March 7, 2015


Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His poems and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including BlazeVOX14, Red Fez, The Bicycle Review, Barney Street, and Wordplay, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. In 2015, his stories are set to be featured in Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, EAP: The Magazine, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, and Blotterature Lit Mag. Semrow spends the vast majority of his free time with his boyfriend, best friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy.

We Used to Feed Chickens
Mary Ann and I sold the farm three years ago when the doctor told us that her mind was going to that place where it always does when you get old like us. She had been forgetting simple things, like whether or not she had eaten lunch, or if she had sent a card to young Jimmy for his fourth birthday. I used to tell her that I’d be in the same place in no time, not remembering things that may or may not have even been worth remembering in the first place. When I told her this, she always responded the same way: “Goddamnit, Gene. You quit that crazy talk and go to hell.”
I’d laugh. And now I’ve stopped saying those things, because the doctor tells me I’m doing pretty well for my age.
I’m sitting out her in the cold, warming up the truck and she’s inside doing God-knows-what, and I’m smiling and she’s probably looking all over the damn place for her glasses. The glasses that are already on her silly old face.
I turn the radio on and it plays kid music. I change the channel until I find something that sounds a little like John Prine or Emmylou. The stuff we always listened to.
I proposed to her on our first date, because I didn’t know what else to do. I went through hell in back during those younger years, thinking things unchaste and not Christ-like, of what life could be like if I just succumbed to the temptations. I suppose Mary Ann was my answer and we always made do, though that burning fire—I’m not so certain that was ever a thing.
She comes out the garage door of our first-floor condominium. The kids told us to get the place, said they’d come over on the weekends to help us out. And now, here we are—I am warming up the car to go to Gene Jr.’s place, because he can’t get his own ass over here.
The kids tell us they have a lot of shit going on. And, Mary Ann and I, we must have nothing new. Sometimes, I miss the farm. The fields, all the animals I had. I miss it every day.
Mary Ann pulls the truck door open and shuffles herself into the seat. She smiles at me and I glare back. “What in the hell took you so goddamn long, you silly woman? I’ve been out here for fifteen minutes. Was about ready to get out of here and check on your silly ass, to make sure you hadn’t dropped dead.”
Mary Ann huffs and rolls her eyes at me. “Goddamnit, Gene. I was making sure the coffee pot was off. I’d hate to leave the damn thing on. It could start a fire. It could blow this whole complex up. I’d just hate to be responsible at this juncture in my life.” With her hands, she motions at the condominium. I look and then I chuckle a little, shaking my head and changing the gear to Drive. She isn’t wearing her glasses, sweet doll. I can’t say a thing, though. It’d only be embarrassing for the both of us.
As I pull out the driveway, Mary Ann begins ruffling through her pockets. She tells me she left her Kleenexes in the house. I shake my head again, dig into my left pocket, and hand her my fresh pack of tissue.
“Thank you, Love,” she tells me.
“You’re damn well welcome, Mary Ann.”
She blows her nose as another car swerves into the other lane to pass us. I’m going the speed limit and all these cars seem in more of a hurry than any other day. They pass me, pass me when the little yellow lines on the paved road aren’t even spotted. I guess it’s their issue. It always is. Everybody’s got their issues, but we still end the day with a nice long sleep.
Mary Ann says, “I hope little Madeline is getting better about her little nail biting issue.”
“Well,” I say. “You know kids these days. They all got their little habits. We probably shouldn’t be too worried. Now, when she starts doing crystal meth or something, then maybe a small intervention will be necessary.”
“She’s six years old, Gene” Mary Ann says.
“Same shit.”
Off this highway here, we’ve got the bad intersection that I’ve got to turn onto to get to Gene Jr.’s place. Mary Ann’s always telling me that she’d like to put a county order in to implement some lights, but I’m just not so certain things around here work like that.
“I do love you, Mary Ann,” I say. And I’ve said that same thing for years and I won’t stop saying it, because I know how important it is to be loved in this ugly world. There are some bad people out there that do really bad things in their daily life.
“I love you too, you asshole.”
I put my blinker on to turn left. It’s a busy Saturday.
I turn the wheel onto this main stretch and, as I do so, I hear Mary Ann’s aged, piercing scream. She shrieks, “Genegenegenegenegenegene!”
And that’s when I hear the loud crunch and feel the breaking glass like shards of falling rain. I spy a stream of blood flow past my wrinkled face. And both our yelling and panting, it comes to an end.
I see nothing but darkness. And then Mary Ann and I, we both see the light.
~Alan Semrow

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