PUSH TEST by Andrew Ellis Bates
DUKE KICKS MY MATTRESS, says there’s a couch out on Masters Road, and we should snag it before it gets light. He calls my name when I don’t move and tells me I’m eating bricks for breakfast if I’m not in the truck in two minutes, but he doesn’t mean it. He hasn’t been around long enough to mean it.
He warns, “Two minutes” again on his way out of the room, and his footsteps fade from the bedroom door we picked up about a month ago when all Krissy could do was bitch how she didn’t have any privacy.
The door’s about an inch too wide and too short, so it doesn’t close all the way, and the gap at the bottom seems to suck in every bit of dust and dog hair from the hallway whenever anybody walks by. When Duke found it, he wanted to try and sell it first like he does everything else, but I told him he wouldn’t get more than a buck for it and it’d be better than nothing for Krissy’s room.
“Buck’s better than nothing,” he said.
The man thinks he can make some kind of living selling the junk he finds on the sides of the road or in front of the apartment complexes that college kids destroy every year. Thing is, everybody knows him, so they know it’s worse than trash, the stuff he tries to pawn off most of the time.
I told him a teenage girl needs a room she can close to the world, so as a thanks, Krissy let me hang out with her and Jake the night I put the screws in the frame, even though I knew the only reason she wanted the door was so the two of them could make out and smoke and do anything else they wanted.
They were listening to “Appetite” on repeat, and Jake kept squinting and nodding every time he tried to match Axl Rose. They sat close together on the mattress, Krissy’s feet tucked up under his calves, leaning against the wall, and Jake said, “Hey, Keith, how old are you, man?”
“He’s fourteen,” she said. They’re both three years older than me but act like they’re married the way they offer each other bites of food, the way they ask what the other one wants to do.
They passed a thermos filled with vodka between them, and Jake motioned if I wanted any.
“Don’t give that to him,” Krissy said, but she didn’t say anything more when he handed it to me. He held up his hands, already rough and worked over, like it was too late to stop me. I tried not to make a face with my first sip, but I know I did, and when I went back for another, that’s when we all heard Duke swearing from the living room. At first I figured it was just him and Mom arguing, but I didn’t hear her voice, and soon Duke started shouting, “Help, dammit!”
I hurried to the living room and found him standing over the couch with his belt in his hands, not doing anything about the middle cushion that sat there smoking and crackling like a little bonfire begging for some gas or citronella. I ran and filled the pasta pot with water and dumped it on the couch. I doused it again to make sure it was out, but by then the place had filled with smoke and smelled like burnt hair.
Wedged between what was left of the middle and left cushion was a blackened beer can, and I .knew exactly what had happened. Normally, when Duke drinks on the couch, once he finishes his first one, he’ll wedge the can in there and drop his butts in one by one until he’s finished. Only this time he must have missed and didn’t know his ass was about to burn before it already was.
All four of us watched each other for a minute, Jake trying to hold back a laugh, Krissy nudging him to knock it off. I turned to Duke and said, “Where am I supposed to sleep now?”
Before he could answer, Krissy said she’d stay at Jake’s, something she’d already been doing a lot of anyway, and that I could take her room, but I still can’t get used to it. I liked pressing my feet against the arm of the couch, or letting them dangle off the edge, and I miss burrowing my head between the back cushions and making myself a little cave in there.
I know I should be psyched having the place to myself, but there are still piles of Krissy’s clothes hanging around everywhere and pictures of her with Jake’s arm slung over her shoulder stuck to the walls with bubble gum, so it’s not like I really live here anyway.
Duke’s truck comes to a rumble, so I slip on my jeans, tug on my cap and walk through the empty living room to meet him outside. It’s still pretty dark, but I can see the dull shadows of laundry Mom forgot to bring in blown stiff with frost.
Thick clouds of exhaust float around the cab, pouring in the passenger window that’s been stuck open for who knows how long, and once we’re out of the driveway and the truck’s shuffling toward third gear, the wind really starts whipping. I try the crank, but it just spins. No matter which way I turn, I’m blasted in the face.
“Caught it from the corner of my eye coming back from Tiny’s,” Duke says.
“How long’s it been there?”
He looks at me like how the hell should he know, but if it had been there the last time he was coming back from Tiny’s, we would have been doing this yesterday.
