Two Fictions
Randall Brown

When It Counts

My son watches the man and the shell game, follows the covered pea, the blur of hiding and revealing, of shell and hands, the man's beard an ice cream cone of teeth and filth, ten, twenty, a thousand times my son points and is correct and the man says each time, I wonder if you can do that when it counts, and each time my son says, We don't have any money.
Ten, twenty, a thousand times I get to hear him say it.


They write letters to themselves, at a certain age -- 8, 12, 17 -- to tell their previous selves they will be okay. A woman sobs and cries out, What if I can't tell her that? The lecturer tells her, Hey, baby, it's going to be okay. You are here. That's something. I'm the only one not writing. The lecturer stares at my inaction. I'd brought the wrong sneakers, and my left arch aches. I drink hard lemonade from a Dixie cup. Outside, thunder and everyone laughs. Like Shakespeare, the lecturer says. She must think I'm afraid to go there. I think of another story, about someone actually going back to haunt this kid who wants nothing to do with grown-ups. A bunny hops by in the window, stops. I once met Satchel Sage, someone whispers. Paige, I say too loudly, his name is Paige.