by Pete Prokesch

MY OLD MAN turned up the volume on the remote and spat into a beer can. I wasn’t allowed to talk while he watched 24, so I lay on the shaggy carpet and rested my head on a cushion.

‘Jack, you bastard,’ he said to the blonde man on the screen. ‘You have three hours left.’ The brown spit gathered and frothed on the corner of his mouth. Suddenly, aware of my presence, my old man turned to me.

‘How old are you now?’

‘Fourth grade,’ I said.

‘Not your grade, your age, nitwit.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Almost ten.’

He rubbed the gray stubble on his chin and opened a round metal can.

‘It’s called tobacco,’ he said. ‘You put it your mouth like this.’ He stretched his lip away from his yellow teeth and revealed a wet brown glob. It looked like a cat’s turd.

‘Don’t swallow it,’ he said. ‘And spit into one of these.’ He handed me an empty Bud Light bottle.

‘Helps you focus,’ he said. ‘And not think so damn much.’ He’s eyes drifted towards the picture of Mom by the stove.

‘How much do I take?’ I said. But he just leaned forward and muttered to Jack and the light from the screen flickered on his brown and weathered skin.

After a few spits I felt light-headed and the glow from the TV hurt my eyes and Jack Bauer began to spin. Then I saw two of him. The second one looked like Dad.

After I puked in the bathroom I sat by my old man on the couch. He didn’t push me off or call me names and his shoulder felt soft and warm.


Pete Prokesch is a writer and lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Four Way ReviewThe Westchester Review, BlazeVOX JournalThe Bookends ReviewPonder ReviewTINGE MagazineThe Wise Owl, Across the Margin, and Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, among others. He reads fiction submissions for Epiphany. He also works in construction and teaches green building courses. You can reach him at