I am an assistant professor at Chadron State College in northwest Nebraska where I teach writing and American literature. I received my PhD from Ohio University and my MFA from the University of Idaho. Despite another disappointing season, I am also a diehard Boston Red Sox fan.
Each night I wander the city unable to stop thinking of the quarter ounce of weed I never sold your brother—the night I broke his skull instead. I think of the gold watch that slipped easily from his wrist. Past empty car lots, the abandoned shoe factory, each night the same as that cold April evening. I still wear my frayed denim jacket, its collar raised around my neck. Past the same chain link fence for 29 years, the green dumpster overflowing with trash. The frozen sleet begins at nine o'clock, my feet wet and aching. You have turned my hair grey, have made my back hunch with age, but never is there sleep, never do you allow me to drink a cup of coffee in the morning. Just this walking with the same tire iron hidden in my jacket. My stomach clenches when I pass the police station. Here is the diner I ate at an hour before your brother's death. Hands in my pockets, eyes on the sidewalk, I can't stop moving. Past the rundown house I grew up in. My parents are dead but when you make me look through the living room window there's the pyramid of beer cans my father left on the floor, the top one filled with cigarettes and spit, the black and white television blares. The city bus waits by the curb but you never allow me to take a seat, never let my hands grow warm. As I wander past the industrial park not a single street light turns on. Here are the rusted railroad tracks I can't stop following, my feet shuffling from wooden tie to wooden tie. Ahead the familiar grove of trees, an unlit bridge. Each night I glimpse the same shadow of a body on the ground. You make my hands shake—as I move closer my chest begins to heave. I can't stop thinking of your brother's brain hemorrhaging blood. You make me watch as his forehead turns purple, as his body begins to spasm. Each night you lean me forward, bend me like a doll, to watch your brother's legs kick out again and again.
©2016 Steve Coughlin