Among Friends: a new year’s prose

by Jeff Oaks

All of us have something wrong. One of us is guilty. One is afraid in his silence he’s losing it. One of us has an old dog. One of us has a puppy the size of a boy. One of us might not be herself anymore. But enough of that. Who knows anything? Anyway, we were playing cards and one of us made a squeaking noise instead of a request and another of us repeated the squeak and there it went. A bonfire of laughter. A jungle of applications, medications, sign heres. One of us hasn’t been kissed in years. He lets go of the sad balloon he’s been holding onto. It floats away like a cake in a boat. We pound the table like a hull. We were playing cards for something to do. One of us is probably still drunk. One is losing his mother. Another has a father who might as well still be alive. About the rejected application. About the self-worth. About the body doesn’t breathe as well as it used to. The squeak blooms, roars, transforms drowning into a craft. The strangle turned into release. The leopard remade as a leap. Each of us barking, the way a dog will run toward the sound of a fight. To see what will happen maybe. To nip at a stray leg flashing. What the fuck do we care? The moon banging on the glass in oh my gods, in Jesuses. Each of us trying to stand. One of us lets himself fall down hard. One of us bends herself over a chair. Oh my god it’s just cards. Anyway we hurt, we gasp, we hurt. All smashed up on the floor, holding ourselves together. The dogs watch us to see if we’re wrecked. To see if any food falls out.