LESS THAN A FOOT • by Michael John Burrows

Kyle’s kids were in the living room when I came home from work. Didn’t even look at me when I asked them why they weren’t home watching their own TV.

My wife took me out on the porch. Her hands were shaking. She told me what happened: Sandy was in the hospital and he just left. My brother.

I have to catch him, I said.

And do what?

Do what. That son-of-a-bitch is always pulling this shit. I don’t even want to know what he did to her.

It ain’t good.

And he’s took off for that internet woman in Saskatchewan?

Yeah. Green Lake.

I’m going.


I’m just going.

My motorcycle was still in the driveway. I’d cranked her open before, so I knew what she could do: damn near fast as a bullet. And Highway 55 runs like a dragstrip cross the border. Sun on my back, I knew I’d catch him. But then what?

I saw myself alongside him like a cop. He’d get out and lean against his fender with his arms crossed and I’d walk right up and punch him. He wouldn’t expect it. I was the quiet one. Worked in one place for ten years. He’d go down and I’d put my knee on his neck. A car would idle by, looking at us, but I wouldn’t care. I was doing what needed doing.

Where’re you going? I’d say.

I’m leaving.

No, you’re not.

He’d be crying. I can’t do it no more.

Be a man, I’d yell right into his ear, BE A MAN.

Then I saw Kyle’s truck a half-mile ahead. I flashed him, but he wasn’t looking back. I tucked down and found more speed, engine roaring, bugs like rocks in my face. I’d almost caught up when a stag climbed out of the ditch between us. Just like that. Looking right at me. I was going too fast for brakes, so I leaned left, around the deer and back. Less than a foot between us. His eyes were like oil and his musk filled my nose with the smell of dirt and sweat. I don’t know how I didn’t hit him.

I pulled to the side and looked back; the deer was gone. I turned towards my brother, saw his brake lights for a second, and then he disappeared too.

And for no reason, I thought about the time we hiked to the dump to shoot stuff with Dad’s .22. Heading home, we had to cross a frozen creek. He made it and I broke through. Up to my neck in cold grey water. Tasted like gas. He reached down and pulled me out like I didn’t weigh nothing, and then he got me home, shivering. I had a hot bath and Mom and Dad never knew a thing.

I looked down at my motorcycle and thought about what I said to his kids watching my TV. I checked my watch. It was time to go home.

Time to look around, Michael John Burrows says after a lingering journey into the depths of his self. It was a strenuous trip with a hieroglyphic map, but the universe offered him wise teachers who talked about a Way. They all pointed to the same truth. Now, he feels like a gardener with a watering can full of blue sky. [Concrete: BFA 1988, MSLP 2000; Published in Alberta Anthology and soon in Motorcycle Mojo]

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