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enhanced by a deep tan, sunburn on the nose and shoulders and the tops of his pecs. Lions snarled at me, fires burned, swords slashed, demons laughed, and in the middle of it all, there was a beautiful rendering of the crucifixion. Six-inch Jesus hanging crippled on Mike’s back, his blood dripping into a puddle between his shoulder blades. Under the puddle of Jesus’ blood there was something written in an alien system of symbols. I asked him about it under the beating sun, the sand drying in fine grains between my toes, every girl that passed us staring at shirtless Mike for a good twenty or thirty seconds.

“What is that writing?”

“Which writing? Under Jesus?”

“Yeah. What is that, Japanese?”

“Sanskrit.”

“Well, what does it say? What does it mean?”

“It says ‘time heals all wounds’.”

We just laid out on that beach all day that day, catching rays until the sun disappeared from the sky, leaving us laying under dark purple skies, waves caressing the shores only a few steps from our toes, our thoughts drifting, coming in and out like the tides.

Mike sat on my couch, finally able to get up from the drowsy-eyed slumped position that he had settled into earlier. He talked.

“They don’t believe me about the root canals. Two of them, root canals, I show them, and they yell, like I’m a monster they yell. What are you son, striving to be that ‘whiter shade of trash?’ Striving? We give you life, we give you opportunity, and all you give us is this ungratefulness. Get out of our home! You have dental problems to spite us, son, why don’t you just take some more of your mother’s money and my money and go waste it on tobacco and finish killing yourself, huh, why not that? Where’re the drugs, kid, you want painkiller you don’t know pain, pain is you, son, living with you.”

Mike suddenly jumped up from the couch, eyes on fire, and he grabbed my shoulder, squeezing my tendon right on a pressure point. He talked right at my face, his voice a little too loud for the distance at which he was standing from me.

“What am I, a dog? Waste your money and finish killing me with gasses and chemicals, that’s dogs, what happens to dogs when it’s too painful to go on. It happened for like three years, my dad did this shit to me and now it’s like he never even touched me and now I’m the bad one because maybe I can’t handle that now? Other people I know of did worse than me about all this. You hit your dog when you get mad at your job and


 
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