Friday, February 11, 2011

Yeah, I Read Comics. So What? – Issue #2: (Batman) Beyond Reality

Often I’ve had fantasies of swooping down from tall buildings and scooping up crooks, chaining them to lamp posts and the like after I’ve beaten them silly for breaking whatever law they were ignoring and, thusly, meriting said beating.

Fantasy indeed, as I’m a big softie who doesn’t even like to honk a car horn after being egregiously cut off in busy traffic out of fear of some sort of road rage reprisal. I’ve also only been in one fight, a fight that ended with me and the other combatant weeping and apologizing to one another. I don’t like pain. I don’t like to run. I don’t like working up a good sweat even though sweating profusely is something my body does extremely well. I’m just not cut out for the superhero gig. I want to be, but I’m not. Physically, psychologically (another “cally” of some sort) I don’t think I could—maybe that’s why I read comics. I don’t know, (insert shameless late-nineties pop culture reference here:) I might be a coward, I’m afraid of what I might find out if I’m ever really tested.

I must admit, however, there have been times that donning a makeshift costume and scouring the streets for law breakin’ punks has been tempting.

How does a guy like me, with very few skills and waning testicular fortitude through aging and not wanting to do much at all besides read and write, have sudden urges to fight crime? It doesn’t make much sense. I could lie and say my dissatisfaction for the current processes of law enforcement is the cause, but I’d just be wasting my breath (and/or fingertip strength). I think we’ll have to take look back to the future for an answer.
In the late nineties (right about when I got myself into that fightlet I mentioned) a cartoon series was released chronicling the futuristic adventures of a new Batman (Terry McGinnis) who’s taken up the mantle after the original man behind the cowl (Bruce Wayne) had become too old to continue fighting the proverbial good fight. While it had to bear the stigma cartoons are often slapped with (kiddy stuff, not worth a damn), it won its fair share of accolades. A Daytime Emmy to boot!
Since the cartoon’s inception I’ve maintained a healthy (okay, healthy(ish)) obsession with the sleek, cape-less black uniform, and the blood red bat symbol emblazoned across the chest. Terry’s age may have played a part as well. Heck, he’s only, like, five years older than me! I used to think. My affinity for this Batman held precedence even over the traditional bat.
Always underwhelmed with playing sports (I stunk (hard)), over-entertained by what was (and is) available to the generation I was born into (um, everything), undisturbed by the jeers of dorkishness (okay, I was afraid of the taunting, but not enough to quit liking what I liked). I’d found my niche, my little place in pop culture that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Sprinkle in technological advances that were launching the mid-eightiers (folks born around 1985) into territories that looked shockingly similar to my favorite show, an imagination that plays itself out like a Jason Statham flick, a whole group of kids to interact with who were growing up with a flare for the dramatic, and dreams of being rockstars, astronauts, and presidents (obviously my dreams of being Batman weren’t all that outlandish) and here I am, thirteen years, a college degree and a receding hairline later, I still want to be Batman, and Terry’s come back (just this time in comics).

I did what every person who suffers from occasional bouts of obsessive behavior would do. I went to Best Buy with a wad of money I’d earned at my big-boy-job stuffed in my pants pocket and purchased the all three seasons of Batman Beyond. I then sped home and watched episode after episode after—well, you get the point. Terry’s adventures atop the gargantuan, futuristic (by futuristic, I mean neon) buildings that turned Neo-Gotham into a scene from Blade Runner were churning in my brain (sort of resembling Spellbinder’s costume if I were to toss some dorkdom into this piece). I was obsessed (as implied upon above).

Through watching the full run of the cartoon, reading the new comic series, and being completely entranced with everything Batman Beyond for months on end, I had an apostrophe (Hook, anybody? Hmm? Hmmmmm???). Lightning had struck my brain. My sizzled brain cells as a result fired several questions along my synaptic pathways, questions I’ve been grappling with since the credits of the last episode rolled. Questions I will now pose to you:

Can anyone pinpoint the moment in history when our real lives, the real world, suddenly began looking more like the science fiction we view as entertainment? Better yet, how is it the technology we use everyday has progressed and, in many ways, surpassed that of the marvels of the entire science fiction genre? Is it art mimicking life, or life mimicking art? Is art predicting life, or life predicting art?
I mean, not only are we progressing technologically at a rate that makes even the most creative science fiction writers second guess themselves, but we live in a post-9/11 culture and that event’s aftermath has altered the world around us so profoundly that William Gibson (the father of the cyberpunk sci-fi offshoot) has gone on record to say that he is unable to write about a distant future because of how much the devastation and the technological progression has altered the path we all were on. He finds it difficult to write speculative science fiction because we, as a culture, are no longer on any particular path. We’ve essentially derailed ourselves (to use a Vonnegut-ism, we’ve become unstuck in time). It’s almost as if art and life have no desire to reconnect, to even be in the same room with one another any longer. Of course we could look at this point in history as a chance for infinite progress or the possibility of imminent destruction. Both have thousands of potential paths that could branch off like the limbs of a tree.
Try and predict the outcome of a football game without knowing a single thing about the rules of play, about the players, without seeing the statistics or the records. It would be a toss up, a fifty-fifty gamble. Let’s try to spice this metaphor up a bit more, shall we? Let’s say we throw one hundred different types of sports teams on a football field. We now have a game that could have an infinite number of outcomes. Now, take the rules of each respective sport out of the picture. Toss a couple hundred pucks, balls, and other sportly accoutrements onto the field. Place the goal posts, bases, and nets on conveyor belts so they never stop moving. Now try and think of at least one thing that could happen. Besides, mayhem, there’s nothing else. Predicting anything at all about what could take place there would simply be a waste of time.

Prediction or speculation regarding art and life is now, in a way, irrelevant due to the fact that what we live with currently is a blend of both. The oversaturation of every facet of artistic media has soaked the shoes of reality, making the goals we strive for into fantasies. That consequently resulted in reality becoming, for lack of a better word, absurd due to our overexposure to every source of media on a constant basis. We’ve made the word “art” hold little to no value. It’s become sheer whimsy.

And here we are, living cartoon characters. Caricatures of, well, ourselves, really.

I’m not sure what I’d be if I wasn’t defined in someway by my interests, if I had to strip everything away but the bones, blood, guts and skin. (Technically speaking I’d be nude and no one wants to see that. So I’ll keep myself all gussied up.)

There are advantages, however, to living in a time where Mr. Spock has mind-melded us to our media. For instance, Japan is developing a robot to perform house-hold tasks (Rosie from The Jetsons), robots to fight war (The Terminator (okay, that could fall into the disadvantages column)). Theoretical Physicists can prove (mathematically) that parallel universes exist. This is, of course, theoretical but so was the idea the earth was round. They cracked that mystery wide open by sailing a boat. We just need an interdimentional boat that’ll sail us to parallel world so we can talk to different version of ourselves (just as every single DC and Marvel comic character has at one time had a conversation with an other-universely counterpart.)

