I wasn’t writing that much. Also as with “Blue”, I see specific things in here that hadn’t appeared in my writing before. Elements of tone definitely, but also more technical stuff in regards to punctuation and structure. I like how short it is.

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