Tag Archive: vaughan


Four Myths by Robert Vaughan

Myth One

Against the fog he was a big man. Against the fire tower he stood out like Paul Bunyon. And there were a great many folks who respected him: firefighter, crusader, bowler of the year. Award-winning spelunker. But we’re his other family. Who would have even known? Not me, not my sister. I try not to remember. I try to tamper down the stink.

 

Myth Two

Somebody said she did it for kicks. Another said it was all for attention. I thought it was pretty stupid. Christmas day. Hovering over a fence along a country road? Wearing just a gauzy slip? A surefire way to end up in the loony- bin where Aunt Tina is a lifelong resident. My sister has done some fairly idiotic things, and this was just another in the line of icy dumbass dumb-ness.

 

Myth Three

Let’s play marco polo she said. I’m unsure you can do that in the ocean. The roar of the waves, the salt in your ears. The leadbelly bottom and sandy rewards. I said let’s disappear into the surf, dissolve into foamy crests, creammate our desires into damp, fertile depths. {hold our breaths forever, in unison}.

 

Myth Four

Another small town filled with cheer. You couldn’t miss the liquor sign. Tallest sign in the county, higher than any billboard, larger than every building. Lit up at night, like my daddy was, mostly.  Sometimes, the ‘q’ and the ‘u’ would flicker off, and the rest of the word, ‘lior’ reminded me of what I did after he touched me.

Gauze

When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older siblings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every night. In exchange he only communicated by notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails through the laundry drop.

A Medical Dressing

One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey. The family nearly forgot he existed.

A Scrim

Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue sky and fortitude. A mélange of mercurial designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons.

Every cult comes at a price. This one cost $4.99 and my wife said, “you’re getting it for a steal!”  It only made me more suspicious. Shopping for a cult is never easy, they’re just too abundant now. Even at the mall, self-made gurus have set up shop. One trip to India and you’re the next maharaja. I scanned the form, then I noticed the address at the bottom.

“$4.99 is a bargain,” I said. “But we’d have to move to Florida.” I showed her the address on the Lily Vernon stationery.

“Forget it,” she said. “Nothing there but a bunch of cholera.”

“And geezers,” I nodded. Then I thought: easy to hop into those third world countries in Central America from Florida. But nah, it was Florida, after all.

“Let’s get toour 12 step meeting,” I said. “We’re already late.”

Royal Flush by Robert Vaughan

Every Friday night we play cards. It’s better reality than TV, sliding into a couch potato couple, waking up a decade later to expanding waists and tunnel vision. Up to me, I’d toss our TV out with the recyclables.

Tonight we’re drinking beer out of shot glasses on our living room rug. I only need a queen. Peggy looks hot in her blue tube top, shuffling her cards around, as if that’s going to help. Her latest habit, yoga, seems to really be helping her esteem. She stares, narrowing her eyes.

“Any time now.” I drum my fingers, feign like I’ve been waiting all day. She discards exactly what I need: queen of hearts. I snatch it, display my cards in front of me: a royal flush. I can’t recall ever holding that. “Rummy!” I shout, lifting my other fist in the air.

“You’re a cheater,” Peggy blurts. She tosses her cards onto mine, scoots further away on the carpet.

I stare at the rummy flush, the red hearts pulse like those cinnamon candies that crack your teeth. “Am not.” I chug the shot of Dos Equis, refill it. Our usual rule: winner drinks both. Shots. Instead, I say, “Drink up,” trying to make her feel better.

But Peggy isn’t playing, her lips tremble, looks near tears.

“What?” I ask. I wonder if it is her usual stuff, but sense it might not be.

“I didn’t…” she starts. Her neck becomes patchy, a tear slips down. “I never meant to–”

“Just drink your shot.” I shuffle the cards, won’t look at her.

Slowly, I deal the five cards for the next hand.

Watching a crowded room of drunk, slithering people sliding onto spilling dance floor, sticky, false pretenses trump euphoric bliss. Hands like waves overhead as their half-cocked-to-the-chandeliered-ceiling mouths drool: “Look up ahead, there’s only blue skies…”

Last call words exchanged, secrecies in passing, buzzing as if intimacy is attainable between wooden objects, among hardened arteries and thread barren hearts, between the clotted pauses lingering at suggestive innuendos.

And the fall, literally, slithering into a bed of thorns. The dreams which ensnare, they sever that blue sky up ahead. Drown out the babbling chorus of voices. Because there is only dark, there is only pitch black.