Mom met all 120 pounds of Duke last April, and I don’t want to be mean, but people around here only ever seem to be fat or skinny — I rarely see anyone in between — and the fat girls like my mom always end up with skinny guys like Duke. I see couples like them at the fair or in the grocery store all the time. These women walk around in tank tops with fat jiggling like water balloons above their elbows, and a guy a third her size is trying to fit his arm around half of her, and it grosses me out to think how the sex even works. Then I can’t stop thinking how I might as well be looking at my own mother, and how she didn’t always use to look like that, but Duke didn’t know her back then, so what’s he doing with her now?
We pull into the 24-hour, and Duke tells me to wait. Five minutes later, he walks out with a couple Mountain Dews and hands one to me through the window.
“When my disability starts in, man, I’m getting a new Ram,” he says, backing onto his seat, but he’s been saying that since the day I woke up and he was sitting in the kitchen like he’d been there forever. “Definitely a Ram, maybe a 150.”
He talks about these checks like they’re actually going to come when anybody can see they won’t. You know how many times my mom has started a sentence with “When…?” When we get a bigger place, when I find a better job, when your father was around, when you’re finished with that, when the weather gets better, when my back stops hurting, when you’re old enough…
The way I see it, “when” is about the only time anything good’s going to happen, unless it happened already and you weren’t there to see it.
Before we pull out, Duke slams back half the Dew and refills the rest with Old Crow. He puts a cigarette to his lips and pushes in the truck lighter. I take a sip of my own soda and swish it around like mouthwash to get the morning out of my mouth, but the sugar just seals to my gums and teeth.
“When’s the last time it rained?” Duke asks, waiting for the truck lighter.
“Your seat’s still wet so it couldn’t have been too long ago,” I say.
The lighter snaps, and I can see Duke’s face, all cheekbones and stubble, light up from the hot coil as he brings it to his lips. “Well, let’s hope that couch is worth a damn. Your mom’s on my ass about it.”
The last couch he tried to bring home was a sofa-bed so water-logged we could hardly lift the thing, and the metal inside was all rust. Duke said it just needed to dry out, but once it did the cushions turned brittle and the fabric was so scratchy we just burned it and watched the metal turn white.
We’ve been looking for couches since mine went up, and if we’re lucky, we might find a futon cushion worth saving or something we can sit on outside or let the dogs have as a bed until the rain really wrecks it. Most of the time, though, it’s just something to burn, and we stand around it doing nothing — we don’t talk, we don’t sing, we don’t even grunt or whistle.
When Duke swings onto Masters Road, the sun starts pressing through the trees, and I get that light feeling in my stomach like I’ve been up all night. I ask him if he’s going to drop me off at school when we’re done.
“It’s the weekend,” he says.
I tell him it’s Friday, and he shrugs — his shoulders two knobs under an oily gray sweatshirt. “That’s when weekends start around here,” he says.
“What if I’ve got a test or something?” I say, but he’s already shaking his head.
“Then one more day ain’t gonna hurt, Bud.”
Bud. That’s what he calls me when he’s feeling up — when he’s driving around thinking about new trucks that haul more trash and beep when you back up — and I guess I don’t mind that he calls me that. I’ve been called worse.
About five or six miles down Masters Road, he pulls over and leaves the truck running. “You see a cop or something, give a whistle,” he says. “I’m gonna go see what else is here.”
Every month or so, new dump spots crop up all around the back roads, but nobody does anything about it. In the time I’ve known Duke, the only cool thing he’s found was an old organ, the white keys yellowed from age and sweat. He brought it home and plugged it in, but it just hummed this static noise that got louder and louder until I thought it was going to blow up. He sold a coffee table he found once, and some old bikes people bought for parts. Most of the stuff he just strips for metal, though, and anything he can’t recycle just ends up piled behind our house.
Duke comes back in a minute and says the couch is torn to shit.
“You didn’t pull over and check it out before you brought me all the way out here?”
“It looked good from the road,” he says. “What do you want from me?”
I get out of truck and walk over. It’s sitting just a few feet back from the shoulder, and there’s a couple of black trash bags plopped next to it that some dogs or coyotes have torn apart, spewing old McDonald’s wrappers and paper plates and soda cans everywhere. One bag looks like it’s filled with those stuffed Garfield dolls with suction cups on the paws and what looks like a chewed up old rattle. About 25 feet back from the couch, the ground starts sloping into this ravine that whoever dumped the couch must not have known about, otherwise he would have just thrown everything down there. With the little bit of light through the trees, I can see it’s mostly filled with old tires, but there’s a big white rectangle I can only guess is a refrigerator, maybe a bathtub.
