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by Dan A. Cardoza

Some say Charley and I live on the wrong side of the tracks, in Detroit. To put food in our bellies, I hang sheetrock. I’m strong and fast, liked by the contractors. Hanging ceiling panels is the worst, especially when I work alone. I wear a hard hat while on the scaffold, so I can balance the seventy pound piece of gypsum using my neck muscles. Sometimes I come home walking like Herman Munster. Charley laughs.

I like to see Charley laugh. Me? I have more darkness in me than there are unanswered prayers in the world. I try to keep things the same for Charley. I gave him a big kid’s birthday party at Buddy’s Pizza in September. The Buddy’s on Conant Street. Just this last Saturday, we flew kites at Palmer Park, the one with the big gothic water fountain that looks like a giant’s headstone. We do a lot of things together.

This evening is Halloween. The moon looks like a hole that giant made with a can opener, the sky a black can. Tonight, I’m a Jack Daniel’s bottle, Charley, a pack of Camels.

Neighbor John laughed his ass off. The renter across the street shouted, Make sure you get the filtered brand. I got high-fived from a stranger around the block; he chuckled, Watch that shit; you know it killed Janis Joplin.

On the way back home, a woman in a 2011 Jetta, with a ghost up her ass, threw a handful of Bit-O-Honey at me in a Halloween drive-by.

I told Charley, Leave those on the ground; nobody likes ’em.

He’s only eight, I know; not too discerning.

“And by the way,” I said, “ignore the dirty words that bitch used.”

Charley barked, Whatever, just like kids do nowadays, whether something is good or bad.

I’ve been a stickler about raising my boy the right way. So I teach Camels a thing or two by practicing what those shrinks call behaviorism.

Up the steps at home, I trip and break my bottle. I’m thinking, all in all, we had a great evening. Next year, I might replace myself with Southern Comfort. After all, that is the only drink Janis Joplin really drank. Damn, now I have that Ball and Chain thing going around in my head.

Later that night:

Goodnight, Jack Daniel’s! 

“Goodnight Camels, I love you all the way to the Raleigh North Carolina Cigarette Factory and back to Detroit.”

Giggles can be heard in the two dark bedrooms.

Ok, I know how curious you are. Last May, Mia was a new coffin. We are almost certain next Halloween she will join us as a ghost.

Dan A. Cardoza has a master of science degree in counseling. He is the author of two chapbooks, Nature’s Front Door and Expectation of Stars. Credits include Amethyst, Ardent, Better Than Starbucks, California Quarterly, Chaleur Magazine, Curlew, Entropy, Esthetic Apostle, Poetry Northwest, The Quail Bell, Skylight 47, Unstamatic, and Vita Brevis.