AbbyFitness Liked Your Photo

English, Fiction, Short Story

AbbyFitness liked your photo.

A young man drifting through life falls in love with a fitness influencer, only to find out that the love of his life has been by his side for years.

AT FIVE O’CLOCK, I walk out of my room and yell, “Nana, it’s time!” But Nana doesn’t hear me. She’s sound asleep on the couch, her head nuzzled into her crotch. I go back into the room and come out with a bag of VitaLife LiverBiscuits. I rustle the bag loudly to make sure she can hear me. Nana stirs and groans as she stretches her old muscles. Then there’s a loud thud as she jumps off the couch and the distinct pitter patter of her toenails on the linoleum floor. As she hobbles over to the back of the trailer, her nose is raised towards the ceiling. Her nostrils flare like a manatee’s.

“Good morning, beautiful!” I say, even though it’s not morning and Nana’s not beautiful. I wave a LiverBiscuit in her general direction and lure her into the middle of the room. Once she’s standing where I want, I lift the treat over my head. Nana sits. Her body is tense and her eyes are wild, but she doesn’t move. I flip the switch on the ring light and make my way around the tripod. Nana’s big brown eyes follow me impatiently.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve decorated the room accordingly. Paper shamrocks are taped to the walls. There’s an empty Guinness glass sitting on a footstool next to her. I slide a green tie around her neck. Then I place a tiny leprechaun hat on her head and strap it under her chin. I got the tie and the hat at the Dollarama. I got the ring light at Dinky’s.  The Guinness glass came from the kitchen cupboard.

“Staaaaay,” I say. Nana looks at me through the camera lens. A glob of drool has formed on the right side of her mouth. I hurry before gravity starts pulling it towards the floor. I snap three shots. They’re pure gold.

“That’s my girl!” I say and Nana runs towards me. I have a handful of LiverBiscuits in my hand and scratch her ears the way she likes it. The leprechaun hat slides over her eyes, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Her tail is wagging like a deranged metronome.


THAT NIGHT, Nana gets a new follower. Now, one hundred and thirty-two people follow her on Instagram. Mainly older women and other dogs. Ma says Nana is a beacon of hope for all the uglies in the world. She may be right. Most of her followers are ugly. Nana is ugly too: she’s a scruffy mutt with an awkward gait and wiry gray whiskers that stick out of her face like cactus needles.

Last year, when Ma rescued her from the pound, she was told Nana was probably six years old. Ma didn’t want a dog until she heard on the radio that the pound was overrun and gearing up for a good old fashion culling. Later that day, she exploded into the trailer with a blanket over her shoulder. I was watching Judge Judy and was so startled by her entrance that I dropped my HotPocket onto the couch.

“What the hell?” I asked.

That’s when Ma lifted Nana over her head and presented her to the world as if she were the freaking Lion King.

“This little girl here is gonna change our lives forever,” she said. 

She was right.


ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY, I wake up early to walk Nana around Forest Hill. At Forest Hill there’s no forest and no hill. All there is is five blocks of trailers sitting atop the remains of the old municipal trash heap. 

Nana and I follow our usual route. We leave the trailer and turn left down Fern Court. At the end of the road, we take a right onto Oak Lane. The second trailer on the right belongs to Robert Helton. Nana always poops in front of Helton’s trailer, as if she knows he’s persona non grata. In 1999, Ma and Robert Helton were engaged to get married. A day before the wedding, Helton had a heart attack. Ma said the heart attack saved our lives. Turns out Helton liked to gamble on the ponies. He owed some people some Big Cash. Helton confessed to this when he thought he was dying. Ma cried and Helton survived the heart attack. He swore he had returned from the dead a New Man. But Ma said, once a deadbeat, always a deadbeat. She was right. Last year, Helton was shot in the right knee by his bookie. He survived the attack, but we never did see him at Forest Hill again. 

Because Helton is gone, I don’t bother picking up Nana’s poop. The tall grasses in his front yard hide a minefield of fecal explosives. We continue down Oak Lane. At the end of the road is the sole attraction of Forest Hill. It used to be that from here you could see the river and the thick marshes that covered both sides of the Peti. Now all you see is the cement siding of a new call center and the pump machines at Dinky’s BigStop. I worked at the BigStop for twelve years. Then Nana came and Ma said she was our golden ticket and that if we were smart and diligent and played our cards right, Nana could lead us to financial independence. So, I quit Dinky’s and became Nana’s social media manager.

