With Nuts

Michael Czyzniejewski
| Fiction


When you hit a jogger with your 4-Runner and he gets up and runs away, turning to say, Hey, I’m OK! as he disappears into the night, it’s logical to assume he’s OK, right? You stay in your car, calm your kids down—because they’re freaking out about the face that was just pressed against the windshield—and make your right turn, just like you planned. Soon you can think about it at the gas station while you pump gas, your kids still bawling inside the car, you unable to settle them because it’s so damn cold out and the doors and windows are shut tight so they don’t freeze. You can think about it on the drive home, when you’re telling your kids not to mention anything about it to their mom because she’s going to wig. You can drive around the neighborhood—in the opposite direction the jogger was headed—until your kids relax, stop and get them sundaes at McDonald’s, partially as a bribe, but mostly to make them forget, because what makes anyone forget anything faster than ice cream? Later when you get home and tell your wife Nothing! when she asks if anything interesting happened while you were out, how the drive was, if there was anything to report. Nada. What about you? And you can even, when she tells you about running a yellow (but probably red) light as she passed a cop, lecture her that she ought to be more careful, that you (as in the household) can’t afford a ticket right now. You wouldn’t go so far as to ask her if she happened to be holding her phone when she blew through the light (or use the phrase “blew through”), especially when she nods and tells you you’re right—especially because you were checking the score to the game—actually, checking the count on a hitter in the second inning of a game—when your front bumper air-lifted that jogger onto your hood. You wouldn’t accuse your wife of such things, but instead, make her feel better about the whole incident, right? Then you’d start thinking about dinner, something the kids would eat even though they just devoured super-secret secret-keeping sundaes, with nuts, something like a big can of ravioli or grilled cheese with tomato soup, even PB&Js—heavy food, comfort food, forgetting food.
If I’m wrong about this, please let me know. I feel like I’m wrong about this and maybe I’m saying it all aloud because I, too, need to be told it’s OK, that what I did wasn’t so bad, that we won’t even remember any of this tomorrow.
And, let me ask again: How are you?
Anyway, say you’re heating the ravioli when your sister calls, the sister who lives a few blocks away. She’s frantic, telling you to walk over, not drive, but walk over, that there’s a guy on her front lawn and she thinks he might be dead and there’re cops and an ambulance and a fire captain in a sedan and you want to tell her you’re making the kids dinner but then she says no, you need to get over RIGHT NOW, because the guy’s going into some kind of fit right there on her front lawn, but you’re not really paying attention because you’re busy, preoccupied—you deserve this pass. But as you’re about to hang up, you absolutely swear you hear that word, jogger, and you drop the wooden spoon inside the pot of ravioli and tell your wife that you gotta run and you’ll be back soon. What about dinner? someone says, your wife or daughter, their voices almost the same now, and you keep going, knowing they’ll figure it out, just a pot on a low flame.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of three story collections, most recently I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2015). He teaches at Missouri State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Moon City Review and Literary Editor of Moon City Press.

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