Bare Feet

Contributor: Matt Micheli

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The cigarette smoke. The pile of dishes in the sink and atop the surrounding counters—stacks of them. The empty and half-empty beer bottles scattered throughout the house—I count one, two, three, four, and so on, until I lose count after thirty or so. The warm breeze from the outside sneaks through the tiny holes in the front screen door that probably should be closed but never is. I try and imagine the sound of small birds chirping outside, bathing in the morning’s golden sunlight, but I can’t. The TV’s volume is turned up as loud as it’ll go and is still muffled by the yelling, the crying, the words, “Fuck You” and “I’m gonna leave your ass,” and “You’re nothing but a whore,” and “Go ahead,” and “I dare you,” and “You won’t,” and “You don’t have the fucking balls,”—all the typical terms I’ve gotten used to in this house.

I walk right into the line of fire—through the battleground, through the war-zone, through the flying debris, through the hatred—going unnoticed and push the screen door open to the outside. The sun hits my face, and my eyes squint as I step down onto the worn wooden porch, feeling the heads of nails trying to make their way back up. The door springs shut behind me, and I stand there and look as far away as I can down the street to another distant land far, far away from here; from them. I step down onto the grass—still cool and wet from the nightly dew—and make my way to the street. The asphalt is hot, but my feet have gotten used to it, burnt black and calloused over. This time, I know I’ll be able to go even farther than I had last time. Really far this time, maybe even far enough.

“Fuck you!”

“I’ll fucking do it! I’ll do it!”

I can’t tell if the yelling and cursing is following me or just embedded in my head from repeated assaults. I continue on. Over the yelling, I am able to hear those small birds I tried to imagine earlier, chirping, and this is nice. Walking down the street, away from there, away from them, there’s a soft breeze on my back, helping me along the way, the further I get, the better I start to feel; the less lonely I become. It seems like hours have gone by, and where I am, I don’t recognize. There’s no one here. Just me and woods to either side and this street that leads somewhere, anywhere. The sun has moved higher into the sky and the asphalt is hotter now then when I had left, but I can do it. I can make it.

I hear the yelling but then the birds again. Then I hear the siren round once and gravel crunch as a car pulls off to the side of the road behind me. The car door opens, then come the words, “Johnny, it’s time to go home.”

On the way home, I dream about next time and wonder how far I’ll get, and Officer Tate gives me advice, as he always does on our rides back. I stare out the window, the warm sun feels good on my face, and as he talks, all I can hear are birds chirping, and this is nice.

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Matt Micheli is a transgressive fiction writer out of Austin, TX, author of MEMOIRS OF A VIOLENT SLEEPER: A BEDTIME STORY. His analytical, sometimes satirical, and often times blunt views of love, loss, life, and beyond are expressed through his writing. For him, writing is an escape from the everyday confines of what the rest of us call normal.
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