I sit on the bench at the top of the hill and let Nana off her leash. She barks at the pigeons, and when they fly away, she jumps onto the bench and lays down next to me. She puts her head on my lap. As I scratch her ears, I pull out my phone to see how our St. Patrick’s Day post is doing. 

That’s when I see the notifications:


IN GRADE 9, Abby Lobton was my lab partner. She was 5’11’’ and had long, red hair that she kept in a ponytail. Even though she was beautiful, Abby was still nice. She let me be the Lead Dissector and when it came time to cut the frog open, she was grateful for my courage. The next Sunday I went to her house to work on our lab report. She baked Cinnamon-Oatmeal cookies and we ate them on the kitchen island while we did our homework. “You know, you’re kinda smart,” she said as I was leaving. 

In senior year, Abby was the captain of the volleyball team. She was gearing up to be the class valedictorian when Bruce Higgins got her pregnant. Bruce was two years older than us. He had long hair and a dragon tattoo and played the drums in an Offspring cover band.

After she got pregnant, Abby quit school. I knew of her whereabouts through Facebook. That’s how I learned that she had two kids with Bruce and that he quit drumming to become a roadie for Alan Poulsen. Abby celebrated this decision as a sign that Bruce was maturing. But a couple of months later, she posted that while touring the province with Alan Poulsen, Bruce met a waitress at the Dinky’s Steak&Wings in Salisbury and knocked her up too. The kids stayed with her and Bruce kept touring and getting women pregnant. In 2015 Abby got her GED. The following year, she got really into CrossFit. In 2018, she closed her Facebook account.


“LOOK AT THAT, BABY GIRL,” I say to Nana as I open Abby’s Instagram. Nana looks up for a second. Then she puts her head back onto my lap.

I scroll through her profile. Abby has 1,152 followers. Her latest post is a video of an aerobics routine. In it, she lays out a sequence of five quick exercises anyone can do while watching TV. The next post is a picture of her on a slick motorcycle with the caption “Grip and rip”. That’s the structure of her grid: video-picture-video. The videos are workouts. The pictures show the results of said workouts: Abby sweaty on a yoga mat. Abby at the beach in a bikini. Abby in the snow in a bikini. Abby in front of a Christmas tree in a bikini and a Santa hat. She has the same smile from High School, but her body is transformed. Her hips are broader, her breasts are fuller, and her thighs are thicker.

I’m immediately aroused.

I like several photos and follow Abby back from Nana’s account.

“Come on, girl,” I say to Nana. “Daddy’s gotta get back home.”


THE NEXT DAY IS FRIDAY, and Abby posts a picture flexing her biceps with the caption: “Today’s a good day to start the rest of your life.” That morning I take the bus into town. At Dinky’s SuperStore I buy a yoga mat and a pair of shorts. Then I walk back up Forest Hill.

When I get home, I’m winded and sweaty. “Is that for today’s post?” Ma asks looking at the yoga mat. Judge Judy is on TV. Nana jumps off the couch and runs towards me. She licks my shoes as I take off my jacket.

“So?” Ma insists.

“Yes, Ma,” I say and head into my room. Nana follows close behind.

I HAVEN’T EXERCISED since Grade 12 PE class, but Abby opens every video saying that I can go at my own pace. It takes 20 minutes instead of five, but I do the entire aerobics routine.

At first, Nana is bothered by my huffing and puffing, and paws at my legs for me to stop. Then she gets bored and jumps onto the bed. 

After the workout I shower. When I come back, Nana is asleep on my yoga mat. I toss a dirty sock at her and say, “Nana, off!”. She gets up slowly and stretches her front legs. While she does this, I grab my phone and snap a quick shot.

Still wrapped in a towel, I type out the caption and post the photo to Instagram: “Downward facing dog [DOG EMOJI]. Thanks @AbbyFitness for the inspiration!”

Within seconds, the notifications arrive:

AbbyFitness liked your photo.

