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Raymond Deej just lives in Idaho with his kids. That’s it. They make the rules.

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How We Come to Remain 

Raymond Deej

I’d been sweating it out. A cockatoo got in my sill and had spoken in tongues to me. Later he brought a wet diaper and chattered drunkenly, yet still in tongues and for several hours. Afterward the trash man stood in my door and demanded my load. I said:

“What? What! There’s no load here. Get out! I take mine across the street!”

Then I went down the hall to Riley’s for one of his spiritual adjustments. Clearly it had been a while. He wasn’t there.

A few children scurried by. Their mother was on a tear. Nowhere to be found.

“Where is your mother?” I called.

“In Wanda’s!” they returned.

I went up and knocked.

Hey hey hey hey! Hey in there!”

I went in. It was very bad. The chair, the hideabed, beneath the maroon card table. Very, very bad. I stepped back into the kitchen and set my hands on the counter and heaved and faltered. From a low lit room a boy dragged a dead python, coming only so far through the door before dropping its midsection and turning to me.

“Sal,” he said.


“You’re looking well.”

Don’t satirize!

The boy stared.

“Well,” I said. “What do you think about all this?”

He looked about himself, to where I’d done, then lastly to a hunk of meat set alone atop the stove, blackened and crusted over the burner, a flame-thrown elephant turd.

“It’s not great,” he said.

“Can I adopt you?”


“All right. I need to turn away. Bring a few things, but be quick.”

I turned and rubbed the sweat out of my eyes. I heard him try the snake again, which gave me grief. I didn’t want the snake, even dead. I didn’t want to bury it in the night between the slope and the Chevy with a hand shovel. Soon enough he quit again, went into the room and returned with a rubber ball and a pillow. I took these and he went back. He kissed the women’s cheeks and nudged the man. Nothing reciprocated. Then we left.

In the stairwell I dropped the ball. It went all around and down to the bottom. He looked at me.

“I’ve got nerves right now,” I said.

We went down the extra seven flights and he retrieved it, swapping me his pillow, holding now the ball in both hands and against his chest, as if it were a doll, and we went back up the extra seven.

In my apartment I set his pillow on the mattress and we took up two chairs in opposite corners, he with the ball, me with some change in my breast pocket and burgeoning hip and sphincter pain.

“We need to get jobs,” I said.

He nodded.

“That will be our big start. I’ve got nerves, but this is good.”

He didn’t say anything, though I could see for the most part he thought on the snake—how it had perished. Really, how it had perished, as I believed he did not know the cause, and struggled to negotiate never knowing it.

This happened twenty or twenty-five days ago. I was fifty and he was eleven. Today, he is eleven and I am fifty, and we remain in our same corners and I say similar things—a man needs only the idea. And the boy is generally what he was, while I have not been making it to the bathroom like I should, which he’s been gracious to ignore. His lips purse and his mouth turns a slight, but he doesn’t say anything. I towel myself and return and say:

“Jesse. Good news. I own a hand shovel from my oldest sister.”

But he waves me off. I believe he is past it.

It would be a mess now, anyway.

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