There are some things that might make me angry, some things that are very wrong, and some things that are only for me[1] by J. Bradley Minnick

Tenner had been juggling two women like an inept circus clown. One of the women—Kenya—a beauty with tremendous knockers—Tenner’s father used to joke that they could knock a drunk man down—had taken a job in Seattle and had decided to pack-up and go out there with a fantastic looking Thai girl named Mantis, who once confided in Tenner that she had a recurring boil on the inside of her thigh. Alas, Kenya was off to teach in Grunge City and that was probably the end of that. [2]

The other woman—Patience, was smart and sexy like a serpent, who liked to baby talk when they were in bed together. Patience would rub his chest and run her long fingers down his arms squealing, “Is Tenner an itsy-bitsy spider?” [3]

Patience was studying to be a cultural anthropologist. She studied the habits and rituals of various groups (fraternities, reading groups, the women’s league, the Rotary). She noticed cultural deviance everywhere. [4]

Kenya and Patience had been friends, although Tenner was uncertain as to the degree. [5] Tenner could not quite get a read on how it was their friendship had worked. Before he died, Tenner’s father had said of Kenya: “That girly-girl is cray-cray-crazy. Be careful you big, big boy.”

Kenya would have been late to her own funeral. She was in fact late to Tenner’s father’s funeral. [6] Tenner stood outside the church kicking the curb, while his father lay in the casket. Marbles now supplanted his father’s once very blue eyes, the eyes now gone for cornea transplant, the liver gone, too, as well as one kidney and one lung— not the ticker because it was Tenner’s father’s malfunctioning heart that killed him. 

Tenner waited for Kenya until the music started. Never feeling so alone, he made his way through the church aisle like a jilted groom. All heads turned in his direction, whispers shifting in the pews.

Instead of the ritual and protocol prescribed, Tenner proceeded to the coffin, lifted up the lid, plucked out his father’s eyes and held them in his palms.  

At that moment, Kenya found her way through the church doors, marched down the aisle like a death bride, found Tenner staring at the marbles in his hands in wonderment and gently escorted him to one of the front pews, reserved for the family and the pallbearers, who stood silently across the aisle with the congregation watching while Tenner made his way like a guilty church attendee in front of each of them—catching but not catching each eye as he passed. 

Kenya left immediately after the church service so she could drive the U-haul with Mantis sitting beside her toward Seattle. Tenner would have waived half-heartedly had he been there to see her off. [7]

Patience assured Tenner after the funeral that she wasn’t going anywhere, that she had decided “to stay put—to observe death’s ritual like a good anthropologist”—lovely Patience. 

In the hearse, Patience made it a point to discuss hunter-gatherer survival theory and said that it was “easier to talk with a man, while sitting beside him.” At the graveside, she continued, “men are more comfortable standing side–by-side as they might in the woods waiting for prey.” At the funeral dinner, she said “women are more comfortable talking about important issues while communing in circles, talking loudly and in groups to keep animals and men from other tribes away.” [8] After the funeral, she talked about rituals and monuments man erects for the dead.

That night, Patience said, “Immediate needs can and often turn out to be a dangerous distraction.” She said this as she slowly rubbed the innermost part Tenner’s thigh, 

Patience worked on her thesis that night—tapping away on the ancient laptop she had propped up on a pillow in her lap. She read aloud one of the sentences she had constructed to herself, “Once one understands the problematic value of man’s continual desire for stability and realizes these needs are essentially programmed, then one can circumvent immediate needs by waiting for them to pass.” 

She added that she would only talk about it if Tenner really wanted to, and, she assured, not only as an intellectual exercise [9] and asked, “Is Tenner an itsy-bitsy spider?” Patience assured Tenner that no one who had been present at the church would forget his ritual gesture. [10] 

As Tenner worked through his own grief and frustration, clacked the marbles together he still held in his hands, he could not get the idea out of his head that he should, both literally and symbolically, abandon Patience. [11]


[1] Taken from Joe Meno’s story, “Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir.”

[2] Tenner wasn’t quite sure how he felt about Kenya’s leaving, nor how he should feel exactly. Tenner believed that he should, in fact, be feeling something. What it was he felt he should be feeling? He needed Patience to tell him.  

[3] Patience, in fact, hated real spiders, even ‘itsy-bitsy’ ones. She would jump up on a table or chair if she saw one like an elephant who saw a mouse. 

[4] Tenner’s and Patience’s favorite fodder for argument concerned nature vs. nurture. Tenner believed mostly in biological and genetic imperatives. Patience believed that people were culturally constructed by and through various factors, including up-bringing, race, gender, etc. Tenner refused to completely give up his nature-driven position, but over time he could feel his belief system shifting not so subtly in Patience’s direction. Thus, Tenner began to readjust his beliefs and tendencies toward what Patience referred to as “archetypal ritual construction.” 

[5] Patience said later that Kenya’s sense of friendship revolved around Kenya’s sense of herself. Patience said Kenya rarely asked questions pertaining to Patience’s welfare and was not unlike the people one sees on television reality shows, who are so caught up in their own drama that they don’t even know that they’re being looked at—devoured, seen and seen-thru. 

[6] Tenner had waited for Kenya outside long after all the well-wishers had come and gone and, along with his mother, had made their way, silently and alone into the church.  

[7] Perhaps, Tenner thought, the decisions we make daily and without much thought are not rooted in moving away from pain, but instead in perpetuating survival, which, in some cases, albeit, Kenya, involve moving away from pain.  

[8] Tenner considered this all to be a very feminine lens of looking at the world, which was admittedly a breath of fresh air. After all, the male view had perpetuated violence and naked ambition and, as far as Tenner could see, hadn’t done the world much good in terms of its relative health and welfare.

[9] Patience explained that public grief took many ritualized forms: coming together to send a soul on its way; making kind speeches, hoping against hope the dead will hear the words; speaking mostly to hear the sound of one’s own voice, proof one’s existence—like, Patience said, a son shouting silently into the void, holding onto a lock of hair that one mistakenly believes will continue to grow after death or marbles that might archetypally represent helping one find his way through life and that the son could keepsake for a lifetime, perhaps share with his son. 

[10] “Culturally,” Patience said, “You proved to us all that such death-rite rituals are for the living and you may well in expressing your feelings have made everyone feel better.  On the other hand, it was creepy and unacceptable, even with the lee-way we give mourners overcome with grief.”

[11] The idea of being alone had Tenner doubting what it meant to be with someone. 

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.  You may find the complete list of episodes at artsandlettersradio.org