I grew a mustache way too early and happily combed its delicate length every morning before school. The other children looked on in admiration, their lunch trays heavy with stiff Salisbury steaks and the bloated deliciousness of Hostess cherry fruit pies.
Samantha never seemed to notice. It was Samantha I wished to impress.
I once cricked my neck admiring her. Well worth it, well worth it! Had to stay home for a day. My nose bled as usual so I fed it to the cat, which lapped the blood up greedily from my lips. In the shower I cried, but from elation you understand! For breakfast I microwaved a croissant and jacked it open with a finger until the hole was big enough to wiggle my tongue into.
My mother spent the afternoon guzzling pork-slap and slathering mayo on warm white bread. My father drove through town looking desperately for lumber. I sat swaddled in a blue sheet watching The Price is Right, twisting the corners of my mustache, and thinking of Samantha.
After a while the crick wore off and I walked to the Piggly Wiggly to troll the aisles for a snack.
Outside, a black-fisted giant poked a long finger into the open mouth of a gumball machine. Something was lodged in the way. His daughter straddled a stationary galloping horse with fire painted in its eyes.
Inside I bought a jar of pearl onions from a cashier who stared directly down into the trellis of my mustache.
At home my big brother smoked Old Golds wearing his thick-skinned deer gloves. He was always reading some book called Desert Tooth. His mustache was twice as long as mine, but he was twice as old. He had a date with a Chinese girl. I asked him again what he was reading and he reached deep into his mouth with his fingers and threw gum at me.
The phone rang out and I stumbled into the kitchen. It was Samantha. Could I go swimming in Old Blue with balloons in our underwear to keep us afloat?
Certainly, I said.
– Ryan MacDonald is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he received an MFA in English and an MFA in studio art. His solo and collaborative work has been exhibited or performed at Foundain Studios, New York Live Arts, The Continental Review, Flying Object, and St. Mark’s Church, and elsewhere.
Copyright © 2014 by Ryan MacDonald from The Observable Characteristics of Organisms. Reprinted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.