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David Tromblay

Out of This World

The Eye Mix by Matheus Formiga

“I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” That’s a mantra your father repeats to remind you how tough he is. But it’s a bluff, just like his welcome home speech: “The day you can take me is the day you can move out.” But neither of those start off this story.

They’re just the underpinnings.

“You’re stealing from me,” he says, “you little thief.” He pauses between each word when addressing you in the latter part of that sentence, catching his breath, or collecting his thoughts that’ve long since left him to his own devices on this latest drunken stupor. Little drops of spittle leave his lips and sprinkle on your forehead, causing you to close your eyes, collect your thoughts, and let go a long, slow breath.

You stop in your tracks and drop your book bag from your shoulder down to the floor next to your feet. Maybe that is more in response to the aluminum baseball bat landing along your widow’s peak, centered between the two caterpillars you call eyebrows. That’s pretty good accuracy for being as drunk as he is. So is his saying that you are stealing from him. You are stealing from him, but not enough to make a bill go unpaid. You’re just taking enough from his wallet to take karate classes. They’re only twenty bucks a month. You don’t even take the belt tests. Those cost extra. You skip those weeks. Not that you’re above scribbling his signature on a permission slip.

This is one of those life altering moments. It’s an out of body experience. You watch it all from the corner of the room. It’s as if you’re standing on a step ladder, looking over your own shoulder—if you were still standing, that is.

You do this weird Michael Jackson thing—that dance move he does when it looks like he’s leaning so far over that he’ll fall, but then he stands straight up. Effortlessly.

It looks like you’re watching a movie of this, with the sound off, you can’t hear a thing. Then someone starts to rewind it. And just like that, you’re standing back up.

Your father has an umbilical hernia. To fix it, he needs surgery. It’s an elective surgery. Without that surgery, he gets a disability check.

The bulged belly button is where the first punch lands.

He drops the baseball bat, almost tripping over it, and stutter steps toward you.

He raises his hands toward your face, toward your throat.

He loves to choke people.

He’s not much for hitting.

Your hand returns to your face before he has a chance to process what you’ve done, what you’ve finally done. The movement is robotic. Drilled into to you over and again by the sensei.





Thumb to cheekbone.

Look over the tops of your fists.

The punch starts with a rotation of the hips.

The arm acts like a whip.

Right punch, left kick.

That left kick lands centered on his inseam, sending a testicle to either side of his tighty whities, and him to his knees. He charged at you, so he falls forward.

You step back to let him fall flat on the floor, only he doesn’t. His knees crash into the carpet, his beer belly and barrel chest smack the top of his thighs, his chin sits on his chest with a sweaty sounding slap, and your back foot flies forward. You drive your right knee right into his nose.

His false teeth fall to the floor.

The rest is a bit blurry. You exhaust yourself. When you take a breath, or catch one, you see he’s out cold. His cheeks flutter like a snoring cartoon character. The fingers on your right hand fumble through your mom’s work number. You don’t dare take your eyes off him.

You can’t remember much of the conversation, even seconds later when she asks you to say that again, so you say, “Come get me before he wakes up,” stuff all the clothes you can into a trash bag, head to the bridge a half mile away.

But before you leave, you pull his 1955 Dove acoustic guitar out of the corner of the living room, giving it a spin, looking down the neck, admiring the craftsmanship. Then you rest it up against his recliner and plant your foot where the neck meets the hollow body, and leave it laying there for him to find.

You’re no thief.

The calendar tacked to the kitchen door reads: Tuesday, July 14th, 1992.


About the writer:
David Tromblay is a native of Duluth, Minnesota. He served for 10 years in the U.S. Navy, deploying to Iraq, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He earned a BA in English Literature and Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and is currently a graduate student in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His essays and short stories have appeared in Minerva Zine, The Nemadji Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and [Insert Title Here]: Neo-Modern Literature and Art from the Institute of American Indian Arts. His first novel, The Ramblings of a Revenant: An Oral History of the Vampires, was published in 2015.

Image: “The Eye Mix” by Matheus Formiga. Digital image. No technical information specified. By 2017. By permission.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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