I preferred my friend’s father. Mine sat silent in cigar smoke, suave in a cheap suit. Hers, a suburban cowboy, weather-worn in plaid flannel, loud with love. “Aw, girl,” he’d say when I visited, patting my cheek, “you’re so darn cute.” On warm evenings, he’d walk with my friend, head bent to listen, one hand holding their mutt’s leash, the other hand around hers. Around 6 pm each night, I’d listen for his truck, then part the bedroom curtains to watch its slow descent. The truck made happy music–a jangle of rusted lawn mowers and car parts, watering cans and bits of bicycles. My affection for him changed one night, though, when instead of odds and ends, a huge buck, eyes paralyzed in surprise, antlers shocked with blood filled the truck’s bed. I didn’t want to believe that he had killed the animal. Or walked to the swing set and unhooked the swings. Or, joined by three neighborhood men who patted him on the back like a hero, hung the deer from its hooves like a desecrated god.
Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft and Mall Flower. Her writing can be found in The Maryland Literary Review, Rattle, The Best Small Fictions 2020 (spotlighted story) and 2016, The American Poetry Journal, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Gyroscope Review, the Fourth River, Nasty Women Poets anthology, Feckless Cunt, and upcoming in Thimble. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has several Best of the Net nods. She teaches at The Poetry Barn and Writers.com.