I’m going to go on the record and say that while I love comics and sci-fi and escapism of all kinds, I’m grounded in reality. I’m not some nut. However when the United States Armed Forces went ahead and officially named their new one-man-army project, Project Batman, I started realizing that “being grounded” means precisely nothing. They’ve made lightweight Kevlar bodysuits that can withstand gunshots and knife-slashings, and wing-esque parachutes that allow men to glide to the ground safely after hurling themselves from the tops of buildings. Simply put, we live in an amalgamated world. The rules have changed and this stuff is real.

All of it is completely absurd.

But it’s real.

Could it be that my childhood (adulthood) fantasy is an actual possibility? Could I become Batman? I mean, even if I don’t become the Batman, will some devoted soul take on the responsibility of a symbol that frightens the wicked into piddling their pants?
Look, ten years ago I used to sneak a couple CDs and my Discman into my backpack every morning before school without my mom’s permission. I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t see it and think I was shirking my scholastic responsibilities. That was only a decade ago. Now I have my entire record collection on a hunk of metal that sits comfortably in the palm of my hand.
Never expected that, did we? And that’s just a device used for entertainment!

Terry McGinnis never thought he’d live up to anything in life, he became Batman; just we have an uncertain and dangerous future ahead and there could be many Batmen striking fear into the hearts of criminals. There could be robots fighting wars to cut down on loss of human life. We’ve got books without pages, music without CDs, phones without cords, cars without gasoline, we’ve got, well, we’ve got whatever we can think up.

Fantasy and fiction are real. Reality is now fantastical and our technology has made real life seem fictional; hyper-real. The cliché “anything is possible” has become a literal truth. And as to what path we’ll choose when looking into a future with an infinite number of options, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Yeah, I read comics. So what?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yeah, I Read Comics. So What? – Issue #1: Power (Girl) Over Men

I am a man. It’s true. I am equipped with certain…attributes; attributes that can clearly prove that I am male. I also am able to identify with typically masculine things (beard growing, spitting, hairline recession, crotch adjustment, thinkin’ ladies are purdy, ya know, the basics). I say “typically” because there are folks other than men who have first hand experience in those fields of expertise, but I digress.

I recently have found myself becoming increasingly interested in reading superhero comics that feature women as the title character. Now while at first this is certainly a progression in my taste for all sorts of characters and stories, why do the female characters I enjoy reading about have to have such large…attributes? It’s certainly not a requirement of mine in life outside of comicbookian realms. And while I thoroughly enjoy reading books about mousy, introverted women attempting to find new ways of coping with their midlifeishness in New York City (see The New York Four by Brian Wood for more!) I do tend to have just a teensy bit more fun when reading about scantily clad ladies soaring over the skies of metropoli (yes, I made that word up), and beating the living hell out of criminals.

Is that a crime?

If it is, will a scantily clad lady come beat my ass?

In that case, I’m a bad, bad man.

Okay, now that you’re all thoroughly creeped, I’ll continue: I am referring to one heroine in particular who caught my proverbial eye. This woman is very much a woman. Very much so, indeed. I’m talking about Power Girl, folks. Power Girl, the stranded cousin of a Superman from another universe, stuck in the DCU proper and attempting to recreate herself (just as the creative brass from DC is attempting to revitalize the character) in the Big Apple (hmm, not so different from the young lady, Riley, from NYF). Her defining trait, however, isn’t so much her attempt at reinvention, so much as it is her voluminous…

Let’s just hold on for a second.

Power Girl (Karen Starr) is heading up Starr Enterprises, a research and development company whose mission is to solve environmental and sociological issues across the globe through promoting intelligence, human self-awareness, and progress. A pretty fantastic, fantastical venture, yes?

Do most blonde jokes begin with “So the CEO of Starr Enterprises walks into a bar…”?

No, sadly they don’t.

Karen Starr is certainly not the prototypical big dumb blonde we hear about in limericks and jokes. She is, however, a big blonde lady who wears a white leotard with an opening in the chest that shows off her enormous, gigantic…attributes. She towers over most people, yet she’s quite the lady. She’s brilliant, yet you could bounce a quarter off her buns n’ bust. The duality of her character is right out there in the open for everyone to see.

Don’t freak out, I’m not saying there aren’t any brilliant, beautiful women on our Earth. But show me one who’s six feet tall, can fly and fight crime without a nipple popping out of her uniform, only to go to work afterward at a company that holds a patent on nanites that can rebuild a car from spare parts. Then we’ll talk, okay?

Karen’s a head turner, a looker, if you will. An eye pleaser. She more than likely makes boatloads of money more than most men. And that’s just her day job. She’s also in the business of saving the world from man-apes (metaphor? maybe!), alien chicks who party too hard (an older sisterly figure looking to show younger ladies that brains really do matter? great!), even a fella trying to forcibly repopulate his planet by battling monsters to impress earth-ladies enough that they’d be willing to copulate with him (satire of masculine prowess? excellent!)

Of course, with every busty blonde in this or any other medium, in spite of her intelligence, there are going to be boob jokes. Boob jokes that Power Girl simply brushes off as the weakness of men. She even goes as far as to say, If men want to degrade themselves by staring, let them.

She makes a solid point.

Men, however, can indeed be prone to their own degradation.

Yes, we tend to stare.

As a man, I’m sorry to say, it’s true. We do. However subtle men think they are, we all know, deep down, we’re not. Men can be the most obvious creatures on the planet. Easily amused. Easy to please. Many of us, however, are harmless but complex. We feel lucky when women shed a shining light of attention on us for a brief time.

Knowing these things as we do, we’re able to be analytical about the subject of sexuality in the commodities we consume (some of us anyway (I apologize again in saying that some men are, well, men.))

Is the presence of Power Girl in the medium of science fiction and fantasy comics just a cheap ploy to sell books to lonely man-children? Is it the further exploitation of the female form, another innovative way to sell sex? A celebration of the female form? Perhaps an example of a strong female lead character in an industry almost wholly dominated by male, godlike heroes?

Let’s face it, okay? Comics have got to sell if we expect to see them in print or at all in the future. Yes, writers, artists and editors must attempt to appeal to both men and women. Give the male heroes hairless, bulging pectorals; give the women big boobs, wide hips and skimpy clothes. That’s simply the reality of the medium (and every other medium for that matter). Comic book publishers need to make money, subsequently they make their mainstream cast sexy.

