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Bradford Tice


I used to date a boy in Loudon, Tennessee, who once took me out

to the pasture behind his parents’ house—midsummer heat,

life loud in the dry grass, and in the shade of some live oaks,

their hindquarters jerking, hair either slick with sweat

or just glistening, stood a cord of horses, five in number.    

The boy had pointed out a dark bay, black as the skin of wild grapes,

and said, “That one there’s mine. Name’s Nigger, for the time

he threw me when I was eight.” It feels odd now to admit

that I had heard him. How the moment rested there, taut,

like a yellow jacket shooed from the opened flesh of a peach.     

What could have possessed me, one might ask, and it was a kind

of possession. We spent that summer making love

in his old room, the boy trying to convince me that the house’s

other occupants were all tongueless and deaf. Once his mother

had come and knocked at his shut door, the two of us inside,

a bottle of his grandfather’s homemade wine leaned against

the boy’s bare stomach between us, taste of it sour on his lips,

like metal or soiled jeans. She had said in a voice too clipped,

“It’s a lovely day. Don’t you want to take your friend outside?”

as if we were still children, boys—the boy twenty-one,

me a year older. So I guess we were. Too young to know the weight

of the thing we were doing, how loudly it whispered, his hands

pressing me down to the bed, his dark hair just out of his eyes.

That’s how we ended up in the pasture, the boy’s mother watching

from the house. She knew what I was, what it meant that her son

had brought me here to the house he grew up in, although she kept

her mouth tight as nut hulls. I’m not sure now whether she was able

to see us through the low trees, but hoping and not hoping she might,

I hooked a finger into the back pocket of the her son’s jeans, tight

against his ass as we wore them then. I remember thinking he was

too beautiful for me. Too perfect. The way he carried himself,

the set of those hips, the easy drawl, the way he held my arms

behind my back when he turned to kiss me, hurting me

a little, although I did not tell him as much—how we fell easily

into that position, as if practiced, as if each of us knew our place.   

North American Review
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Cedar Falls, IA 50614

Phone: 319-273-6455


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