And in the blackness, miracles occur.

Say Yes by Robert Vaughan

It was supposed to be different. We’d spent so much energy preparing ourselves, the house, his room. For months, I’d met with Marisol, the transition counselor provided by the agency. I’d say we even became friends. But the closer the date got, the actual trip to Argentina, the meeting in the flesh, handing over of unnamed child, I got more and more anxious. Cold feet.  Lost my appetite. Sleep was spotty at best. Just couldn’t do it.

And it isn’t so bad, not a huge deal, if this was our first time.

My husband, Anthony, is pissed. Of course, I understand why. It’s been a huge investment of time, money and risk for us both. But we finally talk. We cover the gamut: our miscarriage in 2008, how many times we thought we were with child since: again, repeat, again. The pressure from both of our families, especially my mom.

It seemed like Anthony really heard me like never before, finally understood my anxieties. Maybe I said some things I’d held back, too. I even told him about the pill. Finally, after months of pressing, not to mention screwing, he left the baby decision to me.

Now we’re at Kennedy airport. We’re going to do this. While Anthony runs to get coffee, I take his picture from my purse. The baby, Manuelito. One tiny monkey. I place the other hand on my abdomen. Willing myself to stay here, not disappear.

“I’m coming,” I whisper, “can you hear me?”

Recruitment by Robert Vaughan

I saw the ad in my local paper: field sniper. I’d been laid off from the Wal-Mart in Orem.

Brenda was ragging me about my target practice, scaring squirrels at the bird feeders. So,

she said, go talk to this guy. Put yourself to some good use. We thought it might be to

control the deer population. Could get some venison. Who knows?

So, I met the man who calls himself Fred in Sugarhouse Park close to downtown.

When I pulled up I noticed the bumper sticker End the Fed. And the impressive gun rack.

Got one just like it in my Ford pickup. He wore camouflage hunting gear.

We walked while Fred hammered on about guns and the NRA. Told me people need to

wake up, buy semi-automatics. Before they start controlling everything. He used the

words social chaos. “We got to stand our ground without getting attention from the

authorities. Before it’s too late.”

I was a little confused. “So, what is this position for? The field sniper?”

He ignored me. “Any day now, the feds are gonna set up camps all over the country.

They already stored guillotines, racks, electric chairs. Have over a half million caskets in

the south, someplace like Alabama.”

The hairs were beginning to stand up on my arm. “Caskets? For the soldiers in Iraq?”

“Some day very soon, maybe tomorrow, the government will declare martial law.

Then the feds will move in to round up, kill folks like you and me. Civilians.”

He pulled a videotape from his jacket. “Watch this at home. You married?” I nodded,

looking at the tape in my hands. “Do yourself a favor, watch it when she’s not around.”

He got back into his truck, started it up. Rolled down his window. “Training starts

tomorrow. Directions are on the video, where to come. You in?”

I shrugged, forced a smile. “Sure.”

Casey’s Grill by Robert Vaughan

I could use some floss. But then, we’re camping. No floss, no hairspray, no condoms. Well, we won’t need condoms, really, we’re both women. But there is the remote possibility of meeting some lumberjack at Casey’s in Juneau. And, god knows, he won’t have a condom.
I park our Fiesta and we crunch across the nearly frozen parking lot. The flourescent light of Casey’s blinks on and off in the dark.
“Do you think we’ll be warm enough?” Sandy asks. Her breath comes out like a white bubble, like a cartoon. “I mean, later. In the tent.”
“Probably not,” I said. “Let’s just have a few Coors and see where we end up.”

***********

Later that night, getting close to closing, I’d been chatting with a group of university guys, playing darts. They couldn’t believe a girl could beat them. Round after round, that a girl could win. They had no clue how often Sandy and I had played darts in my basement when we were kids. I smelled my fishy hands, reminding me of work. No matter how much bleach I used to scrub that smell away, it lingered. I figured we’d better call it a night. But where was Sandy?

************

They say it’s impossible for someone to disappear. But she did. It’s been more than twenty years now, and not a word from Sandy since that night. Police searched, her family hired a private investigator for a year. She left no trace. Sometimes I wonder, did she ever exist? Was that our dream? Move to Alaska, make a mint off those fishing vessels, find a husband. It all seems so unreal now. And yet, still, I wait for her call.