He spent his last nights on the roof of the house he was losing, drinking and looking at the Santiago Canyon Fire. The smoke was some muscular, see through chest of buff and jonquil with this beating tangelo heart inside. Was the fire more or less beautiful when he considered everything it was destroying, everyone it was displacing? He’d come down off the roof and there those people would be on the news, their befuddled zombie staggering, saying “We’ve lost everything.” The next night he’d clamber back up and decide that beautiful is beautiful, even if the beautiful thing was taking fucking everything from fucking everybody. 

On his final day in Orange County, he phoned in an anonymous tip ratting himself out for the fire—just to see if anyone would come find him. He went to Arizona, moved in with his step-brother Chad and his family. They had a place in the Catalina Mountains that was a perfect size for just them. A month in, Chad’s five-year-old Grayson told him he hated him and wished he’d never moved in.

“I hate you, too,” he told the kid, then gave him a shove. The kid went over without resistance and he was fine. Not a scratch on him.


She was a terrible speller, so why should she have improved for her note? She had hanged her decision on overwhelming loveliness but we were all sure she’d meant loneliness. Kayla had been overwhelmingly lonely. Too, we’re guessing didn’t feel lust in life as much as she did lost in life. She wasn’t incorrect, exactly, just sloppy. Kayla was one of those people who hid her terrible spelling with even worse cursive. 

“I feel like we should maybe correct this, maybe type it up,” one of us suggested, holding up her note. “Other people and her parents are going to read it.”

“Kayla was probably in a hurry, or not thinking clearly,” another one of us submitted. “I’m sure if she’d had the time or wherewithal she would have put this stuff down right.”

“But she never cared about getting it right before,” I said, snatching the note away, accidentally ripping it a bit. “Why would she care about it now? I feel like she didn’t care because she always trusted she’d be understood.”

In the end we agreed that one of us should be over the shoulders of Kayla’s parents or the other people when they read the note, just in case they needed clarification. Just so we could tap at her terrible handwriting and say something like, “I don’t think she actually means love here.”


Within the first week a coyote made off with Devito, the family pug. The next week, a deer hopped the fence and drowned in the pool. The twins had come home from school and found it. They poked at it with the skimmer before deciding to just play dumb when their dad made the discovery. The deer stayed there two days. The twins suspected their dad was waiting for them to declare it. 

The twins didn’t like Arizona, hated Sierra Vista. They got nosebleeds and heard the heat gave you dick stones. 

Bored one weekend, they borrowed the car and grabbed a bat for mailbox baseball. But there were no mailboxes in the neighbourhood. The mail went to these many-slotted monoliths at the end of the block. So they settled for dragging the bat out the window for the sparks.

Sometimes they hated the desert more than they missed their mom and brother.

Two months in, there was a story on the news about a hunk of charred rocket ship garbage falling out of orbit and landing on a ranch nearby. This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it had. The twins rode their dirt bikes out to look but didn’t get past the string-thin cattle fence, scared it was electrified as well as barbed. They spent forever daring each other to crawl under.


Before the baby there were things to learn, shit to get deft at and master.

"Buying stuff is not the same as doing stuff or learning stuff," the girl he loved who he'd babied-up said. "Remember."

At the guitar shop he demurred over banjos, figuring furrowed indecision would pass for knowledge. In the end, he bought the third most expensive. "I'd get the Gibson," he assured the clerk, "but there's a baby on the way."

At home he put a finger pick on each finger, made cat claws.

"I think that's too many picks," the girl with the baby in her said.

"We'll see," he said, as he tried to figure out what was wrong with the internet so he could get on and prove her wrong.

Over the months, he ruined two good pots trying to make chocolate, cut off the tip of his finger buzzing wood for the crib, and his left arm still smarted sometimes from the shock he got putting another light in the nursery.

After the baby came out of the girl's body, he didn't like holding it. Not for lack of love or want, but a certainty that he would drop and kill the thing.


Cowboy Buck wiped icing onto his socks as inconspicuously as he could. The RSVP’d kids had gone to a hockey game instead, but Buck had been paid for the full afternoon and the horse trailer wouldn’t be back until four. The birthday boy’s dad and Buck talked housing prices and factory closures and ate birthday cake in the living room while the kid sulked in the den and while the cat watched Buck’s horse Buttermilk stand and blink in the backyard.

The cat joined the men in the foyer, but the kid didn’t come when called to come say goodbye to Buck. “Tell him to hang in there for me,” Buck told the dad. “Nine more years and he can get drunk about it.”

A squeaking noise came out of the cat. And then another, raspier report. The cat tried to back away from what it was choking on but Buck corralled it. With one hand he forced its mouth open and with the other pinched down into its throat. Out came a wet elastic from an unused birthday hat. 

“Here,” Buck said, handing the elastic over to the dad like it belonged to him.