Then Duke says, “Hey, come here.”
He leads me down the road a little, and there’s this big dresser with a mirror attached to the top.
“This is good wood, right here,” Duke says, and he starts pulling out drawers and setting them on the ground. The thing probably weighs at least 60 pounds, and when we get to the truck, Duke’s panting and heaving trying to get it up and over and saying, “Jesus Christ, Keith, if I wanted someone to do nothing I would’ve brought your sister.”
Like she’d come out at the ass-crack with us anyway. She’s maybe going to graduate this year, and Jake’s already got a decent job doing construction with his dad, so she’d be better off not coming home at all, I say. I wouldn’t blame her.
Once the dresser’s in, Duke ties it down and rigs up some bungee cords to keep it from tipping. He looks around, spots a tree to piss behind and heads over to it, so I get in the truck, pull one of his cigarettes from the pack and tuck it under my cap for later. Before he gets back in, he tugs the cords one more time and gives the dresser a little push test.
Then it’s just a few more miles listening to Conway Twitty, or whatever the hell it is jammed in Duke’s tape player, until we make it to Tiny’s.
The bars in town close at 4 a.m., but way out here nobody cares, and the only time Tiny’s seems to shut down is when people run out of money. I mean, we’re here right now, and it’s maybe eight o’clock. Then I remember it’s Friday, and that means half the people got paid yesterday and are still drawing from it.
After Duke throws the truck in park and finishes the rest of his Dew and Old Crow, he throws the bottle at my feet. Then he lets out a shiver like a horse and turns, eyes scanning the trucks parked around us.
“LeeAnn’ll give you free chips if you tell her how pretty she is,” he says, his hand on the door. “I told your mom I’d have you out of the house.”
“Let me take your 30-ought-six out in the field,” I say.
“Yeah,” he laughs, glancing at the rack behind our heads. “Then you woke up.”
“Come on, Duke. I just want to shoot these,” I say, holding up the two green bottles we just finished. “I’ll put it right back.”
“No way,” he says.
“Because it’s my gun that’s why.”
“I’ve never even seen you shoot it,” I say and grab it from the rack. “Look at all the dust on it.”
But the gun’s in my hands for barely a second before Duke’s grabbing it by the middle of the barrel, pulling it back.
“What did I just tell you?” he says.
I tug, but Duke’s stronger than he looks — all those skinny guys are. We go back and forth with it for a second, then he waits for me to really yank it before he loosens his arms so I’ll end up clocking myself in the face, and it’s more shocking than painful. My head snaps back a little, knocking my cap off to the side of my head, and I raise the back of my hand to my lip even though I know I’m not bleeding. He looks at me, not sure whether I’m going to try to hit him back maybe, and I just stare at him before I let go of the gun. It’s not like he hit me totally on purpose.
“Just leave it for now,” he says. “Okay? You can take it out later. After I clean it. Alright? We’ll shoot it next week or something.”
When he gets out, he pulls the case for it from the behind the seat, places the gun inside and locks it. “I don’t even think I have shells for it, Keith, honestly,” he says, but I don’t say anything. I just stare out the windshield and straighten my cap. He stands there by the open door not knowing what to do about what just happened, then he asks if I’m coming in or what.
I don’t answer, and he heads in alone. Once he’s inside, I light the cigarette I stole from him and let the smoke curl around the brim of my cap until I have to shut my eyes to keep the sting out. My lips feel numb, bigger than normal from Duke’s fist wrapped around the gun barrel, and they feel weird when I smoke, like I’ve got novocaine in my mouth or something.
About halfway through, I step out and walk behind Tiny’s, which looks more like a house in the morning than a bar. There’s an apartment on top where LeeAnn goes when she’s done with her shifts. Next to a big, white propane tank is the back door, and as I’m just about to the filter, this guy in a teal t-shirt and white painter’s pants comes wandering out like he’s looking for somebody. He leans and sways against the propane tank and looks at me.
“Bunch of idiots in there,” he says, wiping his mouth with his forearm. “Hey, don’t you work with Roger? Don’t you know Roger?”
