Category Archives: Lou Freshwater

Charley by Lou Freshwater

My house is on a dirt road that drops off on both sides into deep ditches that always have at least an inch of water in them. I live here with my mama. She has a mess of black hair and she always smells like she’s been soakin’ in spring. She goes to work at night. She works at a bar where the soldiers come when they get leave. We’ve been here near four years now. Since I was nine. Our house is tight and slanty. Long time ago, someone painted the wood blue and I never have been able to figure out why, cause now it looks like the place where the sky got washed away. It has one bedroom so I sleep in the livin’ room cause mama is tired after work and she needs her bed. It’s also cause sometimes she brings the soldiers home with her. They sometimes need a dose of home she says. But I wish they could get their dose somewhere else. When they are here, it makes me feel like I’m the only person in the world, like nothin’ is real. One night, I heard one of them singing to Mama, and when we get behind closed doors, she lets her hair hang down, and he kept goin’ on an on, so I took my pillow and I crawled under the couch and all the sudden I didn’t feel like I was alone anymore, and in that darkness everything felt real again.

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She tells me I am already gone by Lou Freshwter

The new nurse wheels me into the theatre. It isn’t easy to navigate
the small space between the stage and the front row of seats. She
turns my chair until she’s able to fit me into place at the end of the
row. Sixty-years ago I was an actor. I controlled the emotions of
rooms like this. Now I cannot even control one hour of my life. I am
trapped in this body with hunched shoulders. Rusted wire hands covered
with skin that tears like nightmare rice paper. Watery eyes, washed
out eyes. Bones that never stop humming with ache. Muscles that hang
there, dying, saying no. A mouth that is always dry, choked with dry.

Without moving anything except my eyes, I am able to see a woman. She
is perfect. Her hair, straight and blond, like light. She tucks it
behind her ear, and I see the small pearl earring she has chosen. Her
sweater scoops just below her collarbone, that most beautiful part of
a woman. She looks at the man next to her. She smiles and looks down
at her fingers and she begins to move her fingertips around her thigh,
like she is tracing letters there. She looks towards me. But she does
not look at me. Then she looks at everything around me, but not at me.
Usually I get the small smiles women give old men, like we’re stuffed
animals, no longer predatory, not really alive. But she won’t even
give me that.

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Spaces by Lou Freshwater

“March snow doesn’t fall, it dives,” Joyce said looking out the window.

“It’s pretty though. And sometimes the flakes are so big and wet they look little tea doilies,” Ellen said, looking, too.

“You always see the bright side, Ellen. Always. It could be snowing rat shit and you’d see chocolate chips.”

“You know, Joyce, I don’t always see the world like that. It’s just that I don’t see it like you do, like some dark closet that keeps shrinking all the time.”

“Whatever. There’s freedom in being a realist.”

“Are you still thinking about moving back to New Jersey? Your life would be so much better if you weren’t always scraping by.”

“New Jersey fucking sucks. It’s like some dredged up dystopian nightmare.”

“My god, Joyce, even if we weren’t born here, and even if I wasn’t raising my two children here, that would still be an awful thing to say.”

“I’m staying where I am. New York is the only place in the world that’s man enough to handle me.”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“How sweet.”

“You know, Sis, you are right, I shouldn’t be sweet, or kind to you, I
should be honest. I should say that New York doesn’t handle you it just tolerates you just like the other toxic chemicals it is forced to process day in and day out.”

“Fuck you,” Joyce said, as she wrapped her arms around herself, and
squeezed her eye shut in order to imprison the tear.

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Wife by Lou Freshwater

On the day she died my mind was flooded with images of her, mixed up, no order, just chaos taking up space as if to hold back the absence which was beginning to take its own form and which over the next days and weeks would strike me down, not until I was on my knees but well after, grinding my curled up and hopeless body with the gravity it alone controlled until the pain and loss felt as if it was breaking my bones not by snaps, but by a slow ache and giving in to the pressure. In these days I wanted to escape the images, and there were so few ways to help me do this. Even drugs and alcohol only softened the edges, blurred the center, slowed the herky-jerky slides of her living a life she no longer had. We, no longer had. But years have passed now, and those images have changed or disappeared. What used to be a scene has broken into fragments and blips of her on a screen I can’t control or manipulate. I feel a crushing guilt about this. I wished her away. I begged her to stop coming. I could not take the pain I should have been able to endure. And now, as time unfolds in front of me, I wonder what will be left of her. Will I be able to see her when I need to, or will she completely retreat into an unbearable blind spot.

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Glass by Lou Freshwater

Her bulldozer of a husband died five years ago. But she stayed with him for years and she was his wife and their mother and their grand-mother, and she performed with the gentleness of a floating feather and the kindness of the spring breeze which carries it. She smiled, and never did any harm. She loved, but never too deep. After her husband’s reign ended when he dropped to his knees in the kitchen as life choked out of him, she didn’t change much except for the big white oceanfront house that she built. It was lovely and airy and stocked full of food the grandchildren loved to eat and toys they loved to play with. She passed the time by collecting smooth sea glass along the shore. It wasn’t long before the first large vase was full with the dull colors of glass made quiet by the grit of the sand and the surges and groans of the salty seawater. After that, she began to fill more and more vases, giving them away and starting again. One morning she was on her walk, gathering up the sea glass that had been brought to her, when she was hit by the sharpest pain in the tenderest part of her foot.

She felt the warmth of blood and she ground her teeth and she looked down at the jagged broken shell pushed into the sand by her weight, and she looked at the sea, and she screamed her spite.

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Games by Lou Freshwater

My daddy would knock-down about half of his case of Bud before the first game started. Me and him lived in a one bedroom house on a county road. I slept on the pea-green sofa bed, and on game days we put it back into a couch and we sat and watched whatever we could get with the rabbit ears, I picked a team with pretty colors, pretty to me anyways, and I tried to root for them. I tried to like the game best I could, better than most girls I’d say. I also learned to figure on how drunk Daddy was by the way he moved, by how slow or fast he talked, by how many times an hour he told me to get him another beer, by the way he crinkled the can in his big hand and how far he threw it when he was done. I was always careful not to make him mad cause by the second game he would usually be telling me I wasn’t going to amount to nothing. I was going to scrub rich people’s toilets for a living. But I was always proving how wrong he was, and sometimes he thought the plays I said they should do were the ones they should do. I don’t remember exactly all Daddy’s favorite teams, I just remember I always wanted him to win.

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Love by Lou Freshwater

The last time they made love she could feel the hint of pain and loss which would become her. There were still the moments of god she always knew with him, but there was a confusion that began to interrupt what had been the silence that could only be heard when she took someone she loved like that inside. When she took them inside of everything she was, will be, and had been. The last time they made love there was a strange separation, a fluid wall of water which could not be pushed or pulled or moved. She could only dig her nails into the warmth of him in order to quiet it, to calm it, to bully it. The last time they made love there was a her and a him, but always there was also them. The last time they made love she loved the smell of his unwashed hair, his statue calves, his blond eyes and soft and rough lips, the way he took control of her hips. She loved him in ways she could never make him believe. She loved him. The last time they made love she loved him so much she forgot to breathe. A moment which would become all she could think of, because the last time she made love to him she had no idea it would be the last time they made love.

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