Paul K CC
A Breath of Grace
Ray Ray and Feather’ve moved
from their tent inside Angel’s yard
into Teddy’s spare room—Teddy’s the one
who gave them that bigass tent in the first place,
after seeing their small, gashed-up one, slumped
beneath Angel’s tall and leaning pines. Now he’s told them
come on in, he’ll drive them to Tyson, get them jobs deboning chickens--
$15 an hour, as good as it gets, as good as Target—especially since Target won’t hire
people like them . . . But Lord, this is gonna bring us all
nothing but trouble . . .
Ray Ray’d asked what I thought
before moving in their mattress and duffel--
told him, Terrible idea, Terrible. Ted and Ray are always arguing,
bout the quality of the stuff Ray hocks for him, bout the money Ray
owes to him—to me—to Angel. Feather kept quiet . . . She can stand Ray
arguing with another man, even getting the shit kicked out of his all-bone breast,
if it means she can color inside with AC--
instead of 90 degrees.
Apparently, since moving in
Ray Ray’s had to lock their door every night--
Teddy marches in his sleep, his old Marine routine,
going Hup Hup, thrusting his rifle up at the roof. Feather
tried bringing in a dresser they’d found on the street, but Teddy
said no cause it might have spirits, made them haul it to the side of the road
by the trash can no one ever bothers
to roll back in.
I try to leave them alone,
paranoid bout more trouble
with the law—and why carry on
with a gun-toting, war-torn veteran
more than he asks of you? With a scheming
loco chicken who calls me his friend only when
he’s bout to stack his debt with me? But my dumbass
keeps peeking in when I hear them arguing, like that missing
hundred rack that was thumbtacked to Teddy’s wall: Teddy, man,
you check your fridge? Then of course, Well damn! There it is! My lady
grabs at me, Don’t get involved, when they start swinging fists on their front lawn--
but still I run off our porch toward them with open arms, going Everybody just chill . . .
and offering them smokes from my new
pack of Kool cigarettes.
Puffing, we all take a deep, gray breath . . .
Till Teddy scoffs at Ray, Soon as I’m done,
I’m back to stomping your bony chest. Well I say,
Thank God there’s a whole pack here then. Ray Ray
chuckles, Atta boy, Jav. Thank God. And even Teddy laughs,
and nods, Sure . . . Thank God . . . Lord, until this pack’s gone . . .
Thank God . . .
Thank God . . .
Javier Sandoval was born in Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert but later grew up in Texas (falling for its blues music) and in North Carolina (living in a shelter for three years).
After building a startup invested in by Microsoft, he studied Comp Sci and Lit Arts at Brown University on its full-ride Leadership Endowed Award, co-authored “2 Billion Under 20” (St. Martin’s Press), and published his first book of fiction, a literary gang-thriller, “Cicada, Ladybug” (Thought Catalog Books). He is now pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama.
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