Good by B.R. Hostetter

July 26, 2012 Comments Off on Good by B.R. Hostetter

Guts shot, the man lay at the 7/11’s front door. I pulled my baby aside. She tugged back and went to the man. Got to her knees. “Quit it,” I told her. She had her finger in the man’s belly. She brought her finger to her mouth and sucked it. “Quit it,” I said again, and took her hand in mine. My baby fought back. “I thought it was jam,” she told me, whimpering. I shook my head. “It is,” I said, “If jam’s what pumps from your fingers down to your toes.” My baby turned red. I apologized. Bent and held her in my bosom. “Look,” she said, and pointed. “The man’s foot. It’s moving.” She waved her finger at the body, then crammed it – again, without thinking – in her mouth. “Ouch,” she said. My baby had bit her finger. “Get that out your mouth,” I said, and pulled on her collar, shoving her under my arm.

The man sat up. Worked his jaw. Cracked his neck. He stood and dusted himself off.

“Your guts,” my baby said, and hid her finger behind her.

“Hell,” the man said, and took his guts in his hand. He stuffed them back into his belly then wiped his bloodstained palms on his dirtied jeans. “What does a guy have to do to pass in this damn place.”

My baby cowered behind me. She stuck her head out and asked who had shot him.

“Like it matters,” he said. “Whoever, they’ll get theirs. Stuck like the rest of us in this hell-hole.”

The man got up and shambled off without saying another word. His guts had toppled out. They trailed behind as he turned the corner.

“I’m starving,” my baby said, forgetting the man whose guts had been shot.

“I know, baby.”

The cashier eyeballed us. Eye in the back of his head; rather his good eye had been thrown over his shoulder so to dangle and peep at whoever went down the aisle.

“I’m starving,” my baby said again.

“I know. I know, sweetie.”

I shoved a loaf of bread under my arm, grabbed my baby, turned tail and booked it – knowing if my guts got shot, if my head got lopped off I’d be stuck here like the rest. What’s good anyway? Feeding a baby if she’s starving?

“We’ll inherit the earth,” I tell my baby, and rush around the corner, sure not to slip on the trail of red mess the man left behind, mudding up the place.

© 2012 B.R. Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

Onion Soup by B.R. Hostetter

March 26, 2012 Comments Off on Onion Soup by B.R. Hostetter

Catherine will leave you, you’re sure. She insists she won’t, but you don’t believe it. She tells you you’re emotionally unavailable, that you can’t cry. You don’t know what to tell her, so you say, “Sit.”

“Why am I sitting?”

“I have a surprise for you.”

“What kind of surprise?”

“You’ll have to wait and see.”

“Oh, you know I don’t like surprises.”

“This you’ll like.”

“But Jeremy—”

“Just sit, okay.”

“I don’t know why, but okay.”

In the kitchen, you have six onions, olive oil, sugar, two cloves of garlic (minced), chicken stock (not beef), a cup of dry vermouth (because you prefer it over dry white wine), a bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, eight slices of toasted French bread, and grated Parmesan Cheese.

“You’re still there, aren’t you?”

“I am,” she says.

“I’ll only be a little while.”

“Jeremy, you know I have little patience.”

“I know, but please—”

In a large saucepan you sauté the onions in the olive oil until well browned (not burned); you do this for thirty minutes (no longer or else you’ve ruined it).

I’m in here loving you,” you say.

“What?”

You shuffle a pot and a pan.

“What? I didn’t hear you,” she aks.

“Almost done,” you reply.

“I’m getting tired, Jeremy.”

“I know. I know. Just a little bit longer.”

You add sugar; carmelization it’s called. You add garlic and sauté for another minute. You add your stock, vermouth, bay leaf, and thyme. You partially cover the pan and simmer. You want your flavors to blend just right; this takes about thirty minutes. You’re sweating.

“Still there?”

“Not for long. You’re taking forever.”

“Please, Catherine, another couple of minutes.”

You season to taste with your salt and pepper. You toss in the bay leaf; you do this because the recipe says so. To serve you pull out a large bowl and then two smaller bowls. You ladle the soup into the two bowls. You cover each with sliced French bread and then Parmesan cheese. You broil the two until the cheese bubbles and is slightly brown.

“I’m leaving,” you hear.

“No wait,” you say.

“Jeremy, I’ve had enough. What are you doing in there?”

You pull out your last onion because the first did nothing. You slice it more and more, but nothing. Sweat pours from your forehead.

“Jeremy, I can’t wait any longer.”

You chop and you chop, but the onion does nothing.

“Okay,” you say. “I’m coming.”

You set the two bowls down.

“I made you soup,” you say.

“Jeremy, you’re crying.”

“No,” you say. “It’s only sweat.”

