1. The Confession


“I know that Cheri’s been cheating on me.”

I looked at Rod. We were jogging together around the lake. “She told you?”

“Fuck no; the bitch is too afraid of me to spit it out.”

“Then how—“

“Her face told me. I been with her long enough to tell. No different than if she confessed outright.” Rod picked up speed; I managed to keep up with him even though I hadn’t been jogging much lately.

“Maybe you’re misreading her. Maybe—“

“Here’s what I’m gonna do to the fucker once I squeeze it out of her who she fucked.” He slowed down and pulled a switchblade from his shorts pocket. “I’m gonna cut off his dick. Slowly, so I can enjoy the screaming. Then I’ll shut him up by shoving it into his mouth. And then I’ll grab my .38 and—”

“Jesus, Rod, stop it. Just stop it!”

“It’ll be quite a show, Gus. I’ll give you a ringside seat. ‘Wild West Justice.’”

We finished our jog in silence. As I turned to head for home, Rod said, “If she’s still visiting with Jill tell her to get her ass back here now.”

Jill and Cheri were on the sofa, solemnly watching Cheri’s son, Rod Jr., playing with the puppy. I pecked Jill on the cheek. She didn’t respond.

Cheri stared at me; then she said, “Did you and Rod have a good run?”

“I need a drink,” I said—more to myself than to Jill or Cheri, and went into the kitchen. I poured some whiskey into a tumbler, took a gulp, sat down, and put my head in my hands.

Cheri walked in after a decent interval. She looked ill. I could see what she was thinking.  



2. The Wound


Dennie said he wanted to show me something. We’d been lounging in his back yard. It got very hot so we went inside. He made a pitcher of lemonade, spiked it with his mother’s vodka, what the hell, she was out of town for the weekend. We played some chess. He must have poured a lot of vodka into the lemonade because after just a few swigs the chess pieces began moving by themselves.

“You said you wanted to show me something, Dennie?”

Wincing, he slowly removed his shirt. His fingers were long and thin. “This.” He moved to one side and lifted his arm

There was a huge purple contusion on his ribcage.

“Jeez, what happened to you?”

He dropped his arm, readjusted himself on his chair and returned his attention to the chessboard. He wiggled his finger on a pawn as if trying to decide whether to deploy it or not. “It was BB .”

“Bad Brad Jensen?”

Dennie finally moved the pawn. “Yeah.”


“During basketball practice.” As Dennie explained it, he and BB had had gotten into an argument. BB began speed-dribbling the ball and suddenly flung it at Dennie with such force that Dennie stumbled and fell. He called BB a thug and flipped him off. Before Dennie could get back on his feet, BB kicked him in the ribs.

There was this unwritten rule: giving guys like BB the bird would earn you a bashed-in face or a couple of broken bones.

“More lemonade, Carl?

I nodded.

“Too bad BB has such a mean streak,” Dennie sighed. “There was a time when I felt sure we were really gonna hit it off.”

“Hard to imagine.”

Dennie gazed at me for a long moment and smiled. Finally, he said, “Your move.”



3.  The Rumor


Did you hear the rumor?

I most certainly did. Isn’t it disgusting? How could they have been so sinful?

It doesn’t surprise me. Everywhere you look, people are turning into sinners.

I wonder if the rest of the neighborhood heard about it. Well, I am going to find out.

In just a few hours, the rumor had spread through the neighborhood. But the rumor did not stop there. It spread through the next neighborhood and the next. By the end of the following day, the rumor had spread through the entire town.

It was a wildfire of a rumor.

The rumor spread to one town after another. By the end of the week, the rumor had spread across the county, gaining strength as it spread, reshaping itself as it grew stronger with each new county it invaded.

Did you hear the rumor? Did you hear what they did? Isn’t it disgusting? How can people be so sinful?

The wildfire became a conflagration, consuming every county in the state, consuming the state, and eventually every state in the lower forty-eight. Alaska was delayed, thanks to Canada; Hawaii was spared.

Three persons dared to quash the rumor, the monstrosity that the rumor had become. Those individuals were apprehended, branded as enemies of the faith, and promptly silenced. Of course, they had become the flashpoint of yet another rumor.


Fred D. White


Fred D. White’s work has appeared in Confrontation, Michigan Quarterly Review, Other Voices, Pleiades, Southwest Review, Writer’s Digest, etc. His most recent book is *Where Do You Get Your Ideas? A Writer’s Guide to Transforming Notions into Narratives* (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012).



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