Fiction, issue 5: feb 2016
Comments 2

Boys by Jasmine Sanders

My brother loves a girl with big, ridiculous breasts and an IQ that could open your throat. The simultaneous existence of these features, contained within one glorious, light skinned body is enough to make him contemplate skipping prom to save money for their wedding. He kisses her on the mouth in front of mama and everybody, she holds onto his hands like they’re prayers. She dumps him for no reason at all. I cry because she was going to read Sula with me and take me on a college tour. My brother calls her a bitch and fucks one of her friends.

My first job is at a vet’s office in Hyde Park. I am fourteen and tragically inept. I don’t understand work schedules so if I am scheduled from 9-3, I assume that this is more of a suggestion than a non-malleable commitment. So there I am on the hottest Tuesday in July, strolling into work at 12:30 for my 10:00 shift. A black mother and her son, a boy younger than me, bring in their dog. He is a straggly shepherd mix, one of those mutts with no use for anybody or anything except the one person in the world who loves them. He has been hit by a car, his back is broken, his lower jaw nearly severed. The boy is covered in his dog’s blood, holding his companion in a corner as his mother talks in low tones with the vet. She cannot afford the thousands of dollars in surgery the dog will need. The vet informs her that the most economical option would be to put the dog down, end his suffering. The boy says he will be right back, he is going to get blankets from the truck because the dog is cold. “Don’t he look cold to you”, he asks the vet. No response. While he is gone, the doctor asks me to find the Windex blue euthanasia fluid. He quickly and silently ends the dog’s life. The shepherd sighs, the breath hissing out of him like the last air out of a bike tire.  The boy returns to his dead dog lying in the corner of the waiting room. He yells, “You killed my dog? Why did you kill my dog?” Anger and sorrow swirl in his face, his hands ball into fists as he screams and cries and shakes in his mother’s arms, a tiny thunderstorm she seems unable to contain. The vet orders the boy to calm down, threatens to call the police.  The doctor is unable to process the tragedy of death sneaking in to snatch your darlings while you are gone, the horror of a black boy’s first acquaintance with loss. Black grief reflected through white eyes often looks like violence.

My brother learns that his best friend has been shot. His brains speckle the pavement on 63rd and Root. I wonder if the sidewalk will absorb his memories, if people will walk on them. I cry and cry and cry for my brother’s friend and his spilled brains and walked on memories and the inability of concrete to absorb blood and have nightmares so wild, my grandma sleeps with me for a week. My brother buys a custom spray painted t shirt emblazoned with his friend’s name in violent, menarcheal red. He does not attend the funeral.

Every boy I have ever loved has had a gun and shown it to me. In an Englewood basement, lit by half a moon, the darkest and prettiest of all of them shows me a .38 so shiny it looks wet, like it was dipped in water or blood. He tells me he lost his virginity at 11, tells me the girl was 34. She taught him everything he knows, and he knows a lot. His mouth feels like church, like psalms 51:8*. I wonder if those black, boy lips will ever be able to form the word “rape” between them and what it would mean if they could.


by Van Hong

*Psalms 51:8: make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which you have crushed rejoice.


Jasmine Sanders is a reader, writer and wanderer from the south side of Chicago. She enjoys twitter, cheese and destroying the self-confidence of men. She is currently engaged in a heated debate with herself regarding whether she is responsible enough to adopt a cat. You can find her on twitter and tumblr.

Cover Illustration by Taylor Mobley (website).

Illustration by Van Hong (website).


  1. This was beautiful- you show a very deep and intimate understanding of grief/trauma and the ways people process it. And it made me cry. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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