AbbyFitness commented on your post: “[Clapping hands emoji]”


OVER THE NEXT TWO MONTHS, I exercise every day. Not only do I do Abby’s routines at home, but I also spend plenty of time outdoors with Nana. I post photographic evidence of these excursions: Nana running on the beach. Nana hiking. Nana sleeping on my yoga mat, exhausted after a hard workout. 

In addition to aerobics videos, Abby has started posting healthy recipes. I follow these recipes at home and post pictures of Nana sitting on the kitchen counter, wearing a chef’s hat. Sometimes I tag Abby in the caption. Even when I don’t, Abby likes Nana’s photos. She often answers with encouraging comments. I also make sure Nana likes all of Abby’s posts. When she posts photos in a bikini, Nana comments with a fire emoji.

Nana’s account is growing, perhaps because the algorithm favors constant interactions from large accounts like Abby’s. In early April, we reach 200 followers. By May, we hit 400. Ma insists we celebrate with a big feast at our local Dinky’s Steak&Wings. I agree. She orders the WhoppingRibCombo. I get a salmon steak and a side salad. After dinner, I give all my leftovers to Nana, and she inhales them like a vacuum cleaner.

Around mid-May, I start wondering if I should post a picture of myself to Nana’s account. Summer is just a month and a half away, and perhaps by the time beach weather comes around I’ll be able to take a picture of myself shirtless. I know it’s crazy, but I’m hoping I’ll have a six-pack by then.

What if I post the picture and caption it with something like: “Hi, @AbbyFitness! Remember me?”? I shut that idea down. I don’t want her to think I’m a loser.


CANADA DAY FALLS ON A FRIDAY. I’ve been putting off posting my shirtless photo because I still don’t have a six-pack. But I know it’s time. I’m looking strong and fit, and I need to do this before the weather turns.

For our morning walk, Nana and I go to Dinky’s SuperStore. It’s an hour there and an hour back. At Dinky’s I get myself a pair of red and white shorts and pick out a red and white bandana for Nana. 

My plan is to post two pictures. The first will be of Nana and I running on the beach wearing our red and whites. The second will be a photo of Nana in a denim outfit. The caption will read: “Spent a PAWesome Canada Day with Dad.” I won’t tag Abby. She’s liked all our posts since March and I’m sure she’ll like this one too.

What I will do is DM her. As soon as she likes the post, I’ll send her a picture of myself and Nana in lab coats, acting as though we’re dissecting a frog. I’ll say, “Greetings from the Lead Dissectors.” I took this photo last night and it’s hilarious. Abby is going to love it.

At five, I come out of my room and say, “Nana, it’s time!” She jumps off the couch and sprints to the door. She has the energy of a puppy now.

We drive to Shediac Beach and find a spot far away from the crowd. I set up the tripod and take off my shirt. Then I set the timer. It takes several tries to get the shot just right, but once we do, it’s perfect. 

This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I take a deep breath and open Instagram. I’m about to post when I see a photo of Abby on my feed. She’s at a concert with Bruce Higgins. His right arm is around her neck. His left-hand rests on her belly.

The caption says:

LIFE UPDATE! This photo was taken 3 months ago at an Alan Poulsen concert. Bruce was in town with the band and we ran into each other by Pure Chance! It was like we were 17 again! Some may know that Bruce is Mindy’s and Bernie’s dad. Well, guess what? He’ll also be father to BabyNumeroTres!

PS1: By the way he moves, it looks like BabyNumeroTres is into aerobics! 

PS2: To those of you asking–Eff you! Bruce is a New Man! 

I throw the phone into the sand. Nana has stopped chasing the seagulls. She runs toward me and lays down. She must sense I’m sad because she puts her head on my lap and looks up. Her eyes are full of love.

“I guess that’s that, baby girl…” I say as I scratch her ears. “Ma was right, huh? Once a deadbeat, always a deadbeat.” 


