Gretchen Explains Her Life On Election Day Morning, 1980
I'm Gretchen, which is a blessing and a hearse, like the battered black one my brother Billy installed a turntable in back in '65, convinced he was a genius and soon to be rich when the idea caught on. But a bumpy road beat up the Beatles and scratched his plan.
I'm the only thing holding my parents together. At least that's what each tells me privately. "I'm not your adhesive!" I scream behind my eyes, sounding like a therapist in a movie that shouldn't have been made. No one hears. Billy's no help. He turned to scope a girl riding a ten-speed down a mountain, smashed through guardrails and flipped his hearse over a cliff. That's her story, anyway, swears to God, and He and she were the only witnesses. Stack the Bibles, Beethoven, and turn a deaf ear.
They outlawed the head-slap in the NFL, that smack upside the helmet that turns your ear into a frozen sting, bad as a shot to the nose when blood and tears and snot mix like a drink on your lips, salty as a margarita. Deacon Jones told the TV camera it made a man—"or a woman"—blink, and that instant was all he needed to hammer the quarterback.
Roger grins, despite his hangover. He swallows the three aspirins I bring him. “I never mean to, baby,” he says. “It just happens. You know I love you."
I go in to make breakfast. "Over easy," he calls from the living room. "Please." I hear the sports section rustle. I hear Good Morning America.
"Sunny side down, honey," he says. "And don't you dare break the yolk."
Tom Hazuka has edited the short story anthologies Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Funny, Sudden Flash Youth, You Have Time for This and A Celestial Omnibus, and published the novels The Road to the Island, In the City of the Disappeared, and Last Chance for First, as well as a book of nonfiction, A Method to March Madness: An Insider’s Look at the Final Four (co-written with C.J. Jones). He teaches fiction writing at Central Connecticut State University.