Category Archives: Robert Vaughan

Buried by Robert Vaughan

She crushes out a cigarette on the patio. Shakes her head.

“Trent’ll call soon,” I say. “You’ll see.”

But we both know he won’t. The plane went down in the Hindu Kush.

Over a week ago. Still missing. A celebrated pilot in the air force. That’s where we’d all met, Pensacola boot camp in 2005.

Then Debbie and I both got pregnant. Return tickets home. We were lucky to score jobs at the Wal-Mart in Keene.

She still doesn’t know it was the same guy.


She lights another Marlboro.

I grab it from her. Extinguish it.

“It’s all I have,” she pleads.

“Debbie don’t,” I say. “Think of your kid.”


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Implications by Robert Vaughan

The moment I opened the door, I knew something was wrong. He paced in the kitchen, told me how, not why.

“Let’s sit down,” I said. I turned off Entertainment Tonight. My hand shook as I set down the remote.

“She came at me with a knife. I had to do it. She was gonna kill me.” He covered his face with his hands.

“Where…is she?”

He stood up as if to go. Sat back down. “I buried her.”

Shocked, I knew what we had to do. “Does anybody else know?”

Shook his head no.

“We have to call the police.”

“NO-” he protested. “Mom, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mark. But you told me.” My voice shook. “Now I’m implicated.” I waited for him to respond, but he just sat there, head hung. “When you’re ready, make that call. Don’t force me to.”

While he dialed, my heart nailed itself to the cross. Everything we’d worked for, poured ourselves into. Gone. I couldn’t breathe. Our only son.

After he hung up he said, “Do you have any chocolate milk?”


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Matron by Robert Vaughan

Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley says, “Call me Peg.”

Has a lifetime supply of Aqua Net.
Swims naked in her sixty square foot fishtank.
Dances the lindy, sits under picnic tables.
Whistles a multitude of birdcalls.
Is batshit about Badger games.

“She was a bitch,” her maid, Opal recalls.

Daphne says, “A gem, a true-blue friend.”


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Cold Front by Robert Vaughan


The way those Hot Wheels track welts felt on my ass.


Before I fucked every member of the Coalition of the Willing.


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When He Calls by Robert Vaughan

Eight years later, the telephone rang. I heard that familiar husky voice.

Hung up. Backed away from the kitchen, my heart leading the way.

Shrunk down the hall toward the bedroom. What could I say? I was done, finished.

Thought I was resolved.

My husband came into the room. “Who was it,” he asked. Then he looked at me, bent over the dresser. And he knew. “No way.”

I nodded.

“Get the fuck out. Seriously?”

The phone rang again.

“You want me to answer it?” he asked.

I shook my head no. Picked it up, jittery. “What do you want, Dad?”


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Loneliness by Robert Vaughan

The two lovers recline, sweaty, exhausted, bodies entwined.

He clears his throat, says, “That was great. You’re really something, ya know?”

She arches her back, moves her leg off his. Whispers, “You too.” Now is not the time to get into it. She forces a smile, says, “I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be here,” he says. Pats her butt as she stands up.

She stares into the bathroom mirror above the sink. My god, how you’ve changed. It’s not the deepening lines. Or her marble green eyes, getting weaker, fuzzy. It’s not the minute scar on her neck, her last melanoma removed.

Nothing will appease the growing pit in her stomach. It gnaws at her from the inside out. No longer a blind spot, it defines her.


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Watching Them by Robert Vaughan

I notice the finches have returned to our feeders today. I miss Dad; he would have been the first to notice. He adored swapping stories about birds. Who are the newcomers, any returners, which peckers.

Jimmy was on his tenth game of xBox. And Donna lay on the couch, glued to the tv. Glomming down a bag of pretzel rods. I switched it off. “Enough,” I said.

“Mom,” she complained.

“You can practice piano, do schoolwork, anything but vegging out on the couch.” I felt hypocritical, recalling those scores of after-school movies I watched at her age.

“Studies show-”

“Yeah, whatever.” Donna shuffled off to her room, her 5 foot 2 frame carrying enough weight for both of them.