Now for this next part, you’ll have to open the book to discover the other half of “telling stories with pictures”, the half that is often forgotten by comic naysayers: The content! Yes, the content! Ya know, those weird symbols we can assign sounds to and form words with.

Using what we learned about Power Girl just minutes ago, taking the goddess and making her human by giving her human characteristics (fears, thoughts, doubts, hopes, humor) and writing her as a character with actual charm and charisma aside from the obvious lady parts, you find a self actualized positive female role model who is proud of herself and her body.

If you were to strip it down (pardon the expression), remove all the fluff, you’d find a fun, sexy book about a young woman who could potentially rise to become as archetypal a trope for women as her cousin from a parallel universe (Superman, in other words) is for men. With powers almost identical to Superman’s own, Power Girl is the female counterpart of the platonic embodiment of good. Give that goodness a healthy sense of humor about her physique, and a mind that suggests her body isn’t to be utilized, but honored, and you’ve got the Power Girl we see on the comic stands every month.

Yes, I am a man, as I’ve said before. I am attracted to the female form. Perhaps I was initially attracted to Power Girl because of her sexiness (in spite of the creepy fact that she is (sadly) not real). But, who hasn’t ever bought a book because of the cover when they’ve had two to choose from? Judgment based on initial magnetism is a human trait (throw Power Girl’s tall, firm and full, ass-kicking body into the mix) and, frankly, despite the warnings, sometimes gut trusting pays off in big ways.

Call me sexist if you will. Call me a pig, a disillusioned fool with false sense of woman and her form. But after you've finish with my chastisement, ask yourself a question, “Is $2.99 too high a price to give a funnybook a shot, or is it too low to compromise my own ego and point of view?” Do yourself a favor, read the book before writing Power Girl (and ALL comic book characters) off as trashy boy stuff. Trash she is not.

I’ll tell you what, though, if she were the guardian of my city, I’d be doing one of two things, (1) Regularly hurling myself from buildings and in front of planes, trains and automobiles so good ol’ Pee-Gee would come save me, or (2) rob every person, bank and store in the area just hoping that she’d kick my ass through a wall.

Yeah, I read comics. So what?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Awesome Things #1: Fishnuts 69

“Sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s a man for his time and place.”

It’s rare that a moment comes along when these words can be said in some sort of context; aside, of course, from a quoting spree inspired by The Big Lebowski that can spontaneously explode forth from the mouths of fans of the film. My friends and I vomit up the film’s F-word laden lines often enough that I was easily able to assign this particular sentence to the man in this photo for the inaugural installment of Awesome Things.

Go ahead, call it a lack of creativity. Call it a hackish rehash of pop culture garbage. Despite the fact this piece may very well be an amalgam of both, can’t you agree that it is perfectly fitting to assign that line to a man wearing a jersey that reads “Fishnuts 69”?

Ol’ Fishnuts here is one wonderful example of what Awesome Things is dedicated to reporting. To all you willing bibliomaniacs of the word-circus herein, you’re in for a treat. See, I’ve taken a handful of photos with my three-year-old workhorse of a camera-phone that were just too difficult to describe through spoken word, yet too fantastic not to share with people. The things I’ve seen have more than earned their time in the spotlight (even if said spotlight is comparable to a book-light with a fading battery) by merely existing. The earth’s a big place. A big ridiculous place. There are far too many awesome things out there that never get the attention they deserve. I want to change that. Welcome to Awesome Things.

Philadelphia sporting events are known for their fans’ absurd displays of loyalty (and debauchery). I, myself, have done my part by booing fans and players of opposing teams, and sporting my favorite ball club’s colors. In Philadelphia, however, I’m a lightweight. I’ve seen Eagles fans standing nearly nude, covered in green and black body paint…in December…in the nosebleeds. I’ve seen a man dressed in a chicken suit wearing a Raul Ibanez jersey in the three-hundred level during a Phillies game. I’ve seen drunken revelers chug beer from wiffleball bats. I’ve seen a man boo with such masculine gusto it made several Washington Nationals turn and look into the stands. A friend of mine booed a young child to tears. Another friend saw a seemingly sweet little old lady dump a full beer on a Cowboys fan. My friends have nearly gotten into fights, nearly been ejected from games, and have been wrongfully accused of hurling racial epithets; I assure you, they were hurling only expletives that begin with the letters “F”, “S”, “A”, “B”, “P”, “C”, “D”, and “T”.

So, yes, I’m lightweight.

This past year I’ve made an effort to focus on a sport that I know very little about (that’s not to say I know all that much about any sport (I like sports, so sue me), hockey. I could never watch hockey on television. I know little to jack about the rules. Truthfully, it’s a sport I think you’ve got to grow up watching to really grasp the goings on on the ice. Nevertheless, when asked to go to a game for a friend’s birthday shindig, I went along for the ride.

I wore a Phillies shirt.

I was immediately penalized and only could kill the aforementioned penalty by zipping up my sweatshirt.

Let me be clear: Not knowing a single thing about that brutal, manly game, I loved every second of it. It’s the Icecapades meets American Gladiators. NFL Blitz meets a ballet recital. I was taken aback, impressed and terrified, shocked and wowed. I was a little boy grinning like an idiot with a hotdog clenched in my fist. Then…it was over. It ended. It was time to leave. I wanted to buy a hat, a shirt, SOMETHING! But, alas, I would have felt like a fan boy poser who has no right to wear the gear of a team he barely recognizes, that plays a sport he may never fully understand. Obviously, I vowed I’d return to learn just enough to merit, at the very least, a T-Shirt, or a hat (if one was being sold in a size large enough to fit comfortably atop my gargantuan noggin.)

On March 21st, 2010, however, I realized I would never be a Flyers fan that could fit in with the likes of those that converge in that particular arena in south Philadelphia game after game. These people, nay, these Philadelphian heroes, are a different breed. Grittier than Eagles fans, more militant than Phillies followers, these men and women are gods amongst insects. Decked out in orange and white, they wield horns, foam fingers. They scream and curse at their team, the opposing team, and each other. Amidst all of this cacophony (and, admittedly, hilarity), my friend and I witnessed a man. A man Eric and I now refer to as Fishnuts 69. As Fishnuts sidled past people in his row to find his seat, Eric and I said, in tandem, “Holy shit.” He wore a customized authentic Flyers jersey that didn’t display the name of Mike Richards, or Simon Gagne, or Danny Briere, or any other Flyer on the current roster. It simply read “Fishnuts” across his shoulder blades. And the number he chose is the funniest number a male can think of.

This, of course, was the number 69.

