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Tom Barlow


Robber at the Gate of Paradise by Helene Schjerfbeck

Engine rebuild done, I listen to my Camaro roar before giving us both a hose-down. I scrawl another X on the Valvoline calendar and bang, there I am bagged out drunk again on the back seat, White Castle sleeves stinking up the floor. Last night I begged the bartender to cut me off after three drinks, so she lined up three longnecks on the bar like I was Joey Chestnut. I seriously misjudged my thirst.

Sometimes waking the next morning is like firing a nail gun into the webbing of my thumb. When my asshole boss calls from the roof of a McMansion to see where I am, he tells me not to bother coming in anymore. I can’t help but celebrate, maybe buy me and the family breakfast at the track, burritos with ghost peppers. All this and I wonder if I really know what love is anymore so I holler to my wife, Hey Carmen—are we still living the dream?

V8 swinging from a tree limb
Christmas ornament

About the writer:
Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of novels, short stories and poetry whose work has appeared in journals including Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, New York Quarterly, Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more.

Image: Robber at the Gate of Paradise by Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946). Oil on canvas. 32.8 x 24.6 inches. 1924-25. Public domain.

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