How to Fall in Love For Real

How to Fall in Love For Real

At twenty-two, I fell in love with the sales clerk who helped me pick out clothes at the mall. I was in love with my best friend’s wife. I was in love with everything. The sales clerk’s name was Cricket. She was six months pregnant. And for two weeks at sea, I imagined how I...
Thank You

Thank You

You will never know me, will never know your father once professed (many times, over a few months, the way boys will) to love me, will not know the first time we made love you were in your bedroom next door sleeping, and we paused to listen when we heard you (I worried, unused to...
Stranded

Stranded

for Tracy This night like a photograph neither one of us can make out when I call you fifteen years later to ask if you remember the gun, the men, the comet. The two of us are on the side of Highway 82 outside of Brownfield, Texas. Forty miles from Lubbock. It’s been a day-long...
The Cruelty We Delivered: An Apology

The Cruelty We Delivered: An Apology

I. We didn’t know what to do—your rocket energy sending Thai monks into fits, as they chased you through the Chicago temple, hands hiking robes like dresses, flip flops slapping callused heels. Your trouble made us roll our eyes and turn our back when you wanted nothing more than to pal around with us. You...
Balancing Act

Balancing Act

A man in my neighborhood stacks rocks in his front yard. From a distance, the cairns remind me of a small throng of people. Some wear long coats or dresses: clerics in cassocks. Some stand on two, wide and chunky legs. One stack sports a wide-brimmed, flat-topped rock, sat at a jaunty angle. The first...
Feeding Time

Feeding Time

The table was set with all seven dishes stacked at the head of the table where my father sat. Everyday stoneware for weekdays, china on Sundays. Hot pads, to protect the plastic tablecloth that protected the vinyl table covers that protected the wood surface, likewise were only in front of his place. When the serving...
Consider the Houses

Consider the Houses

The hall and the door and shelves full of the first names of things. Block. Card. Soft. Red. Much later on. A house in the country with a backroom full of antique shoes. Her friend collected them. Button shoes and laces and patent leather, ancient and dull-cracked. White wedding shoes with loose strings of beads,...
The Bedroom that was a Beekeeper’s House

The Bedroom that was a Beekeeper’s House

Jim was given custody of the bees in his divorce. Not knowing where to go with them when he moved out, he house-sat for a woman in her seventies who needed someone to look after her hives while she summered in Canada. He integrated his bees with hers in the backyard, fed them sugar water,...
Gambling

Gambling

On the drive back from a friend’s cabin, on a beautiful pine tree-framed lake, on the edge of Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, we stop at a casino. Maybe we will have lunch. Play a few slots. We are not gamblers. I have been to Vegas twice, once on the way to somewhere else—neither time did...
If We Had Been Allowed to Take Pictures

If We Had Been Allowed to Take Pictures

If we had been allowed to take pictures inside the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension, this is the picture I would have taken: A woman cleans the wax from the base of the candelabras. She wears a brown and orange dress, simple, made of sturdy material, like a pillow case or a craft project, and...
The Father

The Father

On the first Sunday of the month their mother would drive them to the father’s apartment where they would have dinner. The father was a tall, thin man with green eyes and rust-colored hair, and when he’d open the door the sweet smell of his cigar would make their noses sting. They’d go to the...
Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces

The policewoman, let’s call her Ann Marie, doesn’t stop talking as she shows me the crime scene photographs of the woman who shot me when I was seven years old. This is the first time I’ve seen the photos of her suicide, though I was seven a long time ago. Twenty-four years. These are my...
Three Oranges

Three Oranges

I barely remember leaving work, or the transfer to the bus that takes me near enough my home to walk. I barely remember leaving the house this morning, or what’s happened during the day. It’s December. The days are short. I come and go in the darkness. It’s getting dark. A man materializes at the...
Afternoon Affair

Afternoon Affair

On the light rail after work I sit down next to a homeless man sitting next to his black plastic garbage bag stuffed full. He asks me for my name. He is friendly so I give it to him. He is Popeye, he laughs, I am Olive Oyl. He has the sour smell of the...
Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe

Late one night as a child, in bed in my room, with heat lightning quaking sourceless on the horizon and lighting the world in quick flashes, I convinced myself the missiles had flown and the bombs had begun to fall. After each flash came a low concussion like the coughs of my cancer-killed uncle, and...

About the Artist: Issue 44

Joel Brouwer is a writer and photographer who lives in Tuscaloosa and teaches at The University of Alabama. His digital homestead is www.joelbrouwer.org.