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Justin Brouckaert

Yes, There Is A Small Man In My Hallway, But We Have Other Pressing Matters To Discuss

He is only here to pick up my laundry, to take what’s left of my skin & yours & tumble them sober. You ask why we can’t do this on our own. You are always protesting something, but now there’s only air behind my ears where your fingers used to lie. Now there is this other man & he will help me scrape you from my knuckles. You are retching, or you are making yourself retch. I used to get down on my knees & really try to see the difference. Now I’m painting my walls a bright new color, splicing filmic montage tropes that fade out from me cupping my chin in my own hand, gently. I am learning to dislike, and then to like what I learned to dislike. I am learning to find difference without it sounding like a curse. Fear keeps me warm in the interim. When the small man returns, he returns with a small dog, a small white dog as small as him. The dog looks lost, so I drop to my knees & call to it. It walks to my feet & licks me clean.

[If I See You On A Hill, I Will Take You]

If I see you on a hill, I will take you. This new skin is fast. It gets its grips & pulls me, up one & down one & up one again. When I give it even just a little control it flattens out over everything, until the only thing I’m climbing is myself & I am really only doing it so you will know the way. We are all caught up now. It’s possible to get lost, yes, but you really have to try. Sometimes I test it. I pull my skin up behind me like a gown & snap it this way & that. My feet slide in the mud & the snow. Up & down & up again. From the tallest hill I can see all the way back to where we started. There’s something in our place there, two somethings, alone in our old bedroom. They are faint outlines, or they are memories, or they are husks. They are dead or they are sleeping. I squint harder, but all I see is skin, the trail I left for you to follow. I give control away completely. I let the new skin carry me down.

Justin Brouckaert's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Passages North, Smokelong Quarterly, NANO Fiction and Hobart, among other publications. A James Dickey Fellow at the University of South Carolina, he serves as fiction editor at Yemassee and Banango Street.