We tried piece together a possible way to justify the purchase of the jersey. We said maybe his name was pronounced “Feeshnoots” and he was born in 1969. Or maybe it was a gag gift he received for his birthday. Whatever the reason may be, Fishnuts, or someone close to him spent one-hundred and fifty-five dollars (before shipping (I did my research)) to get that particular name and that particular number embroidered on the back of a Flyers jersey. This was either an act of drunken stupidity, we assumed, or it was a choice made by a man to be the best dressed Flyers fan in attendance whenever he chose to attend. The fact of the matter is, Fishnuts proves that not only am I an inadequate Flyers fan, there’s also no way I’d ever have such strong feelings about any sports team that I’d be willing to deem myself Fishnuts and wear the number 69 proudly on my back to support them. I’ve got to leave that responsibility to other people far more dedicated to their squad than I.

Fishnuts 69 is a man for his time and place. In a time where sports heroes of old are being replaced by modern god-like marvels who are breaking records, bats, bones, and, in some cases (many cases, actually), laws. This new generation of athlete is over the top, incredibly dedicated (to the sport or the cash, no one knows), loud, vibrant, and absurd. This new generation of athlete requires a new type of fan: Fishnuts 69 is that fan. He’s that man. This is his time.

Now, where could I possibly fit in here? Do I even have place in professional sports fandom? More than likely the answer is a resounding “NO!” At least not in hockey, anyway. Hell, I just found out what the Philadelphia Flyers logo really is. I’m not Fishnuts 69, not by any stretch, and, well, I’ll let Sam Elliot take care of the rest. “Sometimes there’s a man—I won’t say a hero, ‘cause what’s a hero?—but sometimes there’s a man.”

Friday, June 5, 2009

“Whatever He Needs To When He Has To” a(nother) short piece of fiction by Nick Gregorio

Dad splits the deer’s ribcage open. Sounds like the sticks and branches we stepped on when we were walking up here. That was back just a few hours ago, in the dark. Back when the sun wasn’t showing me what I probably look like on the inside.

“Not so bad, huh,” he says.


“Are ya‘okay?”


His hands are all bloody, shiny too. Mine looked like that a few summers ago when I knocked Max’s front teeth out. I was aiming for his nose but Max is smaller than me so I just got a little bit of his nose, mostly his mouth. Both parts of his face bled on my hands and made them all slick and red like Dad’s.

I dunno if it’s because it’s deer blood and not people blood, but Dad never gets weird about that kinda stuff. He didn’t get weird with all that blood on his hands.

I freaked out when Max’s blood was on me.

I tried shaking my hands off but it didn’t work. Then I tried rubbing them together. That just spread it around, made it worse. I started crying. Max felt all bad about saying that crap about my mom and started crying too. He said, “I didn’t mean it.”

I said, “Okay.”

“Sorry I said that.”


“Really. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry I punched you in the face.”

“It’s okay. They were my baby teeth anyway. They were already loose.”

Max put his arm around my shoulder and we cried for a little. We stopped when the troop called us fags.

Dad isn’t freaking out at all. He looks like he wants to take my hand and help me out with gutting this deer. He won’t though. He’ll just wait ‘til I’m ready. He won’t say anything either. Dad’s not the holding hands kind of guy. He’s a hand on shoulder guy. Besides, there’s deer fur sticking to the blood on his hands. I don’t want to touch that stuff yet anyway.

I take the gun strap in my hand and lift the gun off my shoulder. It’s not as heavy as I remember when I was trying to line the crosshairs behind the deer’s shoulder blade. Now it just smells. Smells like—I dunno, it’s a good and bad smell. Kinda like that church stuff that Sister Dianne says smells like God; just not as sweet. How does she know what God smells like anyway? Dad laughed when I told him she said that. He said that maybe if that stuff smells like God, she thinks a gun smells like Satan. Maybe, I guess. A gun’s louder than what I thought God would sound like, too. Makes you see stars and get this buzzing between your ears. I dunno, maybe since God blew up the whole universe to make ours, a gun sounds a little like God; all explosions and bright lights and ears that can’t hear all that great. I can’t really tell. I’m not a nun.

I lean the gun against the tree next to the deer.

“Is the safety on?” Dad asks.

“I think so.”

“Remember what I said about the safety?”

“That you gotta know when it’s on and off.”

He smiles. I like when he smiles, but I kinda feel like he’s smiling because I’m still his son who still needs to learn how to do stuff. A kid who can’t do everything right the first time.

I check the safety. It’s on.

Dad got mad the one time he was showing me how to hold a gun. There weren’t any bullets in it or anything but Mom came in the room he was showing me the gun in and she walked in front of me when I was aiming at the plug socket. He grabbed the gun from me and pointed it up toward the ceiling. “Dammit, Anne,” he said. “Can’t walk in front of guns like that.”

“It’s unloaded.”

“That’s not the point. He’s gotta learn to respect a weapon. He can’t do that with you walking in front of it like that.”

“You know you don’t shoot people, right,” she said to me.


When Mom left the room Dad told me that it’s not about knowing whether or not to shoot people, it’s about taking enough care and making sure you don’t put anybody in danger. Ever. That means not even letting people walk in front of you when you’re aiming and just practicing. He tries to teach me to do stuff right.

Dad stands up and wipes his forehead off with his sleeve. “Whaddaya think, pal? Ready?”

“Yeah.” I wipe my forehead off with my sleeve.

“Okay, kneel down next to the deer.”

I put my knees in the wet leaves next to the deer and look into his chest. He’s got the same parts we do. Heart, lungs, stomach; right in the places we have them. His one lung is all messed up where the bullet got him, where I shot him. Maybe he died by choking on his own blood. One of the veins connected to the heart is half off. Maybe his heart stopped before he choked to death. I can’t tell. It was all too fast to tell. Probably was a couple things that killed him after the bullet got him.

I can’t remember what to do first.

I can’t remember anything.

I grab a stick from the ground and put one end on one side of his ribcage and the second end on the other side to spread the chest wider, to see better. I don’t want Dad to think I didn’t pay attention during the training course. I gotta sorta look busy.

Dad kneels down next to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Heart and lungs first, bud.”


“Want me to do it?”




The blood on Dad’s hand doesn’t get onto my coat; I’m taking so long it dried already.

I remember a few weeks ago when Mr. McCabe kept saying, “Cut the frog down the belly. It won’t bleed.”

It didn’t, but when he took the knife from me and the rest of the class laughed at me he got brown slime on his hands. He said, “Shit.”

The class laughed again. “Look,” he said, “just clean up your station and do the lab sheet silently while the rest of class finishes up.”

No one else needed help. The girls didn’t even need help. They were the ones saying stuff like, “It’s gonna be, like, so gross. I’m so gonna puke.” They were the ones that got me all worried about it. They did it just fine. I was the only one who got all weird.

