SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Stephen Graham Jones (Read author interview) March 29, 2015

Art by Claire Callister

This is to Tammy Carlton, who sat two seats up and one over in fourth grade, and said once “Why don’t you just write a book about it?” This during my explanation to the teacher about the gum and monkeybars thing. This is to Ms. Glynnis from my sixth grade science, for reading my note out loud to the class in a voice I still hear. This is to Michael K. and Lacy and Nicholas, for paying for their order at my drive-through window that time with a squirrel scraped up from the street. This is especially to Lacy, for looking at me like she regretted that these kinds of things had to happen. This is to my dad, too, of course. I really thought you were dead that one morning. And this is to Coach Barker, for throwing the ball just far enough that I had to cradle my arms out over the track that time. This is to Wayne and Wayne, for showing me that place behind the gym, between the air conditioner and the fence with all the newspapers blown up against it. It was perfect. This is to Tammy Carlton, for having to look away when I walked into senior prom. This is to her friends, all suddenly applying lipstick, their mouths definitely not laughing. This is to the band that night, for only playing slow songs. This is to the radio all these years later, for reminding me about those songs when I least expect it. This is to Wayne and Wayne, for slipping me a beer through the drive-through window once. This is to Albert, my assistant manager, for pretending not to see. This is to Albert, for having been seventeen once as well, I guess. This is to my step-mom, for threading my greasy bangs behind my ear in fifth grade, studying me, telling me I didn’t really look like my dad at all, did I? This is to Officer P—, for understanding, once. Just letting me come home instead. This is to the swings that used to be down by the Western Auto, left over from some drive-in I’d never seen. This is to Debra G., for sitting with me on them that time, talking about everybody she hated, everything she was going to do someday. How it was all going to be different. This is to those guys I never knew from Permian, too. I probably had it coming. This is to my older brother Hector, for telling them that. This is to Michael K., for telling me Hector’d said that. This is to my dad, for taking me by the chin, looking at each side of my face, and nodding, not saying anything. This is to Albert, for asking who they were, then taking his apron off, stepping out onto the patio for a cigarette. This is to Nicholas, for joining the Army two months after Lacy turned up pregnant. This is to Mr. Reise, for pairing me up with her for lab, because she couldn’t touch any chemicals. This is to Michael K., for calling out to us that there wasn’t womb for us both at the table. This is to Tammy Carlton, for shrieking when I ran to the back of the room that day, for Michael K. This is to my step-mom again, for picking me up from the principal’s office for fighting, and delivering me to my dad’s work. This is to my dad, for asking me if I got any good licks in this time, or if I just lay there again. This is to the spiral notebook I used to carry, that everybody was dead in. This is to Ms. Glynnis, for intercepting the note I’d been sending across to Wayne in sixth grade, before I really knew him, asking if I could listen to his Queen cassette at lunch. This is to my locker, for hiding my face all those times between classes. And this is to Tammy Carlton still, for planting that gum on the monkeybars, that strung down into my hair, my shirt, so I had to wear something from the lost and found, so the teacher had to use scissors on the gum. And this is to my real mom, for not flashing down from the sky that day, her spike heels deep in the neck of that teacher, her hand smoothing my hair down like should happen, and this is to my dad, for keeping those high-heeled shoes in the first place, making his new wife wear them, never letting me tell, so that all the words and lies built up and built up, had to come out somewhere, someday. Now turn the page, start the story.

About the Author

Stephen Graham Jones’s last book is Zombie Bake-Off. His next is Growing Up Dead in Texas, which this story really is the dedication for, except it’s not in the book. He says this: “I blurbed Michael Kimball’s brilliant Dear Everybody back forever ago, and then by six or seven years later, in a thieving state of mind, forgot that this was his form, not mine. So, for more like ‘Dedication,’ hit Dear Everybody, everybody. But I was also trying to re-tell Peter Tysver’s amazing wonderful perfect “After the Stations of the Cross.” So read that too.”

About the Artist

Claire Callister is a native Californian who has been involved in art since the age of 10. Throughout her travels in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, she has honed her skills in illustration, primarily specializing in black and white pen-and-ink renderings. She graduated from Chapman University in Orange County, California, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Six

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