© 2012 B.R. Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

The Plan By B.R. Hostetter

February 6, 2012 Comments Off on The Plan By B.R. Hostetter

The plan is to kill Ben. At precisely 5 AM a 40 lb. microwave falls on his head – splat. He doesn’t know this though, not yet. At precisely 4 AM his clock radio blasts, and he rolls over. He scratches his belly, his backside too, and after, falls out of bed. The plan is, he wallops the clock because Soul Asylum is playing. The question “Are you up in the middle of the night?” isn’t something he wants to hear so early, especially not from any Grammy award-winning alternative rock band circa 1992 (how he knows this he doesn’t care to admit). So Ben slams the damn thing, and the words “There’s no way out” gurgles and then finally goes out. The plan is he rises and stretches and thinks whether he should shower – wash his face, scrub his rear – or not and go ahead and shave his craggy mug, brush his furry teeth, and comb the curly black mop that swallows his nut whole. He decides against the shower, but still cleans his face. He stares at the mirror: filmy eyes carried by two swollen bags; crow’s feet marching across a crater-laden forehead; complexion like a piebald cow – white while incongruent sun kiss splotches paint haphazard rings from ear to ear. And the plan is, Ben scoffs at his reflection, thinks, “Damn-it;” thinks also: Portrait of a failed artist as an old man – (he doesn’t care to admit his BA in English has gotten him nowhere, like the beginnings of every story he’d ever written) – and he takes a whiff of his underarm and thinks of the opening: “‘The dead smell,’ says the boy, pinching his nose at me.” Ben presses pause on the thought and imagines himself old and wrinkly: peepers gone cataract; skin loose and droopy like Play-Doh left far too long in the sun; thinning black strings, falling shy of a furrowed brow – hair that’s also found home to ears and nose. Ben shakes loose the thought and figures to go ahead with his tepid coffee and burnt toast. The plan is for him to check his wristwatch next, for him to read half past the hour. But he blinks and thinks he sees 4:29 rather than 4:30. He decides to shave his face after all, while the shower, he figures, can wait. He spends the extra minute picking at his face and popping zits at the mirror. He connects the mess with his finger and makes out constellations. “Cassiopeia,” he says, and after wipes away the muck with the back of his hand. Precisely thirty-two minutes go by, him measuring out his life in smeared zit goop.

Ben stares at the boy sweeping the mess.

“You’re late,” he says.

The plan is, Ben dies, but he’s precisely one minute late, so he stares at the microwave and its pieces.

“I’d rather die than spend another minute here.” – a good beginning, he figures, a new plan.

© 2011 B.R. Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

Hair by B.R. Hostetter

January 26, 2012 Comments Off on Hair by B.R. Hostetter

Jillian made her mind up she’d leave him. “Edmund,” she called, and checked her face in the mirror. She tried for a smile but her mouth wouldn’t curl. Her lips turned down. She dug the bottom of her purse for lipstick and powder but found only mothballs and lint. “Are you listening?” she said.

“What is it?” he said. His voice came from the other room where he sat nursing a cup of tepid coffee she had poured him. 

“I’m leaving,” she said. “Didn’t you hear?”

“I heard,” he said. “Where are you going?”

“To get my hair done,” she said.

“Again?” he said.

“Not again. I want something new.”

“You look fine the way you are.”

“I look tired.”

“You don’t look tired.”

“I look tired,” she said, and leaned forward and turned her head one way then the other and traced the crow’s feet from her eyes to her ears where she then pushed back her hair and tied it in a knot.

“Maybe it’s sleep you need,” he said.

“It’s not sleep,” she said.

“Maybe it’s age. We all get old.”

“It’s not age. It’s something else.”

“Maybe it’s work,” he said. “Is it work?”

“Aren’t you listening?”

“I’m listening,” he said.

“Tell me what I said.”

“You’re getting your hair done.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” she said, and left the mirror and went to him where he sat, sipping the cup of coffee – unmoved.

“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” he said.

“That’s just it, Edmund. Have you ever complimented my hair?”

“Would you like me to compliment your hair? Is that it? Is that something you like? Your hair looks fine the way it is. I like it.”

“I’m tired, Edmund. I need a change.”

“Change is for the unhappy.”

“Now you’re listening, Edmund.”

“I’ve been listening all along. Your hair looks fine the way it is.”

“My mind’s made up.”

“I know it is. I can see it is. Just don’t go cutting too much.”

Jillian left Edmund where he sat, sipping the coffee gone cold.

“How would you like it?” the hairdresser said.

“Shave it,” Jillian said.

“Shave it?” the hairdresser said.

“Shave it,” Jillian said again. “I want to feel new again.” Jillian smiled and tucked her chin to her chest and checked the mirror. “I made my mind up,” she said.  

The hairdresser nodded. And Jillian knew the woman had heard her. 

2011 B.R. Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

Life’s Sentence by B.R. Hostetter

December 5, 2011 Comments Off on Life’s Sentence by B.R. Hostetter

The first sentence: an explanation; rather a fragment that, after having been written, then leads into character – a man (ninety-eight to be exact, an age that implies: perfect baldness, wrinkled and thin lips, drooping eyes, elbows like daggers – though home to bags of saggy skin like handfuls of putty or two runny eggs – crooked and yellow dentures like rows of Chiclets and candy corn – irises gone gray and cataract, peepers like doll eyes that peer out a complexion not rosy but pallid and that’s crater-laden, just beneath a piebald crown – a breeding ground for sun kisses and incongruent liver spots – a voice wholly weak and that rasps under all circumstances like hearing a mocking bird choke on a dozen blueberries – a bladder the size of a green pea, and a ballooned prostate that, under duress, inflates and assumes the role of a cantankerous adjunct to the system – a urinary tract squeezed to the diminutive size of a wheat strand like the stringy feed once crammed in the mouth on hot summer days, when tilling the acre his family had so to make a buck or two – and the inability to move from one end of the tiny, dimly lit apartment to the other where, in the corner, on the bruised bureau, black and white photographs sit inert, framed smiles fading – a collection of years spent patrolling Beijing, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam – a trove of Polly, then Marie, and finally Clair who died last April due to arrhythmic complications) craggy and old, who’s characterized and then named: Victor Bloomfield – and after rolls over, but barely, into plot that’s short and thin, for he’s lived a full life; seen the world; loved and lost; buried friends and family; worked and retired; had his breakfast of burnt toast and tepid water; and finally rolled over one last time after having urinated himself, took a strained breath, said nothing because who’s he to talk to, and died as the sentence came to an end.

© 2011 Ben Hostetter

Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.

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