DISCUSSIONS by Michael McGrath

It was an orange August dusk. They were still at brunch. George was spooning vodka from a sourdough bread bowl. Amanda was sipping a mug of whiskey. Seth arrived late, blinking away gathering tremors. He was off his antidepressant five days. Amanda bought twenty milligrams from the sullen hostess and dosed his pint of prosecco. Soon he was whistling through his nose. The evening was blurry. Intentions fled with the retreating horizon. Amanda had sworn she would jog along the river before dark.

They were discussing memorials. They were discussing the need for new memorials, memorials commemorating massacres at memorials. They were discussing the service. The waitress was a life-sustaining delusion.

They were discussing institutional rot. They were discussing alumni events. They were discussing deadlines and overdraft fees, albatrosses and loan sharks.

"There's a way to disappear," said George.

"They'll always find you," said Amanda.

They were discussing vacations. "I once ate a cactus omelet," said George.

"We spent the summer on an island," said Amanda. "There were deer skeletons all over the place.

"I don't know if that's common," said George.

"We made bows and arrows in the garage," said Amanda.

"I've never seen it anywhere else and I've never forgotten it," said George.

"We found empty bottles behind the firewood," said Amanda.

"Tough and sweet," said George.

They were discussing occupations. They were freelance mules, independent contractors, ghosts. Amanda wrote entrance essays. George was on a demolition crew. Seth sold his sperm until he got trichomoniasis.

"I was a prison snitch," said George, "but then I was paroled."

"I was a carousel," said Amanda, "but then all the horses ran away

They ordered another round from a bus boy. "It's a shift change," he said.

"Shift change, shift change," they chanted

They were discussing passport fees and language institutes.

They were discussing ski lodge brawls. They were discussing depositions, dusty gossip, bad tidings, and court-ordered epiphanies.

They were afraid to check their phones. They asked around for fish oil.

They were discussing mutual friends. The father's a crook, the mother's a loon, the horses died suspicious deaths.

They were discussing war criminals. "One lived next door in Oyster Cracker Bay," said Amanda.

"I met a tyrant in Tuxedo T-Shirt Park," said George.

"He was very charming," said Amanda.

"He presided over a premium open bar," said George.

They were discussing history. They used to hide under the tendrils of a campus willow and listen to the cross country team swish past. George said it was love. Amanda said it was nothing. George said it was smoke. Amanda said it was steam. They traded passwords and prescriptions.

They were discussing recurring dreams. "They wouldn't let me walk at graduation," said George.

"I didn't recognize anyone at the orgy," said Amanda.

"There's a way to disappear," said George.

"All you can do is reapply," said Seth.


Michael McGrath is a writer living in Connecticut. Visit him at mikeymcgrath.com.

Art: Carling Hale,
Grace (Klonopin), 2013, digital photograph (Hipstamatic).
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