I reach both my hands in and grab the deer’s heart. It’s still hot, wet too. I’m getting that same stomach feeling I got when Mr. McCabe cut the frog open, but I don’t ask for help this time. I don’t need help. Not in front of Dad.

I pull on the heart but the lungs lift up with it. The sound makes me gag but I swallow and pull until the lungs and heart fall out of my hands onto the ground.


“Yeah, pal?”

I stand up. He does too.

The trees spin but I walk away anyway. I trip and limp and stumble like the deer did after the bullet hit him. His legs got all wobbly like, like they were made out of rubber bands, like my knees are shaking now when all I’m trying to do is walk away for a minute.

I drop to my knees. I fall forward, hands in the dirt and gag.

Dad sits down next to me. “It’s okay,” he says.

I gag again.

“Don’t stop yourself, you’ll feel worse.”

I throw up the sandwiches we had for lunch.

“Sorry,” I say.

“What for?”

“Not being able to do that.”

“You don’t need to be sorry for that.”


He pats me on the back and tells me to stay here. He stands and walks toward the deer. He can do anything he has to. He does whatever he needs to when he has to. He’s a man. He’s my dad.

I’m just his son. I’m just his son sitting on wet leaves next to a pile of his own puke.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Minor Alterations" a short piece of fiction by Nick Gregorio

Since the smoking ban, they don’t seat me in my usual spot. Let me rephrase—my favorite spot. You’ve got to catch the early bird on Sundays to be seated over there anymore; over by the big plate glass windows that look out on 309 and the car dealership across the way. The view, the lighting; it was all perfect over there. Although, when people would say 309’s not much of a view, I’d say the lighting was good. When they’d say the lighting was all hazy from the smoke, I’d say I like watching the cars fly past. It was just better over there. Now, there’s no smoky haze; just the washed out, flickering halogen bulbs lighting the room from behind smoke stained, brittle plastic covers.

“Warm up?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Mercedes grins as she pours my coffee. I’ve seen that goofy, gapped toothed grin for years. She knows my name and I’ve known hers since before the staff had to start wearing name tags.

“Whatcha reading?”

“Oh, uh, just another Camus.”



“Looks like cah-miss.”

“Oh, yeah. Mhmm. He’s French though, so it’s cah-moo.”

“Sounds like a sneezing cow.”

“Those French—”

“Are weird?”

“Trying to finish my sentences, Mercedes?”

“Guess we just think a lot alike.”

“Sure,” I say, nodding, smiling, trying to get her to move on to the next table so she can warm their cooling coffees to room temperature. She smiles and does just that as I lift my coffee cup from the saucer it rests on to blow on it, despite the lack of steam, despite the fact they stopped serving hot coffee when the diner changed hands a year or so ago.

I’m not in my seat, not sipping scalding coffee because Michael, or whatever that miserable old guy’s name was, decided he’d become too old and far too miserable to continue running a sold establishment. Part of me wants to verify that the diner’s still called Michael’s by looking through my favorite window, in my favorite seat, at the sign that stands out by the road. But I’m in the wrong section and the name of the diner—along with some select staff members—is the only thing remaining that makes this a reasonable facsimile of the original Michael’s. I mean, even the french dip’s au jus is different; now there’s a layer of yellow oil on the top, like a greasy shield that prevents deliciousness.

I put my phone on the table. Just in case.

Customers continue to yammer; Mercedes, across the room, takes an order; Manuel flies through the kitchen door with a tray of food; I sip my lukewarm coffee, with my book open, face down on the table so I don’t have to unnecessarily dog-ear a page. Familiar actions occur; it’s still the same building. It’s still the same place, isn’t it?

“Hey!” Maria slides into the seat across from me.

“Hey, what are you doing here?”

“Just got out of work and I saw your car out front. I thought I’d stop in, say hi.”

I smile, “Hi.”

“Hi,” she returns the smile.

“What are you reading?”

“Oh, another Camus.”

“How existential of you.”

“You know me.”

“Better than I know Camus.”

She folds her hands on the tabletop.

“That’s a good shirt.”

“Oh,” she looks down and pulls it away from her skin, “yeah, I saw them last week.”

“Did they play ‘Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts’?”

“I wish. But, they played this medley with a track from Sink or Swim and two from the new one. It was…amazing.”

“I wish I’d gone.”

“You should’ve!”

“I had to work.”

“Pshh. You’ve called out before.”

“Too many times. I need that job.”

“They won’t fire you, your mom works there.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

A smile, a wink, “Knew you’d see it my way.”

I pretend to take a better look at the t-shirt design—I make my best effort to pretend, anyway. I just end up staring at her chest where the shirt’s artwork is being pushed in my direction.

“How long did they play?”

“About an hour.”

“That’s awesome.”

“Gatorface opened, too.”

I slam my hand on the table, sloshing coffee over the mouth of the mug, “Get outa here!”

“Yep. Picked up their EP.”

“Etched vinyl, right?”


Again, here comes Mercedes. “Hey, hun,” she says.

“Hi,” there’s the smile again. I dog ear Camus and put it face down on the table.

“Can I getcha something?”

“Coffee and water, please.”

“Okay, great.”

“Oh, wait, sorry, can I get the french dip, too?”

“Sure. How about you, Cah-moo?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

Mercedes walks off, off to bother others.

“You know,” Maria says, “The Wonder Years are playing over at Soupy’s tonight.”

“A house show?”

“Yeah, weird, right?”

“They did a European tour, put out a full length and about eighty seven-inches, why are they playing house shows?”

“Not sure. Wanna find out?”


“We could go.”

“Yeah, sure. Doesn’t matter to me.”

She tisks, “Too much Camus.”


“Hey, what?”

“It’s not too much Camus. It’s just that there’s not much keeping me here. Also, I’m flexible.”

“Flexible or indecisive.”

“You love to argue, don’t you?

“Nope. I just love making you explain yourself.”



Manuel sets her French dip in front of her, “Careful, Madeeya,” he says. “Eets hawt.”

"I will,” but her words are lost, he’s already gone.

She hesitates before lifting her sandwich off the plate, staring at it, looking—well, go to Michael’s, order the french dip and find out.

“What’s with the au jus?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.”

She dips her sandwich into the sauce, asks, “So, we going or what?”

“Don’t care, like I said.” She echoes these words as they leave my mouth.

“Eat your sandwich.”

“But it’s all oily.”

“I know.”

Soupy’s parents never were happy when they’d have to deal with a crowd of twenty-somethings stuffed into their basement singing every dirty word their son belted out over the screeching PA.

We’d typically go right in the front door, say hi to Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and head on down stairs. This was back when the only place any of our bands could play were house shows at Soupy’s or Steinborn’s. Now there’s an arrow drawn on a piece of paper taped to the front door pointing towards the side of the house, where the Bilco doors stand open. I guess after a few years of not dealing with the crowds, the noise, the filthy lyrics, they decided they at least didn’t have to bother one of those annoyances.

