Petey and I are lying on our tummies next to an anthill, watching a troop dragging a beetle.
Petey says, “Will I die?”
I missed school the day they taught you what to answer when your five-year-old wants to talk about his death.
Petey’s eyes are wide-open, the blue could sink a ship and I need a beer. A Scotch would be better. I promised Chantelle I wouldn’t drink when the boy is over. She said she didn’t give a damn what I did the rest of the fucking week, but if Petey told her I’d been drinking, poof, say bye to the visiting privileges. I held back and didn’t tell her she’s a fucking bitch.
Petey is waiting for his answer. He can outwait me any day.
“Everything dies,” I tell him. “It’s OK. You’ll live a long, long time and have lots of adventures. You don’t have to worry about dying.”
He ponders. “What’s a virus?” he says.
My head is going to crack open. When I don’t take pills, I don’t sleep and when I take them, I lose track of what I am doing, the time of day, the day of the week. Haven’t slept since Thursday.
“A virus is like a monster,” I say. “It tries to hurt people but the doctors are sharpening the right sword to cut off his head.”
“If I get a sharp sword and lop off your head, will you die?” Petey says. Chantelle quizzes him about his weekends with me, I’m sure, just looking for a misstep. Lopping off my head sounds like her idea.
“At Bulk Barn,” I tell him, “they have a bin of dried ants. We’ll make chocolate sauce, stir them in, munch yummy snacks before we head to McDonald’s.”
His eyes light up. “Gross,” he says approvingly.
Tomorrow we’ll go in search of praying mantis, study mating behavior. I won’t bring a flask.
describes his vocation as dreaming—clutching onto hope, even in turbulent times. His work has been published widely, in SmokeLong Quarterly, FRIGG, Hobart, Green Mountains Review, New World Writing, New Flash Fiction Review, Jellyfish Review, and Peacock Journal, among others. He has won the Reflex Fiction contest and the New Rivers Press American Fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He continues to be astonished.