English, Fiction, Short Story


Do I contradict myself?
Very well I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 51

TED SULLIVAN STOOD ON THE MAKESHIFT STAGE, anxiously waiting for the high-pitch crackle of the microphone to die down. Were his hands shaking? Of course they were. Was he sweating profusely? Who wouldn’t be? The flex room at the Bessborough Presbyterian Church was packed. The six rows of chairs he’d set up earlier in the day with Debbie White, Bessborough Poet Society President, were full of butts. At least 60 butts. So many butts that he’d had to go out to buy more coffee and biscuits at the Sobey’s around the corner, delaying the start of the readings by over 15 minutes. Had this turned the crowd against him? Would they hold him responsible for the delay? Maybe. No shit his hands were shaking. This was The Real Deal.

The microphone lulled and the crackling came to an end. Ted closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was time. “Ode to a boy at war,” he started. The crowd went silent. Ted opened his eyes. There was no turning back now.

“When I was a child,
in the empty lot around the corner, 
I found a branch the shape of a handgun...”

The words felt good rolling off his tongue. This was a solid poem. Ted knew it. There was no way people wouldn’t like it.

Without a second thought,
I picked it up
and pointed it towards a neighbourhood boy...”

With every word, Ted’s confidence grew. His hands had grown steady, his demeanour cool and composed. Of course the crowd would love the poem. The words had been meticulously chosen; the scenes were alive with sounds and smells. He read on:

“That night
 I went to bed clutching my handgun
 as if I were holding onto my youth,
and when I opened my eyes again
I was in a marsh in Hue
or in Hoi Anh
Or who knows where…” 

Was that a gasp from the crowd? Indeed, it was! The tension was rising and would soon be resolved. The inevitability of death would come thundering down on their poor souls like a summer storm. Ted flew past the next few lines, taking the crowd on a journey through a distant war zone—the mosquitoes, the darkness, the expectant silence—and then back to a childhood bed. When he reached the last line, he paused, letting the tension linger in the air. Before reading, he stared defiantly at the crowd. “Like fireflies in the night,” he punched out. The fireflies were not fireflies: they were bullets tracing through the dark sky. Ted closed his eyes and lowered his head. Claps. Growing claps! Effusive claps! Was the crowd about to stand? A standing ovation for him, Ted Sullivan? He opened his eyes and looked up. Not quite. No standing. But still, fantastic clapping, right? Yes. Fantastic clapping, indeed.

Ted Sullivan walked back to his seat near the far end of the makeshift stage. He was beaming with pride. It had been a fantastic reading. Probably the best the Bessborough Poet Society had ever seen. He thought back to all the readings he’d been to over the years. He’d never seen anything like this: never such a big crowd; never so effusive of an ovation. He looked over at the two other poets sitting on stage. Beat that, suckers!

Debbie White, Bessborough Poet Society president, stood up and made her way to the podium. Ted Sullivan smiled at her. Debbie had beady green eyes and a black turtleneck and short hair that encased her head in a greying helmet. When she reached the microphone, Ted clapped and cheered her on. But what he really felt for her was pity. How could she possibly follow his act? How could she rouse the same reaction from the crowd as he had? Her performance would be a bust. There was no doubt about that! A small scoff burst out from the bottom of his belly. He hid it quickly, burying it under a mask of claps and cheers. Show grace in victory, his Mum had taught him. If she were there, Mum would be proud of him. For the reading and for cheering Debbie on. He had turned out to be a good person, hadn’t he? A very good person, indeed.

“Thank you, Ted. That was beautiful.” Debbie White looked at Ted and smiled. The crowd was fidgety. Debbie cleared her throat. Then she started reading. Her poem was short and sweet. Provincial, Ted thought as he stared at her from his place on the stage. Rolling fields and beautiful flowers and a warm breeze that made people feel Good About Life. Nice images, adequate word choice, consistent cadence. No death. No love. No drama. But still… Nice. When she was done, good claps came from the crowd. Nothing like the ones he’d gotten, of course, but decent claps, nonetheless. Ted joined in with the crowd. Clap, clap, clap. I’m so proud of you, Debbie. You’re great. Well done, my friend. Well done.

“Thank you. You are all too kind!” said Debbie. She was visibly moved by the crowd’s affection. Her eyes filled with tears. She began searching her pockets for a Kleenex. Typical Debbie, getting emotional like that. “Thank you so much,” she said, and blew her nose into the microphone.