The heat steams out from the basement along with the smell of fifty or so kids Maria and I grew up with, sweating and singing the lyrics to a song I haven’t heard before.

“This is from their new split seven-inch with The Distance,” she yells into my ear as we find our place in the crowd.

nod, and smile, throw her a thumbs-up. Thumbs-up, Maria knows, means I dig it.

Across a sea of dyed hair and piercings, The Wonder Years jump and spin kick, throwing their instruments around, creating a show to go along with a uniform cacophony, making the dyed sea bob to the fast beats, making waves and adding a film of sweaty condensation to the bare basement walls. Soupy, swings his microphone in long sweeping circles and catches it in his other hand, ramming it towards his face, sings, “We’re six dudes from the keystone state! We’re broke as fuck, but we can’t complain!”

He’s losing his hair.

“He’s losing his hair.” I shout at Maria.

She mouths, “I know.”

The crowd separates and forms an empty circle in the center of the floor. Faces I’ve seen before line the ring with crossed arms and eager grins, waiting to see who’s come to dance tonight.

Maria taps my shoulder and grabs my hand. She pulls the tie that holds her pony tail in place out and puts it in the center of my palm. “Be right back,” she shouts. She pushes through the crowd, smiling at each person she passes, mouthing, Excuse me’s, or “Thank you’s, and joins the dancers in the circle. Her hair waves and flows through the air as she two-steps around the perimeter of the circle with her smile stuck to her face.

The band plays, Maria dances, and I scan the room, searching for faces I recognize. The newbies look jittery, overexcited. The familiars look tired, worn, older than I remember. They’re all my age but you couldn’t tell by looking at them. Not anymore. Rob’s going gray. Shannon’s got early signs of crow’s feet. Anna cut her hair and dyed it blonde to take the attention away from the bags under her eyes. Duke’s beard has grown past the collar of his shirt. Christian’s skin’s got a leathery looking texture from the chain smoking. Sarah is…pregnant?

She waves at me and carefully moves through the crowd to avoid getting her belly bumped by one of the excited newbies.

I stare at her belly.

She takes notice and shouts, “Outside?”

I nod. She walks. I follow.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” she says over the noise from the basement.


“How come?”

“I’ve been…busy.”

She pats her belly, “Me too.”

“I…I didn’t know you liked The Wonder Years.”

“I don’t. Jeff does.”


“Jeff, from Office Depot. Remember?”

“Oh. Yeah, totally. Jeff.”

“He’s the father.”

“Oh. How nice for you guys.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

I hate awkward silences. Now, stuck in the middle of one, I realize that this day, this month, this year, none of this is how I thought it would be. I had plans—Ideas for plans, anyway. We all did. Sarah wanted to travel. I wanted to stay local. Now she’s stuck and I’m coasting.

“Did you know,” she says, “the store’s closing.”

“It is?”



“We just closed it tonight.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Wish I was.”

“What are you—”

“Finding a shitty job somewhere else. Jeff, too.”

“Did you finish—”

“No,” she says. “I got side tracked.”

“By what?”

She pats her belly again.

“Oh. Right. Sorry.”


Are you still living with—”

“Yeah. Jeff moved in with us. Mom had Dan convert the basement into an apartment type thing.”

“That’s good.”

“That’s one way to look at it, sure.”

“Are you—”

“Not really. Not for a while. So. Maria, huh?”

“What do you mean?”

“Moved on to her?”

“Oh, no. We’re friends.”


“What’s that mean?”

“She’s really sweet.”

“No. What’s ‘mhmm’ mean?”

“Mhmm’s mhmm.”

“Mhmm is not mhmm. Mhmm means something. It always has with you.”

The music from the basement stops and Soupy says, “Thanks, everybody, for coming. This was a fuckin’ great way to end it. We love every single fucking one of you, but unfortunately The Wonder Years are done.”

There’s a moment of silence. Erie, creepy silence. Soupy says, “Thanks again,” and the cheering begins.

Sarah and I move away from the iron doors to get out of the way of the flood of people, eager to get out into breathable air, with their new t-shirts draped over shoulders and vinyls tucked under their armpits.

Maria, emerges from the basement out of the plume of steam. As she sees where I’m standing, she waves. Her skin’s shiny with sweat and her hair is a mess—not a bad mess, though. A good mess; a mess only achieved by trashing about during a night that’ll stand out and choke you up in the future. “Still got my hair tie, thief?” she asks, reaching us. “Hey, Sarah! Congratulations!”

“Thanks,” Sarah says.

I hand Maria her tie and she begins to get her hair organized. “Did you hear?”

“Yeah. No good.”

“They ran out of money apparently. Can’t afford tours or merch anymore. I bought a shirt to help, but Soupy says he’s gonna get a real job.”

“Doing what?”

“He doesn’t know.”


Sarah hops into the conversation, “What was so special about them? They made noise.”

“Beautiful,” Maria says, “cacophonous noise.”

“It’s the kind of stuff my little sister would listen to.”

“Your little sister’s got good taste.”

Sarah giggles. Faux amusement. She says, “So, what’s on the agenda for the rest of the night?”

“Probably the diner,” I say.

“As always.”

“I like the diner,” Maria says.

“Nothing changes with you, does it.”

“Why change something that doesn’t need changing?”

“Everything changes.”

Jeff makes his way through the crowd and wraps his arm around Sarah’s shoulder. “Jeff, you remember—”

“Yeah. The guy who quit to work at juvie.”

“Hey, Jeff.”


Another awkward pause ensues before Sarah begins digging through her hand bag. “Here,” she says, “it worked on me,” and places a key in my hand. “Figured you, of course, would wanna see it one last time. The alarm’s off.”

Sarah and Jeff walk away, past a group of newbies sucking down cigarettes, laughing, having a good time. Who can blame them? Something they grew up with didn’t just end.

“What’s the key to?” Maria asks.

“Wanna see something?”

I set the lawn chairs down just in front of the ledge so we’d have some way to put our feet up. I’m surprised; they were still where we used to keep them. They were the only things left besides the empty shelves and end-caps and little pieces of flake-board that fell away from sold discounted office furniture. The only things that remained somewhat reminiscent of the place I remember were the check-out counters and the copy and print center. Everything else was either broken down and shipped off to other stores in the area, or just missing all together. Maria said it was weird to see. I said, yeah.

“Wow,” she says, “you can see everything from up here.”

“Yeah you can.” You can see the EVERYTHING MUST GO! sign on the Circuit City. The empty gas station. The parking lot where Pizza Hut used to be—

“It’s beautiful.”

