This tune goes manly.
A witch's tit Tuesday night and I'm on dorm duty at the boarding school where I teach, coach, and live. If you don't know, then don't ask, but duty in a dorm is about as fun as it sounds. Anyway, there's a fuse blown in some boy's room and I don't have access to the fuse box closet. This other kid needs an escort to the health center because he's hooked on online gaming and needs to spend a few nights away from the pipe, so to speak. So I call campus safety. They send over an officer, real nice guy, last name Shanahan from his badge. We get the fuse situation settled and head over to the room of the boy cracked up on Warcraft and knock at his door. He's packing clothes and books, says he will be back out in a few. Shanahan and I get to talking and maybe he hears something in my accent because he asks where I grew up. I tell him Lowell. He says he grew up there too. He asks do I know the Owl Diner? I say shit yeah, I'm going there this Sunday with my mom since it's been five years since my dad died and the brothers are taking her to breakfast. I bring up Donna O' Keefe who waitresses there, whose boys I played football with. Of course he knows her, his dad owns the place. And he says he went to Central Catholic and I tell him I went to Lowell High and he asks me my age and when I tell him he asks if I know Shane Norton who went to MIT or Steve Mattheos who is now a doctor and I say sure, they were pals with my brother. I ask if he knows Mike Sullivan who went to Central and lives in Southie and got a divorce. Or Chris McGuirk, whose coffin I helped carry fourteen falls ago after he flipped his white Camaro into a dumpster. We bang on the student's door again then talk a little more about our kids, our jobs, and funny, ain't it, we both ended up here in front of this door. Then the conversation sort of turns to sand, gets chalky, like we don't want to push too far, find out too much. Maybe there's violence between us, some feud unsettled, some lost or stolen girl. Maybe we played each other one Friday night at Cawley Stadium and didn't get payback after a cheap hit on punt coverage. Maybe one drinking back in high school we stood on opposite sides of a fight, maybe with bats or maybe Laduc was there and pulled his .22 from the glove box. Maybe instead we look straight ahead upon the pale green door of a boarding school student's room, waiting to save the boy from games that keep him up all night long, waging wars against the avatars of boys he will never know.
Matt W. Miller is the author of the poetry collection Club Icarus, selected as winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, as well as Cameo Diner: Poems. He is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry and has published work in Southwest Review, Harvard Review, Slate, Notre Dame Review, Briar Cliff Review, Florida Review, Memorious, The Rumpus, drafthorse, Third Coast, and other journals. He lives with his family in New Hampshire.