I sighed. Back out the window, I notice the Blazer in the Wilkinson’s driveway, our snowbird neighbors are back from Florida. I hope I’d remembered to put Jack Wilkinson’s porn DVDs back in alphabetical order. By title, just like he prefers them.

A robin flies past, an assortment of twigs in her beak, building a nest in the lilac bush. Her mate is perched, at attention.

Do they watch them together? Those movies?

I was going to tell my husband, then I decided it would be my secret. I’m sure he has some. He doesn’t even know the Wilkinsons asked me to watch their things.

Actually, what Alice said was, “Keep an eye on the house.”


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New Pets by Robert Vaughan

“You want another one?” he asked in a voice meant for church. He always sounded expectant, as if he was waiting for me to become a better person.

“I’m still eating this,” I said, sticking out my tongue to reveal the cantaloupe lifesaver. I noticed my nails, how long they’d gotten, more like claws. I noticed my shell ring. It was half missing, not a good sign.

We were in his Camaro on a sticky July night. We’d just made out, bodies gnashing. My lips still tingled, my skin burned from the entire day at Stimson Beach. “You going to invite me in?”

He shrugged. His shaggy locks fell over his forehead like a wig that was too far forward. “Sure. But I have to warn you. I have something new.”

My brain raced as we walked toward his porch- another woman, lost his job, STD? We stood in his cluttered living room, he flipped on a light. Might have been better in the dark.

“I have a new pet,” he said. “Follow me.”

Great. I hate cats, not crazy about dogs. Birds nauseate me, hampsters scare me. He was leading me toward the bathroom. “Don’t tell me it’s a freaking turtle.”

“Shhh,” he turned around, finger held to those lips. Switched on a flashlight, slowly opening the door, as if a dinosaur might eat us.

I swallowed, hard.

And there, floating in the bathtub: a yellow-striped baby alligator. Those lifeless eyes glared at us, eyes I will never forget.


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Dew Drop Inn by Robert Vaughan

I was late to the square dance bar for guys with O.C.D. It was fully underway but before I stepped into the Dew Drop Inn, I had to circle back to my car thirty steps one way, three times, circle the car three times, thirty steps total, then click my alarm beeper three times off/on, off/on, off/on. Ah, better.

I’d hoped they’d all be in two straight lines, the way we used to choose partners in gym class. It’d had been ages since I’d square danced, or danced at all. But Benny said, c’mon, you’ll have fun. All the guys are a blast.

When I entered the room, he waved to me from the floor. I don’t wave, it confuses people. As I hung up my coat, I did a quick scan, counting heads, relieved to find there were thirty-six dancers, four couples formed nine squares, but the caller made me anxious.

I joined Benny, the first song was Abba, and everybody sang along. I abhor pop music. Only listen to waltzes and was hoping we’d start with the Blue Danube. Benny reminded me it’s not Ballroom Dancing. He led me around the circle while the barker called things out of alphabetical order, like “heads promenade” (fourteen letters, shit!) before “allemande left” (same…fuck!)

Just didn’t make sense. Felt like two left feet, or fifteen toes or I’m just not cut out for this inane activity in a room filled with whirling dervishes.


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Moving to Los Angeles by Robert Vaughan

Lucy pastes pink post-it notes on her dashboard. She is driving to Los Angeles to complete her Indie screenplay about lovers who eat each other, part by part until there is no ‘other’ left.

Some post-it notes have JOE at the top. Some say LIS for Lisbon which Lucy knows is a place but thinks, well, there are people named Dallas or Madison.

JOE is changing, becoming more and more of an asshole. By the time Lucy reaches the New Mexico state line, JOE is a perfect fuckhead. He’s seeing three other women (all named for European cities, like Sofia) and lies to them all. He’s also a sodomizer, and fronts a band that gets five or ten people to a gig. So, he’s getting fucked, too. JOE figures we all are.

By the time Lucy hits the Mohave desert, LIS decides to stop stripping (or being a dominatrix?) LIS wants to be a bilingual teacher in East LA. Lucy scribbles ‘town?’

JOE and LIS love baseball and attend a Dodger game. They get to the stadium early and tailgate, partying, listening to Los Lobos.

1st inning, they finish their first six-pack.

During the 4th inning, JOE uses the restroom, never returns.

