A Note to Richard, 30 Years After His Heart Exploded

by | December 2020 B (Day 2)

To be honest, Richard, I hate the fucking Dallas Cowboys. Or “Chow-Boys” as you’d say so drawled it’s like your mouth was an engine gunked-up with black gold and well overdue for an oil change.

“How about them Chow-boys?”

Where did you get that saying, anyways? And how did you end up on the west coast in a sprawling desert home and married to that nice woman Linda with the large hair and wrists full of clinker-clack silver.

The questions I still want to ask you.

When you slapped my back and squeezed my hand, I felt for the first time the violence held back in every man. It wasn’t good enough, so in the backyard when Linda and grandma were refilling the wine, you knelled down to give me another go under the endless Southern California blue and said, “squeeze it like a man, son, and look into my eyes like you’re calling me a sonafabitch.”

I wanted that violence. And I’ve been shaking that way ever since.

But you’re a relic now, Richard, three decades after your heart went ka-pow. There’s no room out here anymore for a man like you or that dust-devil you held back, spinning in your gut looking for an open plain.

Did you ever let it out? I bet you did. I understand. How else did you exist out here among the grift? Did you ever find someone across this south land, studious and running everything with no time for anything but a dollar, to say yes to an ancient Texan like yourself looking to extend Happy Hour to drink number three?

I would’ve.

Did I say how much I wanted to be like you? But I can’t. No way, not today. I was born out here with a different kind of drawl that holds the vowels a little too long and among the woken people of healthy lifestyles and influential meditation. I’d be just a bad impersonation for a new millennium. You’re a relic, Richard.

And yet your voice is permanently lodged in my ear, and there’s an ache that still lingers from the squeeze of my right hand as I write this letter with my left to a dead man I met just three times.

I still got that goddamn Dallas Cowboys shirt somewhere in a drawer, Richard. Don’t worry, they haven’t won shit since.

9 Comments

  1. Jesse Wilson

    Awesome.
    “When you slapped my back and squeezed my hand, I felt for the first time the violence held back in every man.” Whoa. Tight. I hate getting slapped on the back. You really got me to hate that guy. “Knelled” is a typo of “kneeled,” right? That is an important place to not have a typo. Is “out here” California? That “holds the vowels a little too long” made me think about my own speaking voice.

  2. Benjamin Niespodziany

    “I was born out here with a different kind of drawl that holds the vowels a little too long and among the woken people of healthy lifestyles and influential meditation. I’d be just a bad impersonation for a new millennium. You’re a relic…” Great rhythm here. I felt like it was a middle finger eulogy. A fuck you as you throw some flowers on the grave and wipe away the tear you wish you didn’t have. “I wanted that violence.” I can feel the dirt beneath my fingernails with this one.

  3. Kara Vernor

    I love this complicated relationship. Good, good stuff to have a narrator that is so believably undone even 30 years later by someone he encountered so briefly. And this narrator is still struggling as he writes the letter with admiring this man, but also sort of not, of wanting to be like him, wanting the whole world to be a little more like him, but not daring to, not in good vibes only obsessed SoCal. I think I’d like to know a little more about how they know each other and who they are to each other. The mention of grandma made me wonder if they were family, but I don’t think so. So maybe a bit more clarity there. Killer descriptions and ending, too. I really like this one.

  4. Bud Smith

    dammit man, there’s a whole story right here alone: “How about them Chow-boys?”
    Where did you get that saying, anyways? And how did you end up on the west coast in a sprawling desert home and married to that nice woman Linda with the large hair and wrists full of clinker-clack silver.

    — excellent

    This feels like a man who married the narrator’s aunt Linda, that’s how I justify it or orientate it. It’s like John Wayne came into the family and he’s teaching us how to do the handshake the right away but the world of that secret masculine handshake is gone gone gone. I wondered about the happy hour part of the story if it is insinuating that Richard could really be man enough to have sex with another man and be able to please another man (the handshake in itself is kind of a sexual power) and the narrator in his pining to be good enough is saying that he would have had relations with Richard if Richard was actually ‘man’ enough to meet the narrator on an actual masculine level where we don’t have to pretend to be John Wayne, where we can just be ourselves.

    Powerful work here!

    • Bud Smith

      Everything that is unsaid here really moves me, if you wanted to expand the story I could see the narrator finding a little book of all Richard’s contacts and reaching out to everyone and trying to learn more about him and being surprised at what he found out — another direction for the story completely.

      But the writing here with all your work, is so confident and held together with such poise. Maybe this story has legs to keep growing up and out a bit. I’d love to read more of it

  5. Jack O'Connell

    I like “squeeze it like a man son” so much. And the “violence held back in every man”. I think this story lives in that mix up homoeroticism and violence which we see on the football field every sunday. Keep telling me about it, whether you want it or hate it or look down on it or secretly wish it were true.

  6. Rachel Pollon Williams

    The narrator feels like a hero in waiting. Subjugated and bursting to take control of his own destiny, to make his mark on the world. It feels like he is resisting the urge to become like Richard but also could use him as an example of how to get what he wants. You have a great situation to work with.

  7. Bill Merklee

    This is beautiful. Richard had to be larger than life to have made this impression after only three meetings. I’d like to know more about the circumstances of those meetings. ”When you slapped my back and squeezed my hand, I felt for the first time the violence held back in every man” is gold. And the dust-devil line does so much work. It’s a potent lament: the time for men like Richard has passed, and the narrator missed the boat. I love the last line, letting Richard know he hasn’t missed anything. Well done.

  8. Greg Oldfield

    Saxon, you had me at “I hate the fucking Dallas Cowboys.” There was definitely compressed anger and conflicted machoism in the way of wanting to be like Richard in some ways but not. I know the guy. Richard’s a dick but his confidence oozes into others and makes us inferior. I like how those emotions linger after all this time. There a few details I wanted to know, like their relationship and the intimate handshake. My mind jumped to something sexual, like perhaps Richard abused the narrator, which would be justification for the anger, but then I thought I was reading too deep and it really was just Richard’s persona displayed through an overpowering handshake. A little clarity will make a big difference, but either way this was a story I had no problem getting into.

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