It took far longer than it should have, but when she finally finished collecting herself, Debbie clutched the microphone out of the stand and looked back at the three chairs that sat behind her. Was she staring at him? She was, wasn’t she? Debbie smiled. Ted smiled back. Was she going to ask him to go back to the podium to read another poem? Ted always prepared an extra piece for precisely this occasion. He felt the inside pocket of his tweed jacket. The poem was there, ready to be read.

“Are you all ready?” Debbie yelled out. Her voice and energy had changed. She seemed like a new person: half soccer mom, half washed-up WWF announcer. The crowd yelled in unison. They were, in fact, ready. “Good, because coming up now is the man you’ve all been waiting to see: Bessborough’s first Poet Laureate. The man who has single-handedly put our small town on the literary map…Give it up for the shining star in our Bessborough Poet Society, our very own, Albert Saunders!”

Albert had been occupying the third seat on the stage. As he stood, he gave Ted a pat on the shoulder. Then he said something that Ted didn’t quite catch. Good job, buddy? Good job!? What the hell did that mean? Ted Sullivan glared at him as he walked across the stage. The crowd had started clapping. Effusively clapping. Clapping and cheering. Cheering and whooping. Standing and clapping. Ted couldn’t believe it. What the hell was this all about? Albert wasn’t even that good. Sure, he looked great in his tailored navy suit and the light blue shirt that hugged his broad chest. But come on, he wasn’t a real poet.

Albert tapped on the microphone twice and smiled his charming, toothy smile. The microphone did not crackle at him, the lucky bastard.

“Thank you so much, Bessborough!” Albert yelled out. Who did this guy think he was? Mick-fucking-Jagger? “First of all, I want to thank my friends, Debbie and Ted, for organizing this beautiful event. Without their support and the support of this whole community, I wouldn’t be standing here with you today.”

Whoops and cheers from the crowd. Ted cheered too. Not effusively – the jerk didn’t deserve that – but with enough gusto to make sure that anyone looking would know he was a good guy: a friend of his friends; a stalwart of the community.

“What should we start with?” Albert asked. He sounded like a clown at a child’s birthday party. Indecipherable sounds splashed out of the sea of folding chairs. Then a crisp cry from the front row. “Spinning yarn!” yelled the voice. Ridiculous. Albert had probably arranged for one of his old factory buddies to say that. What a phony!

Spinning yarn it is!” replied Albert, pointing at the creep. He reached into his blazer and pulled out a thick stack of papers from the inside pocket. He brought his index finger to his mouth a licked it before leafing through the stack. When he found the sheet he was looking for he took a sip of water from the fancy plastic bottle that he had brought with him, and started reading.

Ted Sullivan was livid. Spoken word isn’t really poetry, you know? This was NOT what Ted had taught him. Had he not learned anything during the years of lessons Ted had given him in the back room of the Bessborough Community Library? Did he even remember how Ted had found him looking through the poetry section like a lost puppy in his stained blue overalls?

“I want to write poems,” Albert had said when Ted introduced himself as the librarian and asked him what he was looking for.

Ted took a quick glance at him and knew exactly what to say: “To write poetry, you must read poetry first,” he’d said very intelligently. Then he walked to the shelves and carefully pulled out three books that he handed to Albert. “Start here. Come back when you’re done reading them, and if you’re still up for it, I’ll recommend a couple more.”

A few days later, Albert had returned. They discussed the books — Shakespeare, Whitman, Langston Hughes — and Albert asked for more. Before long, a weekly routine was established. Eventually, Albert started bringing his own work. Ted read it and gave him his feedback. Albert could barely spell. He had no idea about rhythm or flow. But there was something there. A kernel of truth. Ted had always recognized that. He’d nurtured it; helped Albert express that truth in an intelligible way. It was thanks to Ted that Albert had learned to write poetry. When he got good enough, it was Ted who invited him to join the Poet Society. That was five years ago. Look where he was now. The bastard. If only Ted had dedicated that time for himself, he’d probably be the one in the fancy jacket…

A rolling wave of applause crashed against Ted Sullivan, dragging him back to the flex space of the Bessborough Presbyterian Church. The room was buzzing with excitement. Albert had just finished another poem.

