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Five Fat Men in a Hot Tub

Story by Jeff Landon (Read author interview) September 16, 2005

Art by Marty D. Ison

Check us out! Five fat men in a hot tub. Snow falls fast, fat flakes already turning into sleet. We lift our flushed faces to the sky and sink lower into the bubbles and water. Why are we here? We are here to ski and drink and help our friend, Billy. Turns out that he was right all along: his wife really was fucking her foot doctor.

We are kindred with shame. Lifetime friends. Chip stands up with his shorts pulled down. It’s not a good look. Blake and Robbie do a lurching tango in the tub. They move in the snow silence. Big, graceful, drunk guys: my friends.

Last weekend my wife told me that she was going back to Alabama, after Christmas. Our daughter is in college now, and my wife wants to go back home, by herself. She’ll be gone when I get home.

These are the friends I have left. Mark’s sitting on the edge of the tub, eating a meatball sandwich on a paper plate. He used to have cancer, but now he doesn’t. We all used to be someone else.

It’s getting late. We don’t know how late it is. In the cabin behind us, through a gap in the birch trees, we can see a TV blinking blue in the guest suite. Sometimes my mother calls me to talk about Victor Newman on the Young and the Restless. He’s handsome but torn, Mom says. We’re all torn, Mom, I tell her. You don’t have to be Victor Newman to be torn.

Chip leans back and finishes his quart of beer. This morning, Chip and I drove into town for eggs and sausage. Rounding a corner, blind, I almost hit a deer. A buck. He skimmed the passenger side and bounced once on the road before gathering himself and darting into the woods. Afterwards, Chip and I stood outside, surveying the damage. Snowflakes haloed Chip’s huge bald head. Our breath puffed up the air between us. I thought about my wife and our baby, years ago. It was the first time our baby had ever seen the ocean. I held our baby upright, under her arms, and dunked her fat little legs into the water. She looked stunned and delighted at the same time. Her hair stood straight up like she was trying to give the wind something to dry its hands on.

About the Author

Jeff Landon has been published in numerous places, print and online, including Crazyhorse, Wigleaf, FRiGG, Another Chicago Magazine, F(r)iction, and others. He is also a contributor to New Micro, an anthology of flash fiction published by W.W. Norton in 2018. Lately, he’s been doing some chair yoga.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Ten of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Ten

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"The Shape of Things: Movement, Momentum, and Dimension in Flash CNF" with Steve Edwards

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From sentence-level craft concerns to questions of overall approach, this 90-minute webinar will explore strategies for adding shape, intensity, and depth to your flash creative nonfiction.

Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.