Barrett Warner
| Fiction


We go to the race track together and Yo approaches a trainer whose face looks exhausted. She says, Have any slow ones looking for a home?

"Got about a hundred,” the man says.

The trainer can stretch a story. The real number is closer to five or six. When he isn’t training he does construction. “Say you wanted a wall,” he says. “Or say you wanted to get rid of a wall. I do all that. Additions. Subtractions.”

We pick two horses, and suddenly there’s a lot to think about. The next day I put Mr. Umbec’s dog in the car so we can drive as long as the answers. My head is out the driver’s side window and Quad’s head is out his window. It must seem like we are both desperate for oxygen. The odometer pages to three hundred thousand. We follow a flock of omens. The geese seem to be onto us as we tail them from a safe distance. They circle after us. We circle after them. The circles are stuck together, like an eight.

Quadratic had hoped to go swimming, but is OK with a bite of my sandwich instead. He’s always restless and always hungry. Eating and riding in the car are the only comforts I know how to give him.

Yo makes love to me when she hears from her ex. “Because the past gives me hard-ons,” she says.

Anger, sadness, fear. Some lovers would be jealous. Instead I write my own purple note: Hey Jack, keep those letters coming.

Yo and I try living together. We start out with five days a month, but after Taffy starts coming around to ride, Yo builds it up to twenty days a month. And things go missing. My mustard-olive sport coat is lifted from the gear shed. They could have taken so much more: shelves crammed with persimmon jam jars, a barrel of tools. Boxes of motor oil emblazoned with red-winged horses.

We change our lock, but lose the key. Get an alarm, but forget the code. The security company calls: Everything all right down there? You bet. Just some potatoes frying.

We sleep like dragons, with one eye open.

Quadratic lifts his head from a bloody buck joint. How could anyone leave so much meat on the bone? I grab a shin off the carpet.

A paper wasp worries my sweater. The last dying wasp and the October smell of rotting apples. For something so close to the end of its days, the sociable little stinger seems to move around a lot. Afternoons he prefers my coffee-stained sofa in the barn. We nap together. Yo lying beside me softly calls. Hands, she says. Wings.

In a game of precise angles, shadow means everything. To words like loons and vvacuuming I add routine. Days begin the same. Yo pats my penis as if to say good boy and gets out of bed. She makes coffee and sits at her desk to write her postcard memoir, fifty or so cards a day, everything that happened yesterday in more or less the same order. Reading it is like being able to read her mind, which is very private, learning what she dwells on. When I see myself as one of her characters, it feels more like a close friend or a brother than me. He does and says things in bed I would never do or say, but after I read them I want to try them out. Breaking from a kiss I’ll say, put it into me, as if she has something up her sleeve to penetrate me.

One of her rules is not to fuck with other people’s destinies. One of mine is to have my destiny fucked as much as possible. Rather than compromise, we take turns, and once or twice, I add my own haiku sentence to the postcard manuscript: Casting her memoir, Yo’s fingers like raindrops, on a tin notebook.

“Never do that again,” she says.

Quad cowers around cats, but chases after red Saab convertibles, and white-tailed deer. Yo makes a big angry face if he won’t come when called.

I lick an envelope. It won’t seal. Sensing trouble, Ray the Postmaster wants to help in the same way I just held the post office door for a woman with a baby in one arm, even though I knew Quad would want to follow. He loves babies and overwhelmed moms.

Barrett Warner is the author of two chapbooks, My Friend Ken Harvey (Publishing Genius, 2014) and Til I’m Blue in the Face (Tropos, 1994). He won the 2014 Cloudbank poetry prize and his work has recently appeared in Consequence Magazine, Revolution John, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.

Notice the Hills
Many Letters Later