“Ah folks. Thank you so much for letting me share my work with you,” Albert said. “Really. It’s been a pleasure!” He held his hands against his chest and closed his eyes, bowing his head slightly towards the crowd like a Buddhist. The crowd exploded into applause. Ted was immediately revolted.

Debbie White got up and walked towards the podium. She grabbed the mic. “Give it up for Albert Saunders. Thank YOU, Albert—or  shall I say…a.a.?”

Debbie held her arms out towards Albert as a wave of complicit laughter rolled through the crowd. He looked back at her with a disarming “you-got-me” smile. Then they hugged.

“Before we put an end to this wonderful night, we have a few minutes for a quick Q&A with our poets,” Debbie said. “Please raise your hands, I’ll call on you.”

Hands went up, tentatively at first, then with more confidence. Debbie White pointed at them. One-by-one their owners lobbed innocuous questions at Albert. Where do you find inspiration? When do you write? Why did you start writing? Ted was growing impatient. None of the questions were directed at him. He looked out at the crowd. Sitting in the fourth row was a woman he recognized from the library. Her hand was up, and she seemed to be looking at him. Ted sat up. Her question would definitely be for him.

When Debbie finally called on her, the woman stood up. As she did, she grabbed onto her teenage son, pulling him up by the sleeve of his hoodie.

“My son here says he wants to be a writer just like you,” she said, looking at the boy with a hint of disdain. “Do you have any advice for him, Albert?”

Albert? Advice? That was it. What kind of advice could Albert Saunders give this boy? A factory worker giving advice to aspiring writers? No sir. Ted Sullivan would not stand for that. The lunacy had to stop. He would answer this question himself.

“Son, I’m going to tell you a secret…” Albert was quicker to the draw, and Ted sank back into his chair. “I’m not a writer,” he said. “I’ve never been a writer, and, frankly, I don’t want to be a writer. I’m just a factory worker who likes writing. The best advice I can give you is for you to drop your dream of being a writer and just write. Sit down with a notebook and the rest will come on its own.”

Uhhs and ahhs emerged from the crowd. Then effusive clapping.

“Wow,” said Debbie White, Bessborough Poet Society President. She was clutching another Kleenex, keeping it close to her chest. She stepped towards the microphone and stared into Albert’s eyes. Then she put a hand on his shoulder. “That was beautiful,” she said, turning towards the crowd. “This seems like the perfect place for us to end this fantastic evening, don’t you all think?” The crowd was agreeable to this idea and at once erupted into a thundering ovation. “Thank you so much for coming out,” said Debbie. “Help yourselves to more coffee and snacks…and have a great evening!”

Ted needed fresh air. Was he angry? Of course he was angry. Did he want to punch Albert in the face and knock out every one of his pearly white teeth? You betcha. His heart raced as he stormed off the stage and pushed his way through the crowd. Outside he could feel his whole body shaking. He wanted to yell. To vomit. To cry. He dragged himself towards the far corner of the courtyard and leaned against a tree. What had just happened? How dare that asshole speak like that? Just write…Just write?! Writing is hard work. Sacrifice. Dedication. None of this, I just write, crap. Nobody just writes.

Ted was imagining exactly how he’d tell Albert off, when a tap on the shoulder jolted him back to reality. There was Albert, smiling at as he held a small package in his right hand. The package was wrapped in construction paper and tied with twine. Albert stepped in for a hug and Ted obliged. The summer night was clean and calm.

“Great job in there,” Ted Sullivan said, patting Albert on the arm as he did his best to hide his anger.

“Thanks, buddy.” Albert’s eyes drifted out of focus, his words carrying lazily into the night. “It’s crazy, isn’t it? Who would have guessed that this would ever happen?”

No one could have guessed this, Albert. No one.

“Ah well, you deserve it,” said Ted.

“Thanks man!” Albert said, his thoughts returning to the parking lot of the Bessborough Presbyterian Church. “By the way, I loved your piece. Great work!”

Ted smiled but didn’t say a thing. What could he say?

Albert raised his right arm and shook the package in Ted’s face. “Wanna grab a beer?” he asked. “I have something I want to show you.” By the shape of it, Ted could guess what it was.

“Sorry, but I can’t tonight. Peggy and the girls are waiting at home with a roast.”

