Eric Lutz

THIS PLACE

My cousin Mary’s dating a wrestler. And you should see the way my mother looks at him.

She brings this guy to our Fourth of July cook-out, introduces him as Larry. But when I
first talk to him, he holds out a fat hairy hand and says: Call me Slaughter.

He’s a big dude, Slaughter is. He’s got real thick legs and a torso nearly as dense as Mary is wide. He’s so big he can’t even wear normal clothes – they’re all baggy and formless.

All day long Mary is kissing him too hard, touching him like women do on his huge
chest, and in between all that he’s regaling everyone with stories about the different places he’s toured. Moves he did to this guy and moves they did to him, how yes all the moves are choreographed but that don’t mean it’s fake any more than a dancer’s fake, and the whole time my mother’s laughing and drinking too much and giving him eyes like women do, and I try hard to hate him but I can’t.

Eventually I get up from the table and sit on the back patio and look out at all that land.
The blue sky is low above the field, and a warm breeze blows through the dry stalks that aren’t nearly as big as they should be. I put back the rest of my Miller and crumple the can.

I hear footsteps up the wooden stairs and know it’s my mother without needing to look.
She walks like a child stomping its feet in a tantrum. She sits herself down in the plastic chair next to me and hands me another beer. I say, Thanks, and we both stare straight ahead. That Mary sure is something, she says after a bit, even though it’s clear she’s talking about Slaughter.

Yes, I say, she sure is.

I tell you, my mother says. If I had it do it all again, that’s the kind of man I’d go for. A
man with arms strong enough to hold me.

I look at her then as she continues to look out over the acres. She’s skinny and sunburnt
and her dark roots are growing out through her bright blond hair. I want to scream at her that the only people worth a damn in this world are those strong enough to hold themself, to tell her hate this place and hate her and that it’s hard to even muster up any reasons to try, but I don’t because it’s not her I’m mad at.

That Mary sure is something, she says again, and I turn back to the field as another warm breeze blows across it.

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Eric Lutz is a writer in Chicago. A frequent contributor to Newcity magazine, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salon, Line Zero and noah magazine.