“I don’t work anywhere, man.”
“Let me get one of those?” He pats his pants and his chest, though there’s no pocket there.
“Sorry, man,” I say and push my shoulders up. “This is my last one.”
“Well, you got any bills for the machine then?”
I tell him no, and he mutters something that sounds like “figures” before turning back through the door. When I head around front, Duke’s standing at the truck with some guy I’ve never seen wearing a Ski-Doo jacket with a checkered flag on it, and they’re looking at the dresser.
“Yeah it’s in good shape, look at it,” I hear Duke say. “That’s solid oak.”
The other guy looks at Duke and sips on a can of Steel Reserve, measuring the dresser in his mind. “I’ll give you five bucks,” he says finally.
Then Duke starts laughing until he spots me standing by the front door.
“You going in or what?” he says. “LeeAnn’s asking about you,” he teases.
“So that’s Mary’s kid?” the guy says like I’m not even there.
Duke scrapes his finger at a smudge along the side of the dresser, blows the dirt from his fingernail and says, “Yeah, that’s him.”
This time of day, Tiny’s is like a completely different place. The blue, yellow and red neon from all the beer signs that normally just mingle into one dark mess — like when you mix every color paint you can think of — feel duller in the daylight. Long shafts of sun hit corners and nooks you’ve never looked at before. The wood of the bar and the stools and the scattered tables takes on a faint shine in those places where forearms and elbows and asses haven’t touched.
I don’t like it like this. Bars should be dark. It should always feel like it’s one in the morning. But everybody seems happier being drunk now than they usually are, even though the drinks are no different and the music’s the same as always.
Behind the bar, LeeAnn’s wearing a white pocket t-shirt with a V-neck, enticing better tips, and her hair’s pulled back.
“And what can I get you, mister?” she says. Her hands plunge glasses into hours-old soapy water.
“Get him a coke, Lee,” Duke says, coming up behind me, his hand palming two folded $5 bills. I look over my shoulder out the window and see the guy in the Ski-Doo jacket and his friend lifting the dresser from Duke’s truck bed.
He knew that couch wasn’t anything. He just needed somebody to help him load the damn dresser into the truck, and I guess I’m not that pissed about it. I know Mom’s going to bite the bullet with her check next month and put a payment down on a couch. Still, it’d be nice if he just left me alone instead of dragging me here. Mom wants me out of the house? Fine. I got things I can do on my own. I could go fishing, build a potato gun.
“Hey, put some Jack in that or something, Lee. The boy looks all tight in the pants.”
“Duke, you leave him alone,” she says.
“Ahh, he knows I’m just busting on him a little. Ain’t that right, Bud?” Then he pats the top of my cap and pulls the brim down over my eyes — a move I can’t stand.
It’s like when you’re at a bar, it doesn’t matter if you’re 14, like me, or 12 or 10, or even younger, everybody in there suddenly acts like you’re their kid. They ruffle your hair or tug on your cap. They tell you about how when they were your age, they used to date this girl named Madison Lewis whose dad owned a cement business, but they ended up with this other girl named Becky Blanchard who let them feel her up.
They say, “Let me tell you something…”
They ask you if you want more soda or a bag of chips. They ask how old you are, and no matter what you tell them, they say, “Oh, well, let’s get him a beer then.”
Being here this early, though, I don’t recognize anyone like that. Normally I see the regulars, like Pete, he’s the guy who felt up Becky Blanchard, or Jim Davidson, who always puts ice and salt in his beer. But at least there’s still LeeAnn.
One time, I walked out back to smoke some menthols some lady left on the bar and found LeeAnn feeding her tongue to some guy in a long ponytail and a tank top. Now that’s all I see when she gives me my soda and a bag of sour cream and onion chips and asks, “Shouldn’t you be in school or something?”
“It’s the weekend,” I tell her.
She looks over her shoulder at a calendar — we have the same one at our house that some bank sends in the mail every year with pictures of wildflowers and country sunsets — and says, “If you say so, Hon.”
Across the room, there are these two guys playing pool and looking serious about it. One of them is tall and lanky and wears a green John Deere hat and a thick corduroy shirt. His partner — wouldn’t you know it? — looks like he weighs about 250 and wears these Carhartt pants smeared with dried paint and caulk. They’re playing doubles against two guys who can’t sink shit, but what gets me is that every time they miss, the guy in the John Deere hat and his partner keep saying stuff like, “Oh, man, I thought that was in,” or, “Tough shot, man, tough shot.”
