Robert John Miller's work has appeared in Hobart, Necessary Fiction, MoonPark Review, X-R-A-Y, Peregrine and others. You can find more stories at robertjohnmiller.com. He lives in Chicago and is polishing his first novel.
ROBERT JOHN MILLER
I knew the phone call had come through because he hadn't texted that day and we had been texting every day for months with mostly just gifs and memes but also real stuff in-between and he had said when the news came in he'd want to be alone for a few days and not in a mean way but more just like the leave me the fuck alone way which I totally understood because I was the same when it was my turn which is also why I just got in the car and drove the hour without asking or even really knowing since we hadn't talked but still I just knew. I had to text a mutual friend to get his address.
I pull up screeching along because my car's shocks had gone out a year ago and there was no point in repairing it because the car was only worth its parts anyway and he's lying face up in the driveway splayed out like a snowless angel and there's a confused moment of recognition when he spots me probably because I had never been to his house before despite the invitations and I didn't tell him I was coming and he's obviously just been crying and just says get the fuck out of here under his breath and shuts his eyes trying to wish me away.
I don't want you here, he tells me, like I'm trying to take something from him but he doesn't have the strength to fight for it and he thinks I'm going to try to grab it and I say I know man I'm not here for you I'm here for me and he says what the fuck just go and I say if I were you I'd be thinking about all the ways to go and he just silently cries more and sort of opens his mouth like he's about to say something but nothing comes out except labored breathing and he shuts his mouth again and I say I need you too much man I know I can't carry this for you but I can carry you maybe while you carry it like you carry it it's your privilege to carry it but then let me carry you while you carry it and he sort of moves his wing and lets me lie down next to him in the driveway and we grab hands just sort of naturally like those connected construction paper characters kids cut out and he squeezes my hand hard and says fuck you and then fuck you again but this time it erupts as rumbling up from an angry creature in his stomach almost as if he's demanding the whole world hear this mighty fuck you and I thought my fingers might break he was squeezing so hard so I squeezed back and we screamed along in sequence like wolves like the squeezing let the screams out and we just squeezed harder and just screamed more until it felt like there was nothing we could ever do to make ourselves beautiful ever again.