Nebraska Center for Writers

THE LOST SON
by BRENT SPENCER

A NEWSPAPER FILLER in Ellen's purse explained that in Japanese, the root word for "crisis" is the same as the one for "opportunity." Since leaving Redmond, she'd hoped this was true, had taken consolation in it. Of course, even if it was true, the reverse was also true. Every crisis an opportunity, every opportunity a crisis. Still.
She tried to lay it out scientifically. The basic problem of her life was this: the one person who made her sick with despair was the one person she couldn't do without. Whose idea of love was that? She felt him in her heart, a sharp jab every time she tried to move.
Teague was driving all out. To keep her heart from climbing her throat, Ellen closed her eyes and talked to Redmond in her mind, the conversation she could never have with him face-to-face.
I think you wanted desperately to be loved but didn't think you deserved it, so you reached out to me and then turned away when I responded. How could you be with a woman who loved what you hated — yourself? But you stayed with me, sort of. Were you doing a favor for this poor soul who had the bad taste to love such an inappropriate man?
And you? What did you want?
Not all that much. Not really.
Right.
You're saying I went too far?
Obviously.
My demands were non-negotiable, it's true. I wanted you. The you I thought you thought you were, not the you you settled for.
And?
And a few other things, I guess. If a man looked at me funny, I wanted you to tear his throat out. I wanted you to be willing to kill for me, willing, if not to die, then at least to take a bullet for me. At the very least, I wanted you to take my side in every argument. I wanted brute loyalty.
You wanted me to see you standing over a dead child with a smoking gun in your hand and say, Some kids can be a real pain in the ass.
You're saying I expected too much.
Damn straight.
I also wanted oak floors, white walls, a brown leather chair, the right music, the right light, a window with an uncorrupted view. I wanted money in my pocket and glide in my stride. I wanted brilliant mornings after nights of deep sleep. I wanted nonstop, incandescent sex. I wanted to rip and romp till daylight. I wanted Linda Ronstadt's Greatest Hits. I wanted a '63 Jaguar, deep green. I wanted a little more kindness, a little more patience, a little more time. I wanted whole-heartedness. I wanted a pair of leather boots with silver filigree on the toes. I wanted you in me and in me and in me. I wanted to feel your last breath on my cheek, and I wanted it to carry my name. I wanted your head in a box under the bed. I wanted you to touch me right there without my having to ask. I wanted to be the moonlight falling on your sleeping face. I wanted to be the bullet burrowing into your brain.
And now?
Now, when I think about it, I'd trade all my demands for this: you, right where you stand. ...

Reprinted with permission
from The Lost Son
Copyright © 1995
by Brent Spencer
Arcade Publishing


BABYMAN
by BRENT SPENCER

I DID TIME at Fairhope Men's Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania. Not hard time. Time. I thought wanting something bad enough was all it took. I thought a move or two would put me in the clear, where no one could touch me. I was young and stupid and I didn't know anything, but by the time I realized that, it was too late.
Three weeks into my sentence, Ronnie came to see me. She was the only person I put on my list of approved visitors. After "Relationship" I wrote "Wife." Even though we never made it legal, I figured four years had to count for something. In the beginning we spent all our time in bed, out of breath, blood pounding, just drank each other up. But near the end we took turns trying to kill each other, slow secret killing, the kind of crime only married people can commit. ...

Reprinted with permission
from Are We Not Men?
Copyright © 1996
by Brent Spencer
Arcade Publishing

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