MONOLOGUES • by Alexander Burns

Angela sat across from him, beautiful in her weird, skinny, features-all-too-long way. Comedian beautiful. He thought about her hips and spun his coffee cup in a little ring of its own guts. She hadn’t touched her plate of breakfast tacos. Her arms crossed on the table in front of her.

“Atlanta?” she asked. “How long?”

“Just the weekend.”


He suppressed a sigh. “It’s a paying gig. If you ever worked outside Brooklyn you’d understand.”

“Don’t be an asshole. You gonna eat?”

He shrugged. Angela rolled her eyes and shoved the plate across the table at him. “I don’t have any cash on me,” Jeff told her.

“Oh I know. Have you thought more about moving in? Your lease is up. They’re probably throwing your stuff on the curb right now.” Angela reached for a taco and took a bite, granting him time to respond.

He rubbed his hands on the table.

Angela’s chewing slowed. “You’d be the first guy in our home since the divorce. I’m the one taking the risk here.” Her gaze was intense. He could barely breathe. He prodded a crack in the table with his thumb.

“I just don’t know why you would.”

She gave him that sad, pity look. “Oh I know.”


The light was too bright, and hot. Jeff didn’t know how some guys wore leather jackets on stage. His t-shirt felt sticky. This was a corporate gig, some anniversary of their hot new social media something-or-other. Rich people with no sense of humor. Someone wore a Bazinga! t-shirt under a blazer.

“I’ve been getting a lot of my neighbors’ mail. Bills. Voter registration cards. I just trash it. But it makes me worry where my mail is going. I send letters. It’s old fashioned, it’s slow. But it’s personal. There’s a warmth in knowing someone took the time to write out this letter, seal the envelope, walk to the mailbox. This person loves you. They care if you read this. Also I really don’t want to go back to using Twitter to send women pictures of my penis.”

They wouldn’t turn off the TV at the bar, so only half the room was watching him. To hell with it. He had the check already. He tossed out a few more and started to wind down.

“My girlfriend has kids. They’re two and… five? What age do they stop expecting a smile when they pee on you? He’s just shy of that. I’m actually missing them right now, she had custody this weekend. Nice work, jerks. Hope these chuckles were worth it!

“How many in here with kids? I’m sorry. You have my condolences. I see a parent, I see someone who’s given up. They’re tired. They hate everything. You don’t remember what life was like before? Bullshit. You don’t let yourself remember, because. It. Was. Awesome! You had time. Friends. Money. You could go out and have more than one drink.

“Where are you going after this? Home to sleep? That’s great. I’m going to that waitress’s home, to have sex with her. Oh she has a kid, too! Jeez. You guys have ruined all our lives. Thanks. Thanks for that.”


When he got back into town, Jeff bought Angela lunch at her favorite run-down burger joint.

“Look at Mr. Big Spender!” she cried. “With all the corporate blood money. How was Atlanta?”

“Great! I tried to get you a slave but I guess they don’t do that anymore?”

“The kids missed you,” Angela said, her eyes sparkling. “Rob drew a robot for you. Jade told her first joke.”


“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Not me!”

“That’s not bad,” he said. “I might steal that.”

She threw a soft french fry at him. “So? Have you thought things over? Moving in, I mean.”

“Let me think about it some more. Seriously, I might steal that.”

“Eff that, I’m using it this weekend.”


Angela was a dabbler. She had a day job, so she performed at open mics around the neighborhood. Jeff rarely attended, because he had his own, but he felt bad about the previous weekend so he took Friday night off to watch her. She dazzled, sheened in sweat up on the little stage. Behind the cafe, the cappuccino machine gargled.

“My ex-husband, this pilot, he cheated on me,” she said. “Somebody told me he went to a hotel with five German tourists. Five. At once. That’s when I realized it had been so long since we’d had sex I’d forgotten he even had five dicks.”

Jeff smirked and watched the people around him laugh and choke on their lattes.

