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“Filigree,” by E. M. Stormo

Band Aid sketch

Every friend group has the friend who everyone hits, and for us it was Tommy. He wasn’t even our smallest friend. That was Jean. But Tommy received our violent affection.

At the bar, Lisa kneed Tommy in the gut and then elbowed him in the back because she got bored waiting in line for the bathroom. Tommy held her drink and salvaged it during the attack. The bouncer wanted to break them up, but it wasn’t even the worse beating Tommy got that week. Wyatt slapped the shit out of him over Sunday brunch and afterwards, when everyone was saying their goodbyes, Bobbio did that thing where you point out a fake stain on someone’s shirt and poke their nose, except he broke Tommy’s nose with the maneuver. Jean drove us to the hospital in her minivan. The whole way there, Bobbio made fun of Tommy for his soft bones and weak cartilage. Tommy apologized to us for the inconvenience, stopping out the blood with some junk mail Jean had lying around.

I never hit Tommy in public. I liked to wait until we were alone.

He brought it on himself, according to the doctors. Tommy emitted a violence-inducing pheromone. But every doctor who treated Tommy had been rough with him, tugging his testes too hard, or pricking his veins for needless blood work. The doctor who reset Tommy’s nose had rescheduled several other patients to get right to his operation.

One time I hit Tommy and he hit me back. It felt like a baby animal attack. I laughed at him and he hit me again. I kept laughing louder the harder he punched me. Eventually, he drew blood, a little from my face but most of it from his bruised knuckles. My sides ached from laughing. I covered for him and told everyone I fell down the stairs, so he wouldn’t face any retribution. Such an incident ran the risk of someone else taking it too far, as Bobbio had on many occasions.

Inspection Week arrived after a particularly brutal season. I made sure to shower with Tommy before our full body exam. He had bruises down his back in all different colors: dark greens, blues, and deep purples, and red scars and rashes running through it.

I could make out our individual work. On his lower back, there was the burn from when Wyatt pushed him onto the grill. I called Wyatt into the showers to admire it. Wyatt slapped Tommy on the shoulder and said he’s looking abstract back there. I asked Wyatt who was responsible for a certain bruise cluster and he called Bobbio into the showers to settle the matter. Bobbio claimed authorship, his words, of the entirety of the upper back section. I drew their attention to the filigree and Wyatt switched off the showers to get a better look at it. Tommy stood their shivering. Bobbio called Lisa and Jean in to see. Lisa said those were Jean’s scratches everywhere. Jean blushed and admitted to the filigree.

Tommy beamed with pride as we examined him. Do a spin, Wyatt said and twirled him on his finger. We marveled how the front was just as complex as the back. It was a shame to add anything new to it or allow him to heal.

After passing inspections, we went out to celebrate with a drink. A kid named Carter, who was like the Tommy of another friend group, made fun of our Tommy’s black eyes and crooked nose. But Tommy was ours to abuse and if somebody from another group so much as insulted him, a fight broke out and we kicked their asses so hard they couldn’t be friends anymore. Bobbio smashed a bottle over Carter’s head and it was on, a 5 V 5 brawl. We sized up our counterparts from across the room. I told Tommy to hang back and leave it to us. Let Jean’s nails take care of it. Or Lisa’s famous knees. Wyatt can slap them into submission. Let Bobbio take things too far, kicking Carter while unconscious. Allow me to destroy the bond between them.

In our late twenties, our friend group drifted apart. Tommy was the first to be married. He now lives upstate with his wife and kids.

If I ever hear of her laying a hand on him, I’ll call up the old gang and we’ll pay them a visit, beat up the whole family.

About the Author:

E. M. Stormo is a fiction editor by day, writer by night, and a teacher and promoter of musical literacy at all times. His work has appeared in Thrice Fiction Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Entropy Magazine, and The Airgonaut.

Image Credit: © nikiteev – stock.adobe.com

“Proper Tools of Triangulation,” by Joachim Frank

Flower Pot

  1. I’m writing this in a state of paralysis, sitting on a plastic chair that threatens to make scraping noises on the tiled floor every time I make a move. I have settled in a posture of minimal pain from the muscle spasms in my back, which I acquired by moving a large flower pot from a place A to a place B on my back porch back home. Three backs causing one big problem.
  2. I have closed all windows, to protect my family from the blaring music coming from the gardener’s shed. This man has been busy since early morning watering the plants, dragging a green garden hose into every corner of this geometric garden. He is the secret behind the astonishingly lush appearance of the garden in the middle of summer.
  3. Cicadas are starting their shrill songs outside, then fall silent as if in despair. The fridge starts humming, then stops with a “plop” sound. For the moment, all chickens and dogs are quiet.
  4. The roosters started crowing early in the morning when it was still pitch-black outside. Each crowing woke up the dogs. Of these, one is shrill and bad-tempered.
  5. Now, from my new observation point in the kitchen, I also find out that the shuffling sounds I have been hearing all morning comes from the gardener dragging his sandals on the floor.
  6. A dolphin-shaped beam of light, three feet long, has crept into the kitchen. By the time it reaches the table it has transformed into a fat exclamation mark. I watch as the dot approaches, then tangentially touches, then crosses the crevice between two adjacent tiles.
  7. Again the shuffling sound outside.
  8. A truck passes by on the empty road.
  9. The dolphin-exclamation mark has grown into a large protuberance that inches toward me. It now has the shape of the letter T.
  10. The radio carries on with the agitated voice of an announcer, perhaps the early morning news. I cannot figure out what time it is since all watches are hidden at places I cannot get to.
  11. This leaves me with the observation of the now-gigantic letter T, which is about to cross my feet. It does document celestial time, in a way, and with the knowledge of the precise geometry of this [handwriting unreadable] and, given proper tools of triangulation, I would be able to gauge hours, minutes, seconds.

About the Author:

Joachim Frank, a German-born scientist and writer, moved in 1975 to Albany, New York and recently (2008) relocated to New York City. He has published short stories and prose poems in Lost and Found Times, The Agent, Inkblot, Heidelberg Review, Bartleby Snopes, and elsewhere. Some portfolios of his photographs are found at zonezero.com. His website is franxfiction.com.

Image Credit: © Marina / Dollar Photo Club