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TWO STORIES

ONE

Ten Things I Didn’t Know When I Took This Picture:

[1] Someone would invent the word “Selfie.” I guess this was one of the first–I just stretched my arms out and hoped for the best. These days, I think “Selfies” are weird and wouldn’t take one if you paid me.

[2] The next summer, my best friend, Billy, would accidentally shoot and kill himself with one of his father’s guns.

[3] The same summer Billy died, my mother would become a local hero by saving a young child from drowning in a lake.

[4 I would be practically invisible to girls for the next twenty years of my life. The fat kid who wasn’t any good in sports. Those were terribly lonely years. Then one day I met Lucy and the world turned bright.

[5] My father, who I idolized, would later be arrested four times for drunk driving. In those days people seemed to rack up the convictions and he was one of them. He eventually stumbled into AA and turned himself around but it wasn’t pretty and scared me off any form of alcohol–one more reason I was a social outcast.

[6] I had a medical condition that would prevent me from being drafted into the army during Viet Nam. It probably saved my life.

[7] I would have a successful career as a dentist–thirty-five years and three generations of patients.

[8] Lucy would discover (after I retired) that I have a real knack for impersonations–Al Pacino, Bill Clinton, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, even Bugs Bunny, for god’s sake. I’m a real scream at parties.

[9] Before me, my mother had a baby who died when he was six months old. I discovered this when I found his yellowing birth certificate among my mother’s papers when we cleaned out her apartment last month.

[10] In that same batch of papers I also discovered I was adopted. I told Lucy it’s like waking up on a different planet. I’ll be adding to this list.

Story by Will Conway

TWO

“How was school, honey?” he heard his mom shout as he ran upstairs. Flashbacks of school: the smell of urine, the hard floor of the gym, the sneer on Jenny Murphy’s face (was it because he was fat?), the classroom, Scott Abrams coming towards him with his fists clenched. “Fine, mom,” he hollered and ran into his room.

Joey was alone now. He put his backpack down and started going around the room making sure all the lines were straight. He touched each book, box, lamp, pillow, cushion, and anything else in the room. He then got back to the backpack and picked it up, put it back again. It was not sitting right. He did it a few more times, until it was correct and then went back to check all the lines again. He felt so bad about the lines, did not even notice his mom was standing in the door.

“Dinner will be a half-hour later, honey,” she said. “I could not get out of work. And then there’s this. It’s from your father.”

She was holding a a package wrapped in brown paper. Flashbacks of his dad: playing catch, dad late for work and kissing mom in a hurry as Joey was having breakfast, dad’s Dodge rolling into the driveway, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes. Joey twitched and thought she probably saw it. He bit his lower lip three times.

The package contained a Polaroid camera. “I thought maybe we could send a photo of you to your father,” she had said and he wanted to do it himself. The image was now emerging from the white. It was crooked.

“It’s fine, honey,” she said, but he had to take another one. He had to make sure all the lines were straight.

Story by Pawel Kowaluk

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