“My current boyfriend, he’s great. He’s not — I wouldn’t say he’s great with my kids, but he’s okay. I mean, he hasn’t punched them. If a guy punches kids you don’t let him sleep over until the fourth date. That’s the threshold for guys now. I’m forty. Don’t punch kids and we’ll be fine. I don’t need the whining.”


Jeff owned virtually nothing. He tossed out old, frayed furniture. His old, frayed clothes easily fit into Angela’s closet. Angela quirked her eyebrows at his collection of comedy albums, straining the taped seams of several boxes. “Do you need these? Just rip them.”

“Why don’t you rip my balls?”

“That is happening as we speak.”

He wandered from the bedroom and across the living room/kitchen that formed the rest of the apartment, to the kids’ bedroom. A pair of toddler beds, a set of drawers, and a bookshelf crammed with Little Golden Books. “We don’t need this junk, do we? There’s a whole room here I could use.”

With screams and tiny roars, Jade and Rob assaulted him, bearing him to the ground and targeting his most ticklish spots. Mid-struggle, Jade sobered and tugged on Jeff’s sleeve.

“I joke a-you,” she said, very serious.

Jeff sat up, skillfully flipped Rob, and tossed the boy aside. “Hit me.”

“Knock knock.”

He held up a hand. “I’m gonna stop you right there.”

Alexander Burns doesn’t really get all the penis jokes, but Camille insisted on them. He lives in Denton, Texas, and writes because he doesn’t have a basement in which to build robots or time machines. His work has appeared at Every Day Fiction, The Future Fire, Big Pulp, and other fine online journals.

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Every Day Fiction

  • I’ve read this piece twice now. First time it seemed all over the place, but was a good read the second time.

    Unfortunately, I’m a bit old school when it comes to comedy. ‘Penises’ and ‘dicks’ don’t do it for me – er, so to speak.

  • The first positive ‘grabber’ in my reading was the humor, especially poignant as it offset the domestic tragedy. Rare to find humor; too often, just tragedy. Nice going, Alexander. And I’m a sucker for jokes like yours.

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  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    The basic reason people delve into literature is to find out what’s happening or has happened in the world. This story does it for me who is old-fashioned enough to find it difficult to accept casual temporariness. I suppose its alright for the adults (it has to be alright or they wouldn’t choose it) but is it a world to bring children into?

  • Nick

    This is very good. It’s angular – in the way that it demands a fair bit of the reader … but come on, this is what readers are for, isn’t it? And it’s also soft, because at the centre of it is something delicate, something that floats around the edges of perception and evokes feelings, reservations, hopes that many of us have experienced. What I’m trying to say, is: sharp corners and gentle stuff, all blending together. Great stuff; and from me, 5*.

  • Jens

    Great stuff. Great dialogue. Natural *and* funny, the hardest kind to get right.

  • Aaron

    Loved it! The five dick jokes had me doing a spit take! No idea what I was in for and this was a treat as always. Good show sir.

  • Loved it, Alex!

  • Penny

    It took me a moment to catch on to the audience chatter and Angela’s jokes were fitting to her character and character’s story. I am a bit old fashioned but when it comes to writer’s and fiction, I separate the character material from my moral perceptions. After all even character’s are individuals. What I had difficulty with was the emotional transition from all the kid haters to his choice but I’m probably overthinking that. All in all, I love the story. It is a nice blend of sweet and sour that has a hard emotional choke.

  • Thanks, guys! These are some of the nicest comments I’ve had on a story.

    Penny, I don’t think you’re overthinking anything.

  • JenM

    Cute story! Maybe Jeff is growing up just a tiny bit?

  • Tina Wayland

    I liked this one. Lots. It reminds me of Louis CK and hit bit about loving his divorce and how it’s easy to be a father half a week at a time. Comedy is an outlet for frustrations, and these two adults are bashing it all out onstage so they can come home to make a home. Everyone with kids knows how hard it can be. I think the frustrations and the love shine through here brilliantly.

  • Dark humor within a poignant domestic setting, nicely done, Alex.

  • Joanne

    I’m kind of obsessed with/fascinated by stand-up, and I loved this.

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