Albert was taken aback. He seemed genuinely disappointed at Ted’s answer. Ted didn’t care. There was no roast waiting for him at home. Just a can of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. But he had made up his mind: he would never have another beer with Albert. Not today. Not ever.

“Well… I just want to give this to you. Give me a call when you open it, ok?”

Albert pushed the package into Ted’s arms. “Rain check on the beer?” he asked.

“Sure,” lied Ted, turning away.

“Give Pegs a hug from me.”

Ted walked briskly towards his car. When he got to his Subaru, he yanked the door open and threw the package into the passenger seat. He had no intention of opening it. Not today. Not ever. Before backing out of his spot, he rolled down the window. Albert was staring at him. He waved at Ted. Ted waved back. As he drove away from the church, he felt the wind on his face. Where would he go? He didn’t want to go home. Peggy would ask how the event had gone. She’d beg for him to read her his poem. He’d read it and she’d say, “Wow, that’s really good” and continue on with her day as if nothing had happened. It drove him mad. Would he go to a bar? The library? It didn’t matter. Just not home. He turned right and made his way towards Wheeler. Maybe he’d get on the highway. Maybe he’d leave town.

About an hour later, Ted pulled over. He hadn’t gotten on the highway after all. He was in the parking lot of the old high school, a few block away from his house. He looked across the front seat. The package stared back at him tauntingly. He picked it up and sighed. It was heavier than he expected. He shook his head and ripped the package open, shredding the wrapping paper to bits. The cover was entirely black. The background had a sleek matte finish and the words “poems by a. a. saunders” were printed in a shinny, satin lettering in the top right corner. Ted ran his fingers over the words. They felt cool and smooth. Who the fuck writes their name like that anyway? What a joke. Ted opened the book and the spine crackled as it bent backwards. The book smelled new. He slowly made his way through the first few pages. The title page, the frontispiece, the accolades (which were glowing), the copyright page. He always read these: it was a habit he had picked up when he was studying to become a librarian. Then he got to the dedication page. As he read it, a wave of nausea rolled through his stomach.

Ted Sullivan shook his head in disbelief, tears welling in his eyes. How dare that asshole do this to him? He tossed the book back onto the passenger seat. It landed with a heavy thump. He started the car and began driving with purpose. Up Main Street, a right on Bonnacord, a left on St. George. He’d show Albert exactly how he felt. Was he going to yell or punch him? Would he push him to the ground? Kick him? Slap him? Oh yeah, thought Ted Sullivan: a good slap would do the trick.

He turned left onto Mount Royal and pulled into a long driveway halfway down the block. Before getting out of the car he picked up the book and looked at the dedication page once again. To Ted, who taught me everything I need to know about poetry and life. He shut the book and put it down. Then he stormed out of his car, marching towards the front door, hatred bursting from his eyes.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Three loud thumps on the door with the side of his fist. A warning sign of his intentions. At first, silence. Then some scurrying inside the house. The noises were getting closer. Ted Sullivan took a step back to make sure he had enough room to swing his right arm.  Some fumbling at the door. Would the coward come out? Of course he would.

The rest, happened so fast that Ted couldn’t even register it: An unlatching of a lock, the door swinging open, and a.a., still in his light blue shirt, smiling his pearly white smile, looking dashing and comfortable, stepping out the door. And Ted Sullivan, smiling back at him, tears in his eyes, stepping in for a massive embrace.

“Congratulations, buddy,” said Ted Sullivan as he held onto Albert’s neck, tears moistening his shoulder. “You deserve this. I’m so damn proud of you.” 

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AbbyFitness Liked Your Photo

AbbyFitness liked your photo. A young man drifting through life falls in love with a fitness influencer, only to find out that the love of his life has been by his side for years. AT FIVE O’CLOCK, I walk out of my room and yell, “Nana, it’s time!” But Nana doesn’t hear me. She’s sound…


Últimamente, cada vez que un estímulo casual me hace repasar la videoteca mental para encontrar algún gol, el buscador escupe siempre el mismo video: JuliánMaidana.avi.


Se dice que el deporte expone lo mejor — y lo peor — de cada persona. Yo soy testigo privilegiado de esto último.