“Think so?”

“Yeah! Look at it! You can see all of Airport Square. All the way down to five points. And, and look at the stars! This is beautiful.”

She begins to pull up the bottom of her shirt. “Turn around,” she says, “this is all sweaty.”

I turn around and hear her wet Gaslight Anthem shirt slap against the roof floor.

“Okay,” she says.

I turn around to see her in her new shirt.

“What do you think? Cool, huh?”

“Very cool.”

“You okay

“Absolutely. Why?”

“You seem off, I guess.”

“I’m good. Let’s take a seat and drink these beers.”

She sits down on the lawn chair and twists the cap off her bottle. I sit beside her and do the same. We sit in silence for a while, nursing cheap beers and staring out across the storefront-pocked landscape.

“How long were you and Sarah together exactly?”

“A year or so, I guess.”

“It must’ve been weird seeing her pregnant.”

“Yeah, it was…something.”

“What happened there? Between you two, I mean?”

“Um, not really all that much. We were twenty at the time. She was a year or two from finishing school and I was still fucking up. She started talking about the future, marriage and everything, ya know? A few months later, she told me to get her a ring or leave her alone. I left her alone.”

“Did you love her?”


“So precise. Calculated, you are.”

“It’s how I deal with stuff. Being sure of everything. Trying not to change.”

“What about adaptation?”

“What do you mean?”

“As humans, we have to adapt to grow, change our thought processes to cope with…life.”

“I don’t like change.”

“No one does.”

“People are smarter than I originally thought.”

“And you’re smarter than this, I don’t like change, thing. Change happens. Look around. Even the bullshit changes. That Citibank was a Perkins. United Artists down there; it’s Frank Theaters now. These are just the little things. The big things, they’re the scary ones. But we adapt. Change. Look at you. You finished school. You had to change to do that.”

“No. I just had to wake up. Now that I’m awake, I wish I was still sleeping.”


“Because I’d be oblivious. Ignorant to the changes.

“Don’t wish for that.”

“Maria, I’ve been left behind by people who grew up faster than I did. Christ, Sarah is pregnant. The Wonder Years are over. Every memory I have is like reading my own ghostwritten biography. I wanna be living a life that doesn’t exist anymore. Everything changed little by little, right under my nose and it was all over long before I noticed. And, yeah, buildings and businesses are little things but they’re all different now, too. The places I used to go are all gone, along with the people I used to go there with.”

Maria twists off another cap and flicks it over the edge of the roof. “What about me,” she says, “I’m still here.”

“Sure you’re gonna stick around?”

“I don’t want to be anywhere else.” She stands up and sits on the ledge in front of me. “Look,” she says, “Everything’s changing. What we do, though, is roll with it. We move along, hold onto the things that’ll hold onto us and keep moving, keep floating.”

I finish my beer and nod. I take notice of the design on her new shirt. Five pirates are floating alongside their sinking ship. The Wonder Years is drawn in big bubble lettering above the ship, and below the water line it reads: Head Above Water, Boys.

“That’s a good shirt.” I say.

Maria smiles, says, “I know.”

“Atlantic Books closed down.”

“Yeah. Did you hear the comic shop in the mall closed?”

“Just now. Sam Goody’s gone too.”

“Linens N’ Things is empty.”

“You’re behind the times. That happened last year.”

“I know, but I already brought up Perkin’s.”

Maria finishes her beer and throws the bottle off the roof. The breaking glass is a distant pop.

“What was that for?”

“Trying to cheer you up. You used to like the sound of breaking glass.”

“It’s okay.”

“See? Change.”

“Not sure about that.”

She smiles, laughs a little, “Okay. Okay. How about we think of it as a message in a bottle that doesn’t need to get anywhere. An SOS that we don’t need to send.”

I drain the rest of my beer, stand up, and heave it out across the parking lot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Deer on the Headlights" again, an(other) essay by Nick Gregorio

“Hey, it’s me.”

There’s fur all over the side of my car. I had no idea that deer shed like startled chickens when they get struck by a vehicle.

Mom, over the phone says, “Everything alright? It’s late. You haven’t been drinking, have you?”

“I hit a—No, I haven’t been drinking.”

“Are you sure?”

Mom likes to assume that, anytime I have to call the house after 9:30pm, I’m in some sort of trouble that involves alcoholic beverages. Sure, I enjoy all sorts of beers; Victory, SlyFox, Sierra Nevada, but the fact of the matter is, considering all the factors (gasoline, clothes, haircuts, the occasional trip to the record shop), I can’t afford to drink the aforementioned beverages, much less believe that I could pay for the gas to get to a bar and expect to buy anything more than a Diet Coke. No, I haven’t been drinking. The deer, on the other hand, thinking it was a great idea to leap over a median on 309, may have been a bit sauced.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“You know, Mom, plenty could go wrong without having any alcohol in my system. This is a
dangerous world. I could’ve run over a runner who just so happened to forget his protective reflectors on this fateful evening—”


“—I could have left the keys in the ignition and gotten the car stolen by that very same runner, under different circumstances, of course, who remembered his reflectors but changed his mind about running tonight and said, ‘Huh, I’ll just jimmy-jack this moron’s car, he left the keys in the ignition’—”


“I could—”



“What happened?”

“I hit a deer.”

Another one?”

Does it really happen often enough to be asked such a question? Yeah, I’ve hit some deer in the past, so what? It’s not as if I throw on florescent orange hunting gear and say, “Hey, I’m gonna go get us some dinner,” every time I take a trip to a gas station or a convenience store. I don’t try to hit deer; they just seem to enjoy getting in my way.

“Yes. Another one.”

As the words leave my mouth, a car blows past me standing beside my car. It honks. I know what the driver’s thinking. It’s the same thing I think of anytime I pass a minor fender-bender or a pull-over: “Stupid bastard, learn how to drive!” accompanied by a good, hardy laugh. I never, however, honked at someone in this situation, afraid that the Universe will tell some hungry deer than there’s some tasty, delicious grass or some juicy berries lying directly in the middle of the lane I’m traveling in. I wish that would happen to that honker right now, in fact. The scream of the breaks, the sound of the car crumpling up like a Pepsi can, maybe even the tinkle-tinkle of glass scattering upon the macadam. The Honker, of course, wouldn’t be injured, but he’d know that he’d honked at the wrong accident. That Honker would know that the Universe just gave him a nice, swift kick to the groinal region (groinal region?).

“You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good.”

“How about the car?”

“It’s fine. Did you know deer shed when you hit them?”


“They shed. There’s fur all over the car.”

