Jim, my high school friend, reclines on the lawn,
rolls newspapers for his four ‘o clock route.
I like watching. It’s a quiet, July afternoon,
Mosquitoes, close as a bad dream, pester my head,
distract me from staring at his perfect neck, skin
taunt with youth. He brings a paper to his chest,
rolls it around itself, tucks both ends to stop the paper
from unfolding. Many afternoons I have watched
this routine as we shared school trivia and lamented
about girlfriends we didn’t have but wanted.

This afternoon is different. As I follow his eyes,
study his hands repeating the folding sequence,
I feel a stir in the back of my mind. I want him
more than a friend. I want the most possible

He finishes preparing, and, often, like today,
I trudge along with him as he flings papers
onto porches. Sometimes I hang back a little
to memorize his confident gait. Sometimes
we jump onto his blue Schwinn and I hold
tight to the metal ring that encircles the seat,
knowing not to touch him.

Finished delivering, we return to his house,
Stack records onto the fat cylinder
of an RCA 45 player in his bedroom.
The soundtrack from Giant blasts from the speaker.
His bedroom is small. We sit close.

I remember all of this from a long time ago.
More than sixty years have passed since
he found a map out of adolescence, thundered
into manhood miles from his front lawn.
He joined the paratroopers, and one autumn
afternoon while on maneuvers over Wilmington,
Ohio, his plane crashed and the sky delivered him
to earth like the evening news

R. Nikolas Macioci, PhD, The Ohio State University. OCTELA, the Ohio Council of teachers of English, named Nik Macioci the best secondary English teacher in the state of Ohio. Nik is the author of two chapbooks as well as nine books: Critics and judges called his first book, Cafes of Childhood, a “beautifully harrowing account of child abuse”