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Excerpt from

Fool Circle
By Steve Young

His nerves seem to be misfiring. There are bolts of pain in his wrists, ankles, and knees. The skin around the pain has gone paste-white. Rumblings in the bowels reinforce his need for a bathroom. The Vicodin is gone as of last night. Two days out of the hospital and still no luck. He can’t stop thinking about that good, clean hospital morphine.

I knew I was gonna do it. I mean, how long could anybody just sit there and listen to that? I pressed my ear back to the wall. I couldn’t hear most of what they were saying. She cried and screamed, louder each time he hit her. He wasn’t yelling at all. He growled at her, then the growling got deeper and more incoherent just before you heard it. Thwap! I guessed he was hitting her in the head, open handed. I heard it the third time and got up to go to their door. Then I lost my nerve. I sat down and tried to convince myself that he wasn’t actually beating her, he was just slamming his hand down on the bed, ya know, right next to her. To scare her. I put my ear to the wall again.

She screamed, “You’re a coward! You’re a coward!”

It felt like she was screaming at me. He growled again, and then the Thwap! I opened my door and walked to theirs. I knocked as hard as I could, loud and fast like a cop. It was instantly quiet. Even the crying stopped. I realized I was standing in the hall wearing only my boxers. It’s a terrible name for underwear, because if that’s all you’re wearing in a situation like this, you sure as hell don’t feel like fighting. The door opened a crack, and he said “What?” The lights in their room were off, so I couldn’t see him.

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