I should clean the car off. The last time I left the car with fur and other, let’s say, remnants, Dad completely debunked the story I told him as to how I’d come to hit my first deer. I’d said that the deer “came out of nowhere” from the right side of the road. I couldn’t slow down in time before I clipped him with the right headlight. Minor damage, you know? Nothing really too serious to worry about. No reason to mention that I’d actually fallen asleep at the wheel and opened my eyes just in time to realize that my antlered friend had had enough time to cross the entire road, coming from the left hand side, for me to strike him with the passenger-side headlamp. I figured that telling that side of the story might not be necessary because the damage really did look as if he’d popped “out of nowhere,” well, if you use my definition of the term.

The very next morning Dad said, “I want to show you something.”

He took me outside and, like David Caruso, presented me all of the forensic evidence that suggested my story was false.

“What side of the road did you say he came from?” he asked.

“The right.”

“Uh-huh, are you sure?”

“Pretty sure,” insert nervous laugh here, “I mean, I was there.”

“Uh-huh. Okay. Let’s take a look, shall we?”


“See this dent here, on the fender? It’s deep. A dent like that had to come from the strongest part of the deer. You know which part that is?”

“The shoulder?”

“Correct. Now, this fact alone corroborates your story.”

“Okay. Can I go now?”

“Nope, I’ve got more. Take a look at the passenger side door. What’s all over it?”

“Green stuff, some corn?”



“Yes, vomit.”

“Okay, so the deer puked on the car.”

“Son, the only way for that deer to vomit on that particular side of the car, is if you hit him on his right shoulder, with the right hand side of your car. Meaning he’d have to have come from the left, or he’s able to do an about face in less than a second”

“Okay, so?”

“You said he came from the right, correct?”



“But that’s what happened.”

“Uh-huh. Look at this,” he holds up a broken piece of antler. “This was wedged in the wheel well. The front passenger wheel well.”


“What really happened?”

Apparently, my father’s real name is Philip Marlowe, or Detective Lenny Briscoe, or Sherlock-Fucking-Holmes, I’m not certain which. However, after I’d confessed what had really taken place, I vowed to hunt that deer down with extreme prejudice. I didn’t kill him. He wasn’t on the side of the road. I heard him walk off into the woods. He was still alive, playing chicken with irresponsible motorists.

So I had formulated a plan. I would buy chloroform and a rag, find a nice, tall tree off of North Wales Road and wait. I’d wait for the deer with the broken antler. When he’d come around, I’d dive from the tree, tackle him to the ground and place the rag, drenched in chloroform over his snout and wait until he drifted off into a nice, deep, chemically induced sleep.

He’d come to in a dark room, tied to a chair, seeing only the lit cherry from a cigarette smoldering just a few yards away.

“Wh-what’s going on?” he’d say.

“You know what’s going on.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m The Cigarette Smoking Man.”


“Don’t you watch The X-Files?”

“I was never a fan.”

“That’s a shame, it’s a great show.”

“Sci-fi’s not really my thing—”

“Shut up.”

“Why am I tied up? Why am I here?”

“Stop asking questions to which you already know the answers.”

“But I don’t the answers. I don’t even know what is going—”

“Shut up.” I’d clap twice and the lights would pop on. That’s when he’d know precisely what was going on. He’d see me, cigarette between my lips, holding a broken piece of antler. At that moment he’d see the wall behind me. A nicely kept brick fireplace, decorated with photos and—

“Oh, God,” he’d scream, “Oh, Jesus! Those were my friends! How can you just hang them on your walls as decorations, you sick bastards! They were my friends!”

“My father’s a hunter.”

“You’re sick, man! You’re sick!”


I’d hold up the antler and say, “Does this belong to you?”

“Naw, that ain’t mine, man.”

“Don’t lie to me. Don’t you dare.”

“So what if it’s mine? It could be fake! God knows, you probably got antlers all over this place!”

“It’s yours.”

“How would you know?”

“You smashed up my car.”

That’s when the realization would sink in, “Oh, God. That was you?”

“Yeah, that was me.”

“Look, I can pay for the damages.”

“You’re lying again. Deer don’t use money.”

“Yet you assumed I watch The X-Files.”

“Everybody watches The X-Files! But that’s beside the point. Why me? Why’d you pick me? Were you out, drinking with your buddies, looking for some dangerous fun?”

“No, man, it wasn’t like that, I swear.”

“What was it like, then?”

“I worked a double shift, it was late, I wanted to get home to my kids.”

“You and I both know that deer are not monogamous animals!”

“Come on, man! What do you want from me?”


My father would step into the room, dressed in full florescent orange hunting gear, untie our antlered hostage, and open the back door. He’d say, “You’ve got sixty seconds, friend. Then I come after you.”

Mom, over the phone, says, “You get in an accident and the only thing you can think of is deer shedding?”


I look back and see the deer I struck, lying on the side of the road. Am I supposed to feel bad? He bounded over the median. He hit me. How is this my fault? This is evidence of obvious overpopulation! My father’s favorite hobby is now justified! I do not feel bad. I feel no remorse! I—oh, dammit.



“He’s got spots on him.”

“Just get home safe, okay?”

I close the car door; the car door covered in deer fur, and start the car. I wish I’d hit an older deer. A deer old enough do enjoy playing chicken with his pals. This one is just a little guy. A poor dumb little punk kid who never saw a pair of headlights before and thought, perhaps this is a delicious treat or maybe he saw the face of God, or Bambi or whomever deity choose to blindly follow.

I begin to drive, my latest victim in my rearview mirror. I’m not formulating plan, this time, to seek out revenge upon this deer. I sort of want to seek vengeance on myself. Who hits a baby damn deer with an SUV? Honestly, even if he did stupidly dive over a stone wall to come play with a bright red SUV-shaped deer, why didn’t I swerve, get out of the way. He was a baby, for God’s sake. I could have easily jerked the wheel to the right and gone over the edge of the highway. It wouldn’t have been that bad, I would’ve survived (probably). I would have been cushioned by the leaves of the tree branches the vehicle would’ve crashed through on its way to the ground. I could’ve saved that cute, spotted little woodland creature!

Police lights flash up ahead a good stretch. As I get closer to the source, the images of the deer, wide-eyed, and terrified of the oncoming, imminent tragedy of what it is to be alive as a finicky, nervous creature of the forest begin to evaporate. I’m not imagining myself driving off the road to spare the cute little bastard anymore as I realize that that Honker from earlier must have been speeding. I can see the cop bending at the hip, ducking his head into the driver’s side window of the Honker’s car.

I roll down the window and slow the car to a crawl as I reach the Honker and this wonderful public servant (or Universal servant), say, “Everything alright, officer?” and screech off into the night, manically laughing, enjoying every last second of poetic justice. The universe—oh, shit, I killed a baby deer back there.