WINNER GABRIEL D. FERNÁNDEZ
the old man, where’s Michael and Charlie?”, I asked. “Your father is
visiting with his parents, and your brothers haven’t come home yet,
but they will” said my mom.
“Eric said he’s got eight guys who want to play. You in?” Dave
said to me. “Play?” I asked. “Softball, you weirdo. We need a short-
“Softball?” I thought. That’s funny, I hadn’t put on a glove
since college. I looked down at myself and I could see my toes. I
“Sure, let me digest
this burrito and we’ll see
if there’s any magic left
in that glove of mine.”
“Wait, what about a
pitcher? Do you guys
need a pitcher, or is this
just a family thing?” said my best friend Jim as he walked through
the door, letting it slam behind him. “But you are family,” my mom
chided him as he settled down to eat. “A red headed white one?;
must be from dad’s side of the family. You know how they inbreed,”
my brother Tom said in response. That earned him a wallop up side
his head from my mom, and everyone laughed in amusement.
Now I definitely knew something was wrong. Jim had been dead
for 15 years. He had died in a car crash out on Houghton Road. I
was there. In fact, hadn’t everyone standing and sitting around the
table passed on at one time or another? Tom and Dave died in Afghanistan, and Paul’s liver had finally given out from all the abuse.
Ma, Nana, and Tata had lived long happy lives, but they too were
Despite this revelation, I was overjoyed to see Jim. We had been
inseparable since kindergarten. I walked towards him to give him a
bro hug but I bumped up against the corner of the stove with the
shin of my right leg. There was a metal piece sticking out and it had
caught my skin causing it to bleed. “Ouch,” I said, a little embar-
rassed by my clumsiness. “What’s wrong, mijo?” my mom said. I
My leg began to throb and itch. The small cut had somehow
enlarged and was beginning to bleed profusely. Everyone looked on
with worried expressions on their faces. “Are you going to be able
to stay?” asked Dave. “What a strange question” I thought.
My foot had begun to itch and burn as well, and there was a
pounding in my big toe. The pain was unbearable. My mom returned to the kitchen with the band aid, but my leg was now bright
red from the blood and a puddle was pooling on the floor. “I think
we’re going to need a tourniquet,” I joked. Ma began to cry. So too
did the other members of
my family, including Jim.
I heard a distant chirping. “Ma, what do you
have in the oven? I think
it’s done.” “Nothing, son,”
she said, looking morose.
The chirping was getting
louder. The pain was increasing. Suddenly, my
mom turned to me and
grabbed me on each side
of my face and said “please
I awoke feeling lethar-
gic and feeble. The carbon
monoxide alarm was shrill.
It penetrated my subconscious. My dog Max was at
the side of my bed whimpering from the effects of the poison. I
must not have opened the flue all the way when I started the fire in
the fireplace. It had been sticking lately.
I looked down at my right leg and I saw a criss cross of scratches
and bites that had been put there by Max as he tried to wake me up.
I looked further at my foot and noticed my big toe missing. Max
must have gnawed it off in his frantic attempts to raise me from my
stupor. Now he looked as if he was dying himself.
I picked him up and I carefully made our way towards the back
door and into the yard. My legs felt like heavy steel rods and it took
all my effort to walk the 25 feet to the door. I wasn’t sure I’d make
it. I stepped across the threshold looking like Moses must have as
he entered the promised land. The crisp air was refreshing, it was
clearing my head. I laid Max down softly and whispered to him that
Deidre would be along soon; that she always came by.
I slowly walked back into my house, closed the door and headed
My legs felt like heavy steel rods
towards my bedroom. I laid down on my bed and shut my eyes,
anxious to get back to the softball game where I was so desperately
and it took all my effort to
walk the 25 feet to the door.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it.