I mean, if you’re going to beat someone, just shut up and beat them. Don’t stand there and talk all day like you’re getting all the breaks when you know you’re just plain better at pool than they are. These are the kind of guys I love to beat, and I’ll keep throwing quarters down until I do. I wouldn’t care if it took years.
After a few minutes of watching them at the table, Duke asks me if I want to shoot with him, and I say, “Sure.” So we go over and put our quarters down.
Once the guy in the John Deere hat sinks the eight ball, Duke says to him, “You still wanna play doubles, or what?” They both nod, so I throw in the quarters and start racking. Then Duke asks if they want to put some money on it, and the three agree to play for drinks instead.
Before I met Duke, I was a side-shooter, and every other shot would be off by about half an inch. When I snapped a cue over the leg of the table, he said he’d show me a better way to play, so I listened to him, and he taught me how to shoot by getting squared-up and keeping my eye level with the felt. Since then, I’m pretty good.
Maybe two weeks after that, I was riding home in the bed of the truck with Mom and Duke in the cab, and he said, “I’ll tell you, Mary, if there was anybody around here who had anything worth hustling, I could do it with that kid.”
“You’re not hustling nobody, Duke,” she said.
“I know that, but…Christ, he’s just good at pool is all I’m trying to tell you.”
He’d probably deny he said it if you asked him, but by the time we got home, I was envisioning the two of us hustling at some bars downtown where nobody knows us, picking up cash by the fistful. Then we got home, the truck shut off, and Duke forgot to unbuckle his seatbelt before getting out. So he just dangled there, flailing around like a catfish, half in, half out of the truck, and I forgot about the whole thing because it never does anybody any good to think about stuff like that actually happening.
“Jesus, help him out of the damn truck, wouldya, Keith?” Mom yelled as she walked back to the house, so I went around to the driver side, lifted him back up and unbuckled the seatbelt.
“Alright, Duke,” I said. “You gonna make it?”
He swung his legs out a little too fast and fell into me, burying his head in my chest while I tried to steady him.
“Keith,” he said, like a groan. “You know your dad and me? We used to go bar hopping? Did you know that? That we used to do that?”
I didn’t say anything, and he looked down, then at me, then back down again.
“You think you could — you think I could be a good dad?”
When he asked it, I didn’t know what to think, and when I backed away from him, he fell straight into me again, so I pushed him off and he landed on the seat with a thud.
The next morning, when I woke up and looked out the window, Duke was still in the truck, passed out on his back with the door open, his legs dangling over the edge of the seat with one shoe kicked off. We never talked about what he said.
One thing Duke taught me is that you can spot shooters from across the room — the way they chalk-up, how long they take between shots. The one in the John Deere hat and the flannel who put down two low balls right off the break is pretty good. His partner, the fat dude with the lower lip of his belly spilling over his pants, keeps giggling and shifting his cue from side to side, waiting for Duke to decide what to do.
“Always shoot high balls,” Duke told me that day. “You know why?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “They’re easier to see in the dark?”
“Because you can line up your cut shots off the stripe,” he said. “Don’t just take whatever you can get off the break. But don’t let on that you’re looking for high balls, neither.”
Duke’s first shot is a straight line, but I can tell we’re in for it when I see him line it up and he’s crooked. It hits the bank, squirts diagonally, and Duke’s yelling, “Fuck me,” before it stops rolling. From there, that fat ass nearly clears out. Just luck, too. Every shot’s open to him, even though you know he doesn’t know how to draw the ball or anything — just whack away and hope for the best.
Once he misses, we’re far behind, so I go to work while Duke heads to the bar, figuring I can’t run the table and he’s going to owe these guys half of what he sold the dresser for. The first shot’s a hard-cut combo in the corner pocket right off the bat, and the nine ball flutters between the bumpers before settling in.
After that, it’s pretty much angles. Eleven in the side. Thirteen up the rail. Fifteen bank in the corner. I kiss the ten, and it drops. Then it’s a choice between trying to wedge the twelve past the eight in the corner, bank the fourteen the length of the table, or play defensively.
