Really, life is all about our asses. We feed them, and fatten them, then try to slim them down again. We hire Swedes to massage them and lawyers to save them, and we act like them at work so we can sit on them in comfort every night. When you think about it, it’s our asses that decide everything.
Well, not always our own asses. There was a time when Janie Hawkins’ ass was the one that made my decisions—the flowers I would buy, and the poetry I would write, and the hours I would look into her eyes just so I could get one more glimpse of her ass. It was only a part of her, I know, and I loved the whole girl—really, I did—but the problem with loving the whole girl was that her father eventually saw me looking.
“You watch your mother leave the room that way?” Clint asked me over his whiskey.
The question was mildly nauseating, but Clint had designed it to disorient me. It worked. “No sir,” my voice said before my thoughts caught up. “I mean—what way? With, like, respect? ‘Cause maybe yes, then.” Alcohol had locked his stare onto me in a way I could never break free. “Yes, sir.”
“Just keep your eyes where your hands should be,” Clint Hawkins gurgled through an amber slurp.
Off Janie’s ass, Clint meant. Maybe he’d been talking to her, because she sure was different that night. One DVD later, and it was time to go; traditionally, that meant that it was time to say goodnight, pressed together between the walls of the Hawkins’ front entryway.
But Janie’s body curved differently, and wouldn’t ply with my hand when it pressed her toward me. “We need to talk,” she said with the lips mine were chasing.
I was still too young to crack that code, so I kept on pressing.
“Don’t,” she hissed, then suddenly turned the body I loved against me. “Don’t!”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, catching on when she threw the door open.
Janie folded her arms to keep a barrier between us. “I just…don’t think you have much future.”
Future: I knew the word from dictionaries and Star Trek, but I’d never thought much about mine. What future could I need, other than putting my ass in front of a DVD next to Janie’s? “You’re in my future,” I tried to promise, romantically lunging for her.
“You are my—”
That was when Clint appeared, even drunker from another DVD, ready to change that future for me. He hooked the furred meat of a man’s hand around the bald neck that was still a boy’s, and took me by the belt to throw me outside.
That’s right: Clint threw me out on my ass.
“You want my daughter?” he hollered into a night that flickered brighter with each waking neighbor. “You want my daughter, you make yourself someone, first.”
Janie was already down the front steps, though, cooing over me and only stopping to shout at her father. It was my ass that was bruised that night, but it was Clint’s in a sling. He’d paid the lighting bills so he could darken a doorway his daughter wouldn’t walk through for many years.
Years later, in family therapy, a psychologist called it ‘Romeo and Juliet Syndrome.’ The therapist said we’d gotten married because Janie had ‘confused rage for her father with feelings of love for me.
What an ass.
Still, he was right that it wasn’t the happiest marriage. So many of them aren’t. Bills and rusty cars collected around the old house we were renting, and I worked my ass off while kid after kid made Janie’s expand.
That made us family, so we did what all families do, which was somewhere just short of our best. After Janie’s mother died, we came around one day to find Clint lying in filth and whiskey, and because I was family, I did what I had to. I wiped the ass of the man who’d once kicked mine. Then, we found him a place where food is lukewarm, cutlery is plastic, and grandkids have to be pushed by the shoulders to visit.
With places like that waiting, I know now that Janie had been wrong to look to the future, that night beside her open doorway. We were young, so we should have been looking just behind.
Our happiness had always been there, but our future was right on our asses.
An author of YA, Mysteries and Satirical Adventures, K. Alan Leitch writes with lyricism for the fun-loving reader. His novel awards include Textnovel, Serena McDonald Kennedy, The Write Launch and Book Pipeline. Through sixteen short fiction awards, he’s been published in Writer Advice, Gathering Storm Magazine, Women on Writing and Stringybark Stories. His satirical adventure, Crimes of Convenience, has placed in the top ten of the 2017 International 3-day Novel Competition, and his YA Mystery, Too Much Information, has placed in the 2018 International Eyelands awards and the 2017 Book Pipeline Contest, surpassing 1,974 other published and unpublished novels.