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"Stones" - Corey M. Pentoney

I.

Zach and I would always wake up
an hour or two before my parents
and walk out the front, careful
not to let the screen door bang,
holding it back, carefully.

At first, we both would fish off the dock
for perch and the occasional pike,
right up until our shallow stock
bucket filled with too many squirming bodies,
their scales shining like water in the morning sun.

He didn’t know how to clean
the fish, so that was left up to me;
the knife found its own way
through the scales and the guts,
the bones of the spine
crunching as it went.  I wasn’t supposed
to drop off the offal into the river, but
sometimes I would, just to watch
the rock bass nibble
as it dropped like a stone.

II.

I wanted to be like them, Zach and Chris,
tall and cool, talking about girls as if they knew
every secret of the world beyond our backyard.

I would let them tie me up in the garage,
lock the doors, and wait to see how long
before I gave up or got out.
I never gave up, and they called me Houdini.
We three would explore the gravel pits
behind my house, and me being the best
climber, they would say, “Go down
to the bottom.  We’ll wait up here.”
  I found
a piece of foam the size of my body,
and Chris yelled that I should
hold it up, and he would use it

as a target, throwing rocks.  I did.
When the rock hit me,
glittering stars like fish swam
around my head;
there was blood in my mouth.

My pride cracked like a stone.

III.

When Zach and I went back there,
after the stub of one tooth had been wrenched
from my jaw by a dentist with a German name,
and I had a brand new hard-scale resin tooth
on a pink resin flipper, we couldn’t find my lost bone.

Maybe it had been scooped up
by bulldozers, delivered to the rock crusher.

Or maybe it was swallowed;
still, it sits in my stomach
like a stone.