Shot Myself in the Foot
|I Gave Her My Shoes
By Bradley Bowers
I gave her my shoes
For a little happiness
It seemed like
An even trade at the time
But now the sun is setting
It’s hot and I’m thirsty
It has been two hours since
She ran down the gravel road
She told me it wasn’t
a good idea... That was four years ago. Brie and crackers.
A brown and beige marbled cheese. A plate of smoked salmon
with capers to the side. The capers were tart. I love capers.
I carried around my plastic glass of Merlot like a prop. I
walked around the room, pausing at each piece of art. Looking
interested, feeling preoccupied. Earlier the bartender at
the neighborhood Italian restaurant up-sold me from a glass
of scotch to veal on a bed of linguini. I spent fifty dollars.
I learned how to make reduced balsamic vinegar. I can make
a carrot ginger soup or a duck served on pasta with a white
cream sauce and decorate the plate with the reduced vinegar…
I pretend to sip my wine and move to the next painting. It
was red. But who was I kidding, she was right, it was a bad
Eat Your Vegetables
As we pieced it together,
the next table got history wrong, though confidently
and better dressed. Across the patio, a couple sat,
talking in whispers – she sat passively staring,
at a brick wall? Reflections in a French door? Or some
other distant place I couldn’t see, as he ran
his hand through her dark wavy hair. We sat silently,
waiting for our server to bring our next gin and tonic
– which never solved anyone’s problem, but
we could always hope…
For dinner I had lamb,
cooked rare; she had marinated fish, both with grilled
vegetables and bread. As she told me what had happened
over the past month, I watched the chef cook on the
outdoor grill. History is sometimes astonishing and
sad… fucked up. She was trying not to relive it
while I struggled to understand. Occasionally flames
burst upward and the chef had to push them back with
his glass of white wine. It was a good meal, but I was
angry and concerned for my friend. I had little to offer
in comfort or advice. I had nothing to say… but
sorry, and I wasn’t even to blame.
I lifted my glass and
let the condensation drip to the side of the table,
forming a small pool on the brick. I tilted my head
back and turned to the right to glimpse the loud drunken
people who now abused their waiter, then across to the
woman with the hand in her hair. I wondered if she was
happy. I wondered if the waiter was put off by his customers.
These observations were acute but inept. I swung the
glass up to my mouth, pausing to tip the glass with
my pinky, for the last drop of condensation to fall.
I was vaguely aware that while I’m filling space
constantly and possibly gracefully, I probably smell
Ascension To the Ceiling
By Bradley Bowers
was in love. He could tellbecause of the loneliness.
He pinned a note to the inside of his lapel in case
something should happen. People should know he was in
love. He built himself a fine rowboat that he christened
Tara. Launching Tara Eastward he embarked on the Exploration
of unknown Isles and inlets. He traveled for many months,
trading cigarettes for food and drink. With sign language
and crude sketches he told the natives of his amazing
tales of courage and bravery. After over a year at sea
he contracted scurvy and his family practitioner sent
him home. In his dark and empty home he paced throughout
the night, thinking about the sea, waiting for dawn,
hoping tomorrow he would sleep. Kneeling by his bed,
he cried and said a prayer. He was so lonely. David
felt a light brush his closed eyes, and a hand reaching
out to touched his still heart, slowly he ascended upwards,
toward the ceiling. It wasn’t what he prayed for,
but he’d take what he could get.
The 36 Stages of Grief
lost, David whispers. He posted flyers all over
town. He stood in the rain. He cried out her name.
He cleaned the dishes in his sink. He sat by the
phone and waited until the ringing drove him to
the porch in the rear of the house. He lit a candle.
Wrote a poem. Fed the cats. Smoked a pack of cigarettes.
Drank a bottle of wine. Drove his car into a ditch.
Lay naked in the woods. Yesterday, he wore his
steel gray suit with the shoes she had given him.
A Christmas present, he thinks, but he’s
not sure. Anyway, he imagined he looked steady
- well composed. Had he forgot to water the plants
for the entire week? He could hear the river and
cars on a nearby road. He counted stars for as
long as he could and when he fell asleep he kissed
The Four Arms of David
It wasn’t the first time David lost
his arm in a coal mining accident. Doctors were able to attach
it twice before and David did it once himself, but this time
he decided to leave it down with the cold twisted metal that
tore it from him. Two years passed before David told his wife
why he left his arm down in the mine. How it had freed him
from the machinery that controlled his life and the demons
that ravished his soul. His daily journey took him down into
the chilly shaft, only to rise again later after the sun set.
Tired and lonely, he’d shower off the coal dust and
drive home to find her asleep. He would curl up in bed, his
fears cradling him asleep. Did his wife still love him? Would
he ever be happy again? Maybe he would never wake?
When an undetected buildup of gas in the lower
shaft exploded, David was trapped under the coal excavator,
one half mile below the Earth’s surface. The courageous
rescue crews worked frantically for five days to save David
and his coworkers. When the light from a rescuer’s lantern
burst through the pile of rubble, the ragged and dazed men
glimpsed heaven. The papers called it a miracle. The corporate
office said it was a terrible tragedy and closed the mine
indefinitely, leaving three hundred unemployed. David took
his wife’s hand and peered deep into her eyes reaching
for depths he had never reached before. “For five days
I fought their demons, dodged the fiery breath of Satan’s
serpent beast. His mouth was as large as a small car and his
hands were scaly, with razor sharp claws. He took my arm but
I was prepared to give my life if it would win back my soul.”
David’s wife sobbed. She embraced her
husband, silently whispering in his ear, “I’m
sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She reached
over for the phone and dialed a number posted on the end table.
One day later, David, a seemingly healthy man, with two arms,
who was captain of his junior varsity soccer team and who
once slayed a giant, was institutionalized.