6th inning, LIS catches a Cubs pop fly in her gaping mouth. She is unable to breathe and she suffocates. They serve her as a buffet entrée for a Chinese New Year fundraiser in downtown Los Angeles. JOE’s band is in the entertainment line-up.


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The Avoidance by Robert Vaughan

As a rule, people avoided him. Whether he was bowling, in line at the ATM, or drunk-dialing his iPhone waiting for the M103 on Houston Street and Avenue A, they steered clear. Bar patrons even ignored him during a drag show at Barracuda.

Over time, he’d developed a “laissez faire” attitude. His mantra was “let it be,” and he’d chant the chorus repeatedly like a koan. He grew a tortoise- like shell, masking his pain. Home alone, he’d put on a wig, sculpt layers of make-up, using centerfold cut-outs for inspiration. He’d croon along with his favorite ballads, performing to cheering fans.

One summer night in 2007 while preparing his routine, CNN leaked the news: a senator was caught in a public bathroom. An idea came to him: what if I try his tactics with a twist?

He decided to give it a whirl in the toilets at Grand Central Station. He stopped by Wigs and Plus on 14th Street where the owner, Sunny, would sell him a cheap hairpiece “for his mother.” Then he’d prop himself in the furthest stall from the door on Sunday morning. Wig in place. Like a parishioner. Or a TV evangelist. Or a congressman.

On the way home, he’d stop at Magnolia’s for a cupcake. “It’s all about service,” he’d say to no-one in particular while he devoured his dessert.


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No More I Love You’s by Robert Vaughan

For someone who’s barely
acknowledged me, he now
oozes I love you…

I love you…
so much that I

I liked it better
before, left up
to me. When I had

no clue. I found

peace in that
silent forest.



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The Capitalist by Robert Vaughan

“Greed is good,” Kennith Andrews said. He finished shaving, and he smiled at the image in the marbled mirror. He liked this week’s mantra, downloaded from and taped on his moisturizer bottle.

He stretched his neck, had he slept well? Sleep. His nemesis. He could sleep on planes, as he had yesterday from Thailand to Oahu. His laptop powered on: seventy unread e-mails, double spam. Too many and not enough time. Never enough. He took a bite of his bagel. Sighed.

His iPhone rang. Wells-Fargo Bank. Open this early? He answered.

“Mr. Andrews?” A woman’s voice.

“Yes, what can I do for you?” He disliked business calls, they might trace his location. Could misuse the information somehow.

“Mrs. Shelton from Wells-Fargo. I’m sorry to inform you, there’s been some recent alarming activity with your savings account. Are you aware of this?”

“Alarming how?” Kennith walked to the blinds, peered out. Sickening sunlight. A neighbor speed-walked her dachshund.

“Sir, our records show that during the past twenty-four hours, your account was drained.”

“Dr-drained?” He couldn’t swallow.

“Yes, sir. The original balance of 478,000 dollars is now 2.78.” Complete silence on the other end.

“But, that’s impossible. I’ve been home this entire time. And no one but me has access. No one.”

“The activity was mostly between 2 and 4 a.m.”

“How? I was asleep.” Or was he? He traced his steps into his bedroom, as if surveying the wrought iron bed, or crumpled white comforter would give him clues, anything.



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Password Profile Users: God, Love, Lust, Money and Private by Robert Vaughan


She never misses church on Sunday, leads Wednesday night Bible Study class. Her kids call her a holy roller. When her husband moves south, she starts a Christian Online Dating Service, screen name is kittykitty. She struggles between saving money for Botox or Jesus.


He’s been burned so many times he’s crispy. Downs Miller six-packs at the Trysting Place Pub. Writes sonnets that he’ll burn later in the firepit. Waiting for money at the ATM, he wants to remove his heart-shaped tattoo, cover it up with a pitchfork.


What the hell kind of name is Penfield? She wonders while he takes a leak off the back porch. She leans to see fresh bruises through curtains in dawn’s early light. She rolls too far, ends up on the bamboo-planked floor, giggling. Creepy- crawls under the bed, dials 911 on her mobile phone.