It doesn’t look like the twelve’s going to make it past the eight from where I’m positioned, and I don’t think I have the angle on the fourteen, but I try it anyway. I line it up, hit it at 45 degrees right where the green paint meets the white, and it’s a solid crack, sending it down the felt and in the corner pocket to my right. When it goes down, I know I’ve left myself enough for the twelve, and from there it’s just a draw-back and a clean look at the eight so I start lining up.
“Too bad you didn’t call it, dude,” says the guy in the hat, chalking his cue. He’s got this grin peaking through his stubble.
“What are you talking about?” I say.
“You didn’t call your shot,” the fat guy echoes. “Dandy, too. Tough break.”
I point the tip of my cue at the corner pocket and say, “Where the hell else would I have been going with it?”
“Doesn’t matter. We call everything here,” the guy in the hat says.
“Fuck that, the eight ball’s mine,” I say, lining up for the twelve so I can get this game over with and shut the both of them up.
When I draw my arm back, though, I feel the fat guy closing in on me, his hand gripping my cue and pulling.
“Listen, kid,” he says, “House rules. You gotta call your shots, so just let it go.”
“You didn’t say that,” I say, yanking my cue out of his hands while the guy in the John Deere hat yells over to LeeAnn, “Lee, I think you better cut this kid off or something.”
“You’ll get ‘em next time, tiger,” the fat guy adds. He covers his mouth to hide his teeth, and I can hear my grip on the cue get tighter, can feel my knuckles bulge. That smooth, round beer gut’s bouncing there like it’s the funniest damn thing he’s ever said — “You’ll get ‘em next time, tiger” — and before he’s even finished with his laugh, I’ve got the butt of my cue rammed right through his belly button.
The force of it lifts him off his feet for a second, then doubles him over, and while he’s hunched like that, while he’s looking for air, sucking in heavy and sounding like a hog, I break the cue over his knee, and he goes down in a pile. The sound of it’s nothing like in the movies.
With the thin end of the cue in my hands, I’ve got nothing to go at the guy in the John Deere hat with, so I throw it at him and charge in after it, hoping I can catch him off guard or something, but he just steps to the side and pushes me down. Before I can even get up, he’s got me in a bear hug from behind, lifting me off my feet, shouting at the room, and soon everybody’s shouting, but I can’t pick Duke’s voice out in the crowd, only LeeAnn’s, telling the guy to put me down.
I swing my feet back at his shins, my head back at his chest, but I can’t get to him. He’s got my arms pinned, and I can feel all the soda I’ve had rise in my stomach. When I throw it up, he lets go, and when I spit the last of it at him, he swings hard — one shot that catches me right on the cheek — and it’s a man’s fist, hard and cracked like dry mud, like Krissy’s boyfriend’s, like so many guys I’m going to hate for the rest of my life.
For a moment, everything turns as green as the pool table felt until I come to in that strange daylight of Tiny’s and I’m looking at the bar upside down. At first, all I hear is music, then Duke and LeeAnn’s voices are the first to fade back in from the muffle.
“Why the hell do you even bring him here in the first damn place?” LeeAnn’s yelling, and Duke’s saying, “I turned my back for one damn minute, Lee. What do you want me to do about it?”
The guy in the John Deere hat says, “You alright, man? You good?” and his friend murmurs, “Stupid little shit,” over and over just a few feet away from me, both us trying to pull the breath back into our bodies and not quite getting it right.
“Just get him out of here,” LeeAnn says finally, and that’s it I guess. That’s the end of it.
Duke steps over to help lift me up, but I hold up my hand to stop him. My face is heavy and numb. I can feel the point where the guy’s middle knuckle connected getting bigger with each pulse, and, though I’m trying not to cry, I can’t stop it — not like weeping and wailing or anything, more like these gasps that want to be tears but can’t because they don’t know how to be anything yet.
I’ve never been in a fight before, never felt how once it’s over you feel like it sucked everything out of your muscles and guts and lungs, and the only thing you can do is look for air and try to fill yourself back in, try to find something to stand on.
But I know this much about it. When I’m looking up at Duke holding out his hand, and he’s saying, “Come on, Keith, let’s go,” I know I’m going to take it. After he lifts me up, I’m going to feel weightless for the second it takes me to find my balance. And I’m never going to forget to call a shot again for the rest of my life.
ANDREW ELLIS BATES is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in Cimarron Review, and he currently lives in Richmond, Va.