The Boiler

Mark L. Keats

MALE ADVICE

When my fiancée broke it off, I took it in stride. I thought it would be different after the breakup—I thought that moving back home across the country would help. “A change of scenery,” my mother said. A year later I saw online that she had gotten married to someone I knew casually in high school. She looked happy, so I was happy. Well, not really. But, I’d been prepared for this very moment my entire life. When I was very young, my father used to say these kinds of situations were God’s way of making life interesting, a test of sorts. When I’d asked him how he’d fared so far, he’d said, without hesitation, as if he’d been waiting his whole life for someone to ask, “Straight Cs.” My father had also said that tension was a good thing—that that’s what one of those Greek guys had said a long time ago. “And who’s to argue with the Greeks?” he said. “It’s sometimes good to be itchy,” he continued one afternoon, having spent more time drinking than actually building the promised tree house. I remember that clearly because when he went out to get more wood, he never returned. My mother hadn’t been worried, though. “He’ll be back,” she said a day later. “He used to do this all the time when we first dated. But I stayed the course. You know,” she said. “That was my father’s motto. Stay the course.”

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Mark L. Keats was adopted from South Korea at the age of three. He earned his MFA in fiction from the University of Maryland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eastern Iowa Review, Foundling Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and many others. Currently, he is a PhD student in English at Texas Tech University.