He can’t recall the last time he was paid. Money doesn’t grow on trees, his mother had told him. And yet, he glances out the finger-print smudged patio door and there, in place of leaves on his prized beech, are hundred dollar bills fluttering, Benjamin Franklin’s irises staring at buzzing breezes.


Those first days back. Horrible insomnia. 2 a.m. in their guest room, night sweats, bombs bursting in mid-air attacks. No proof, except those hacked memories he wishes he could erase. But he can’t. He opens the adjacent bedside table, retrieves his dogtags. Cradles them in his palm.


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Movie Night by Robert Vaughan

I bought us a subscription to Netflix. It was a great bonding premise, one of the rare insightful ideas my brother suggested. That way even though my lover lived on the opposite coast, Tony and I could stream movies simultaneously in our separate living rooms.

At first it was a little tough to find the time. An entire month flew by before we decided to try Wednesdays as our movie night. The first couple movies went great, well, sort of. I think he dozed during Moonstruck. Tony’s three hours ahead of me, so, I wasn’t too miffed.

Plus, Tony liked to comment during the movie. Said things like, “Why is she wearing lipstick at the gym?” or “A guy would never say that.” I tried to ignore him, but it was annoying.

Then we watched one of my favorite movies, Prince of Tides. I’d seen it gazillion times. And he wouldn’t shut up. I asked him to pause so we could talk. He just wanted to stop watching all together.

“It’s boring,” he complained.

I ignored him. “It’s like when I came to your family reunion last summer. I went, because you wanted me to.”

Tony said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s called compromising. I wanted to share one of the best movies of all time with you. The least you could do is pretend you’re enjoying it.”

There was a long pause. “This is stupid. I don’t even like movies.”

“Well, I don’t like family reunions.”


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Tying the Knot by Robert Vaughan

It was the morning after the dinner and I still lay in bed. I’d cut my thumb off the night before while carving the roast. I ended up at St. Vincent’s with my hand dripping all over the passenger seat of our Subaru, the bloody appendage throbbing.

Fortunately Dexter had popped my missing thumb into an ice bucket. It sat on the adjacent seat. Apparently his Army medic training came in handy after all.

Florescent lights. Shots. Stitches. Good meds. The rest is fuzzy.

I wasn’t really in bed, not ours, anyhow. I’d slept on a futon on the floor, passed out from combining Percocet and this new Cabo-Choc wine our friends brought from Wal-Mart.

I held up my thumb, bandaged, the pinkish tinge seeping through the outer layers of wrapping. It smelled putrid. I could just barely hear Dex chatting with our friends in the kitchen. Wah- wah- wah. Charlie Brown’s teacher.

My head pulsed, felt like a cooked coconut.

Our friends, Tina and Louise, were recently married. They were awfully patient. About my thumb, I mean. Not about getting married. Well, who knows, they might have been patient about that, too.

Dex met Louise in boot camp. Our dinner was to celebrate the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell.

Just before they’d arrived last night, I asked him, “Why didn’t we attend their ceremony?” It was just over the border, in Somerset, ten minutes from our Rhode Island beachhouse.

He’d said, “We weren’t invited.”


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The Cat’s Pajamas by Robert Vaughan

I was drawn to his checkerboard hair: half-leopard/ half-Mohair. Surly, cheeky, sarcasm oozed from his lips. He’d call me Farrah to get a rise. I pretended I didn’t like it, but any attention was better than none.

When he called me a pussy, I punched him. So hard it hurt my hand.

How I ended up in his bed seemed an entire life in one smooshed week. His two cats, Rat Boy and Martha were clueless, too.

His skull was nearly perfect, like a newborn, the way his ears parenthesized his face perfectly. Utter dome-dom.

It all started when he bought my leopard nightie.

After he’d score the occasional night shift, I’d pace, roll across the rug, clawing air.

I’d spit at Rat Boy and Martha. They’d cower, growling under the sofa.

I’d lick my entire body, starting with my hands, then head to toe, following their lead.

Eventually I became one, slept all day, twitching by night. Between naps, I’d sit at the picture window, track flights of birds.

Lure them to our feeders. Fatten them up.


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The Outlaw by Robert Vaughan

I slice my pinkie while he watches me chop carrots in his kitchen.

