Michael Prihoda

Creamer

Hal told me you left him because he woke up screaming every day. Something about the night he couldn’t handle. He swore he never dreamed about anything. He swore it didn’t have anything to do with the thing that happened with, well, we both know it’s hard to say his name.

Four months later I found a sketchbook in his closet: charcoal, pencil, crayon even I think, like he stole his artistic brain from your three-year-old after, you know, the thing where someone had to get blamed and, inevitably, it ended up being someone you loved, i.e., Hal.

“Hal, what’s this?” I asked him.

“Nothing, just something,” he said.

He’d sketched it, repeatedly, manically, maybe as a condemnation of it.

I volunteered to spend a couple nights with him, mix up some chicken alfredo, keep him company, hunker down on the couch and listen in the morning.

I woke up early, sunlight barely alive as if it couldn’t decide if it wanted anything, if desire were even a concept relevant to life. I waited four hours until noon, heard nothing, put some coffee on, flipped the news channel to low, flipped through his sketches: always the same thing, always somehow different.

Hal didn’t make a noise before noon. I kept waiting for him to come down. I kept waiting, wondering if he’d dreamed about it.

I drank my coffee black because Hal didn’t’ have any creamer.

He didn’t have it.

 

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Michael Prihoda was born in Wisconsin. He is the founding editor of After the Pause literary magazine. His most recent publications can be found in The Bear, Unlost Journal, and Unbroken Journal.

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