(This story is dedicated to Johnny Payne.)
Three months ago, A had taken to selecting completely incorrect words. For example, A now said snow for sleep; the day before, A said happiness for alone.
Before the words he had left to compose his existence disappeared completely, he promised to use well the words he had before he ran out of them. In truth A had never been very good about using the things he had. For instance, he never used his shoes or his socks or his pants or his shirts up completely; he never even half-used his coat—but, perhaps, he fathomed, if somehow he could make use of what words he had left, perhaps, he theorized, he might be able to move on to new words or maybe even move beyond words.
B was A’s friend—or rather they had known each other for so long they had taken to calling each other friends. They now lived in different cities and depended on the phone to get them through.
A, B felt, was a trajectory point on a line.
B, A felt was a connection at the end of a line of thought.
A, B felt, was one of those friends who forced clarity—of decisions, of thoughts, of words.
B, A knew, had his own messed up shit, but he didn’t use that word anymore; instead he said stuff stupid.
A found himself an article, increasingly a-lone, a-drift, a-miss.
One day B and A found themselves in the same city, sitting in B’s car—deciding how to get from A to B, discussing their destinations.
A complained B had taken to making all of the decisions and now they didn’t know where they were going.
B complained that he often found himself at A’s whim and went to out of the way places just to appease him.
A began to make a list of B’s faults:
He hadn’t been raised corruptly.
He drove like stuff stupid.
He had no sense of derision.
B complained A was always projecting his own concerns and made his own list:
A was anal.
A was annoying.
A was anything B wasn’t.
B asked A to leave him alone.
Then, ALL the words left A. He realized he would not have any words left to use to apologize to B, ever.
B didn’t care for apologies. He felt apologies made only the apologizer feel better.
A felt apology absolved one from happiness.
A & B–an intimate loop of cross-hatched lines: A, one thing, B, a—’nother.
Dr. J. Bradley Minnick is a writer, public radio host and producer, and an Associate Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Minnick has written, edited, and produced the one-minute spot “Facts About Fiction,” which celebrates influential authors and novelists with unique facts from their lives. These spots air weekly on UA Little Rock Public Radio and its affiliated stations. In 2014, Minnick began work on Arts & Letters Radio, a show celebrating modern humanities with a concentration on Arkansas cultural and intellectual work. He has produced over 95 episodes, and this work has been acknowledged by the 2016 national PRNDI 1st Place award for Long Documentary for “Sundays with TJ,” and a 2020 SPJ Arkansas Diamond Award for Long Documentary/Investigative Reporting for the two-part “They Liked My Phras’n: The Life and Music of Rose Marie McCoy. He has published numerous journal articles and fiction.