He’s told me endless reasons why moving in would benefit Starr and me.

He’s a good man. Wouldn’t hurt us. I know this, I believe him. But my scars run deep.

He says who makes you laugh more than I do? He opens another beer, as I run cold water from the tap.

It’s true, this outlaw.

This curmudgeon.

He’s cuddly, fuzzy, just slightly crazy.

But does he drink too much?

The water runs over my finger, the cool liquid mixes with my blood.

I watch my future run down the drain.


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Disappearance by Robert Vaughan

“If you’re looking for the river, you just missed it. Easy to miss, most people only see the billboard on that same corner.” He must have noticed how blank our faces were.

“You didn’t see the billboard either?” He scanned the camping gear in the back of our truck. “The one that says ABORTION KILLS in big purple letters?”

“Yeah, I saw it,” my wife said, then sighed, her huge belly protruding. “But we’re not looking for the river.”

“We’re looking for some cabins called Rivers Glen,” I said. “Are they back that way?”

The man stroked his beard. I noticed his eyes were two different colors, or one moved strangely, floating randomly in its socket. “They’re over in Bristol,” he pointed. “’Bout ten miles further up. Follow the river road.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said.

As we pulled away, Karla said, “Why’d you tell him where we’re staying?” She looked back through the cab window, one hand on the baby.

“I didn’t.”

“Yes, you mentioned Rivers Glen.”

“I only said we were looking.”

“Well, we’re not looking to buy, Tim.”

“You’re paranoid.” I wasn’t willing to admit it: he creeped me out, too.

“I’m sensible. You don’t go giving personal details to complete strangers. That’s all we need. Santa Claus to show up at our fire pit.”

I chuckled but knew she was right. I stared out at the stream, packets of fog in dancing patterns, soaring off the stream, their misty shapes disappearing into sunlight.


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Being Boring by Robert Vaughan

It’s been years since I last saw him. No, decades. Water under the bridge. I rejoin him at the bar, careful not to bump his walker.

“Are the bathrooms nice?” he asks. He still has that small town hush, generous wrinkles.

“See for yourself,” I taunt, glancing around the pathetic bar. Smells an odd mixture of wood-smoke and bad genes.

He laughs. His Adam’s apple bob up and down, up and down, like a two bit whore. Or a person with Parkinson’s. Like my brother. “Ask you something?

I shrug. “Sure.”

“Do you think Mom and Dad forgive us?”

“Oh jeez,” I say, “and we were having so much fun.” I pause. Take a swig, enjoy the burn. “I imagine, wherever they are, if you believe in that stuff, the afterlife, they probably aren’t focusing on us. Unless you believe that shit, too.”

He bites his lip. “So you still don’t think it’s our fault?”

We were kids. The accident was ages ago. Life altering, no question.

“I try not to look at it like that. I mean, was I driving? Sure. Was it their fault I drove because they were both too drunk? Maybe. Was it our fault that poor bastard fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into us? You tell me.” I feel blood course through my veins, and my heart pounds as hard as the day it all happened: excruciating blast, metal spark fireworks, spontaneous combustion.

The jukebox plays a Pet Shop Boys song: Being Boring.


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Figurines by Robert Vaughan

Today my mother broke every dish in the house. The Lladro Three Wisemen were the first to go. I didn’t mind, in fact, I even helped her trash those Asian figurines that loomed on the former glass shelf unit in our living room. She’d bought them when she took a Feng Shui extension program at the local college.

The whole thing took less than an hour, and when we’d finished, mom said, “Fuck your father, let’s get in the Explorer and drive to Florida.”

My sister was starting to decoupage ash-trays out of ceramic plate fragments. “Don’t do that, Frieda,” I said. “You might cut yourself.”

Before we reached the interstate, Frieda fell asleep. In the quiet twilight, I thought about the Wisemen, broken dishes, shards of rubbish. Just before leaving the house, I’d snatched a Fu Dog head, stuffed it in my coat pocket for protection. Now I rubbed it, feeling the jagged edges at its broken neck.

I glanced sideways at mom, but she stared straight ahead, jaw clenched. I wanted to ask if we would ever come back, but I knew the answer.


