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Here's What He Bought

Matthew Roberson



Our man, George, bought a fifteen foot Do It Drill Snake!  


Why ask why?  He had a plugged drain in the laundry room.

The snake didn’t work. 

Here’s the thing: THEY NEVER DO, except for plumbers.

So, back to the store, and the same salesman in his goddamn apron.  

Next: a Drain King, which the guy said would pressure-wash the pipes.

And that son of a bitch did the trick.  It was like a water cannon.

Problem solved, right?


You own a house?  They’re a fucking pain. It’s the leaking roof, and the garage door won’t open, or that window’s cracked.

Jenny said call someone, but, money grows on trees?

Here’s what George said:  I’ll do it. 

Like he said he’d get the kids.

Eighteen things to do before dinner, and he was in the van, in traffic.

Goddamn it if there wasn’t some son of a bitch parked in the turn lane.


Some guy sitting like he’d lost his ability to turn a wheel.

Like he couldn’t see the big fucking gap in traffic.

Like he didn’t understand the meaning of green.




Our man, he heard seconds ticking away on a God-sized stopwatch.

He heard the sound of the Jeopardy theme song.

The beats of his pulse.

The sound of his own screaming.

Which hurt his throat.


Then, finally, finally the guy was turning, staring forward through his big glasses, worried about the world that wanted to swallow him up.

Or so it seemed.

And, red.


George needed a minute to calm down.

To stop his heart from flopping like a fish.

Which it did these days.

Enough that George had seen the doctor.

Who patted his shoulder.

Said the framus intersects with the ramistan approximately at the paternoster.


Said it’s just stress.

Said lay off the coffee.

Find your happy place.

Right, George said, though he had thoughts, as follow:

      1.       How about I pee on your floor?

      2.       It’s just pee.

      3.       It’ll make room for more coffee.

      4.       Which I’ll give up like I’ll give up life, itself.

      5.       Which is to say NOT.

      6.       Because no place is happy without it, you quack bastard.

      7.       Not your waiting room, with its soft jazz and catalog furniture and patients petrified from

                waiting a geological age.

      8.       Do you tell your depressed patients to just cheer up?

      9.       Drug addicts to just say no?

      10.    How about I just don’t pay your bill?


The doctor said, If you’d like something for it, we can try Beta Blockers, or some Xanax.

Great, said George, like he needed more co-pays at twenty a pop.

Though, maybe the Xanax.

Because our man needed a good night’s sleep.





He was sick of flopping the sheets loose.

Trips to the bathroom.  The kids shouting when he might maybe drift off. 

Some ticking noise in the house.

Trucks gearing down.

He was sick of the dog’s wet snoring.

Jenny as out cold as a drunk.  Or pretending to be.

So George would get up.

Close the windows.  Check the locks.


Because George was up, anyway, thinking about tomorrow.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

The weekend things to be done.

Mowing.  Cleaning.  Cooking. 

The dogwalks, and laundry.   

And shopping, with the other clueless gawkers.

Staring at cereal.

Groping produce.

Wondering about the expiration date on cheddar cheese.

The price of eggs.

Yogurt with M & Ms?

Or frozen pasta dinners?

Just boil some goddam noodles, is what George thought.

Add some other shit.





Then the aisle of earthy-crunchy.

Where our man would get himself some veggie this.  Tofurkey that.

It tasted like flavored cardboard.

But George had his cholesterol to consider. 

His weight.

And the vibrancy of his bowels.

Which, you know, bummer.

Like the zombie checker, yawning.

Our man knew her name would be Brianna. Or Chanel. Julissa.

She’d have piercings on every fleshy bit.

One tattoo on the back of her neck.  Another above her pants.

Others who knows where else.

She’d have black hair.


And her shirt would show as much cleavage as it could.

Which might once have worked for George.

But his own, sweet girl was almost a teen.

So he didn’t approve.

Not really.

Though he did.

And not just the cleavage.

He appreciated the whole package.

Which was nicely angry.

Which our man understood.

Yes, that.

He understood it more than he did his friends.

Their self-satisfied espresso machines.

Their Honda EX Minivans with Variable Cylinder Management™, Vehicle Stability Assist™ with Traction Control, Wide-Mode Adjustable 2nd-Row Seats with Armrests and Walk-in Feature, One-Motion 60/40 Split 3rd-Row Magic Seat®, and 229-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 5 Speakers including Subwoofer.

Their Flor brand carpeting, and Serta sleep number beds.

Their flat screen TVs.

TIVO, for fuck’s sake.

iPods and iPads and game players and smart phones and desktops and laptops.

They owned furniture worth more than a small country.

They had manicured yards.


Fiber cement siding on their homes.

Summer cabins in the woods.

And what really galled our man?

The towels.

In every suburban mansion, the linen closets stuffed full.

Seriously, how many do you need?

It doesn’t compute, he said.

And Jenny said, Are you talking about us?

She said, We own all those things.

Well, George said.

He said, We don’t have a summer cottage.

Heh, he said.

Though, to be honest, it was on our man’s list.

A quiet place on a lake, with a field stone fireplace.

Woods behind.

A night sky full of stars.

Away from all the bullshit.



Once he had it.

He knew he’d be unhappy.

Just one more place to sit and stew, wondering—like he always did: 

What next?







                           Matthew Roberson is a professor of English at Central Michigan University.


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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