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Colonial Contestants by Robert Vaughan

Crammed into the back
seats for the trip
desert air steamy mixed
with bathroom vomit
on this overnight bus
Vegas strip glittering, here
we come: closer to the edge

I dozed in disruptive spurts
waking often, tossing,
sliding, a slippery seal
in a carnival
barker louder than
“C’mon down!”

At the Luxor,
frivolous music festered
contestants drooled
seeking unnecessary prizes
they won’t even use
burying them in their salt-
box colonials

I missed my bus
back to Terwilla
the morning after
my philandering husband
leapt from the peak
mercy momma
he came undone


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My First Girlfriend by Robert Vaughan

We moved to the country when I turned eight. Fourth grade seemed scary, a stranger among rural kids who grew up together since they were born. My teacher. Mrs. Pompineau, was fond of harsh punishments. Her favorite was to stand in front of class, dictionaries piled high on outstreched arms. I thought she was a heathen.

That Christmas, I attended The Nutcracker. My heart soared when class-mate Cheryl Terlick transformed into Clara. Her blonde locks boinged with every move. She floated, I was jealous when the toy soldier came to her aid. But at school, she was smitten with Tommy.

Soon I discovered the brain of our class, Harriet. Within weeks we spent every lunch together, circling our playground, talking. Her mind was a fascinating pretzel, and she was cautious while I plunged ahead. One day at Eastview Mall, I spotted a mood ring at Spencers. I bought it, Harriet accepted the next day. We were going steady! My heart back flipped, I felt elated. I didn’t have hormones yet, but something else ignited inside me.

“That’s nice, honey,” my mom said. “Now eat your potatoes.”

I noticed the mood ring never changed color: black. It made me nervous.

Harriet returned my ring the last day of school, claiming we lived too far apart. The first day of summer I rode my horse all the way to her house. Harriet’s sister Holly came to the door. “Harriet’s not here.”

I hugged Misty all the way home.


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The Wedding March by Robert Vaughan

The congregation whispers, fidgets, and breathes like bellows. The wedding party are running way behind schedule. Tensions mount as the ceremonial time passes. The bald pastor rearranges his papers. Checks his watch, the lines deepening on his face.

Her wedding party fixes, adjusts, makes last minute preparations. She can’t seem to get her ringlets to behave, to twist in the manner they did at her run-through. “Do something,” she pleads with her maid of honor. Her panic mounts. She grabs the curling iron, snaps, “You’re just making it worse!”

To calm her, dad leads her aside, into the narrow hallway. He wants to savor these last moments with his sole daughter. His pride and joy. He takes her hand, opens it face up in both of his. Says, “When I was your age, we could fit everything we owned right here.” Traces a circle in her hand with his finger. “We had nothing.” He sighs, thinks of his own failed marriage. He asks her, “You’re sure you wanna do this?”

It takes her by complete surprise. The one question she wishes he might have avoided. She glances outside to steel herself, into the churchyard. The sun gleams on the gravestones. It feels like she’s wearing ankle weights as the organ barks the wedding march.


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Two/Tree by Andrea Falkenstein and Robert Vaughan

Two/Tree originated in 1986, a collaboration between artists and best friends, Andrea Falkenstein and Robert Vaughan. Andrea had left her steady employment in Manhattan to go freelance, and I was leaving New York. We decided to co-create postcards, possibly inspired by shops in the East Village like Little Ricky’s that sold hand-made art. We passed daily the dozens of locations that had “posterings” about upcoming club events, art shows, spoken word. Temporary walls at that time in the East Village had layer upon layer of “art” atop other “art.” The collages seemed a natural replication of the street, like a Banksy tag might inspire a tattoo.

We had the time, we needed supplies: garbage bags filled with colorful flyers, oak tag, shears, and glue. And we were off! Hours were spent, crafting various themes of the 1980s, including but not limited to: Reaganomics, Star Wars, clubs like Roxy, Mudd Club, homelessness, wigs, poetry and poetics, music, artists, street life and language. Elements poured into the images: rain, snow, and sun had caused materials to wrinkle; time yellowed certain colors, edges frayed, giving them that perfect street appearance. We’d finish one and excitedly start crafting another, never knowing how much meaning they would have.

In all, there were 66 Two/Tree cards. Half had their first showing, exhibited at Bibliotect Bookstore in Salt Lake City for the Fall 2000 Gallery Walk. They were hung against a brick wall, and aroused great interest, conversations and acclaim.


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The Visit by Robert Vaughan

My husband’s parents are here.


They’re the kind of parents who bounce around from kid to kid, now that we’re adults, looking for something. The kind of parents who say they love being with their kids, yet when they’re here, only talk to us. Rarely to each other. And with each impending visit, they stay slightly longer. Months.

As if by being here they can avoid the ponderous silence at home. They tend to hover close. Love loading the dishwasher. Eager to vacuum. Make a different bread every day: pumpernickel raisin or whole wheat/ rye with sunflower seeds. Sounds great, I know. But my anxiety increases, as does pressure to constantly entertain them. His father, Elvin, says, “Honey, did you know your tile is cracked on this top step?” “Yes, Dad,” which I call him because mine is dead. “That happened the last time you were here.”

“You ought to get that fixed,” he says. Then adds, “There’s always something to do with a house, isn’t there? There’s no end.” I want to say, how the hell do you know? You’re never home?

Instead I call Rodney, make a perm appointment for Mom, her hair so short that he uses pink and blue rods. Her hair already looks pubic. Beverly surveys the broken step. She says, “Next time we go to Costco, we’ll get some super glue. I’ll fix it.”

I pop a Xanax, write a postcard, address it to myself: HELP!

Never send it.


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Three Questions for Any Doctor by Robert Vaughan

i. I ask him, “Where did you go for your last vacation?” And I’m not being nosy, I  swear, it’s because doctors go to these exotic places. Doctor French does. He’s been to  Bermuda, and Barbados. He speaks a few hundred languages. He brings back thinly-  framed pictures from the natives, like a Grandma Moses only filled with color, like one  of those paint-by-number. Most exotic place I’ve been is Chicago. I got lost so many  times I ended up in Wisconsin.

ii. My favorite question to ask my dentist, before shoving his gloves into my mouth, is  “What are you doing for dinner?” And if he doesn’t respond, say yes, commit, then I  just find another doctor, and ask him. You have to pick the perfect moment. It’s all  about the timing. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears. Gets lost. Best moment is when he  reaches for that drill or is about to syringe your upper gum with novacaine.

iii. This might seem strange. I also ask, “How deep is the sky?” Because if he’s unable to  answer something odd, then can I trust him? I’m not there for the cookie- cutter  treatment. I want to know he’ll give me the benefit of my doubt. So I ask the  unanswerable to shake him out of his medical stupor. Get his nose out of those textbooks.  More often than not, he just stares at me like I’m nuts.



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Filed under Robert Vaughan

Back Room Banter by Robert Vaughan

We were eating our lunch in the back room at the salon.

“Last week,” I said to Kamy, “this lady brought in those sticks that a doctor uses to check your tonsils.”

“Uh-huh,” Kamy said, reading her text messages.

“She wanted to know if I could give her a perm on them.”

Kamy whooped, set her phone on the cluttered counter. “That’s crazy!”

“You bet! I told her, I’m sorry, Mrs. Hammond, but I’m a beautician, not a magician.”

Kamy laughed so hard she almost puked up the lunch we’d just devoured from La Cantina. “One time,” she said after she’d gotten her breath back, “I was doing a color consultation on Mrs. Lee. And I was halfway into it, you know, color charts, swatches, level this, retouches, blah, blah, blah. And I notice something moving on her lap. Like, under her cape.”

“She was a he?”

“Her dog.” We laughed.

“Hey, I need your advice,” she said. “Vincent messed me up last time.” She lifted her extensions in back so I could see.

I thought it’ll take a miracle to fix that. “We can stay after our last clients. I’ll see what I can do.”

“ Thanks! Oh, I’ve got a guy at 2:00 for a wax service.”

“Really?” I’d don’t do waxing, haven’t since cosmetology school. “What’s he getting done? Eyebrows?”

“No, Debbie booked it as a Back, Crack and Sack appointment,” Kamy said.

As the shock registered, my mouth gaped open.


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