“Golden Boy” by J. T. Townley

24 February 2017 on Fiction   Tags: , ,

So maybe I’m not old and wise, far from it, leave that to Barb, minus the wisdom, but I’ve seen a lot of wacky shit in my twenty-some-odd years, even on occasion without chemical assistance.  Seriously, purple dragons, grinning elves, a pod of opalescent mermaids splashing right up out of Town Lake.  Still, I was somewhat taken aback when, bleary-eyed and tequila-tongued, I listed toward the American-Statesman folded on the chipped sidewalk, only to be blinded by a giant golden Buddha sitting lotus-style in the middle of the lawn, twenty feet high and shimmering beatifically in the October sunshine.

I shielded my eyes.  My robe fell open.  I was overwhelmed by a peaceful, queasy feeling.

How long did I stand there, hand for a visor, flummoxed, scowling?  Long enough for cars to slow and stare.  Long enough for construction workers to whistle and catcall.  Long enough for the neighbors to form a ragtag homeowners association and censure me for violating their lawn ornamentation restrictions.  Take it up with Barb and Drew, was my mantra.

I stumbled inside, sipped coffee, lit a joint.  I waited and pondered, clattering crockery just loud enough to rouse Jonny, only he never appeared.  My eureka moment never came either, so I called a couple of simian types I knew, then volubly supervised as they hauled the Buddha around to the back yard.

I sat on the deck all afternoon and well into the night, pondering the statue’s golden enormity.  Jonny never showed.  I meditated out there the next morning, then mixed margaritas for lunch and spent the rest of the day sketching the enormous golden statue from various angles, his smile subtle in the clear autumn sunlight.  When the sky went pink and tangerine, and the pale moon shimmered into view, a vague awareness washed slowly over me.

Golden Boy!


I’d been studying a blank six-by-eight canvas all morning and needed a break.  Head throbbing, I wandered from my studio to the kitchen, poured coffee, lit a Gitane.  I was flipping through an old New Yorker for the cartoons when my phone buzzed.  I ignored it.  It buzzed again.  A fantasy of fellowship money, a grant big enough to float me to Gaugin’s Tahiti, flit through my mind like a wayward butterfly.

But it was only Barb.

Have you heard from your brother?

Hi, Barb, I’m great.  How are you?

Static scratching down the line.  What might’ve been muted expletives.  Put a lid on your hostility for a minute and listen, Your Highness.

Such claptrap I hadn’t heard since the last time I talked to Barb, six months ago, when she and Drew called me on speaker phone to announce the names of fancy schools recruiting Jonny for his academic and athletic prowess.  Or else it was to brag about the gold medal Jonny won at the Mandarin competition or the invitation he’d received to participate in some youth leadership conference in our glorious nation’s glorious capital.  Frankly, the whole dynamic was worse now than when I lived at home.

We’re very concerned, said Barb.  Jonny’s gone missing.

What do you mean, missing?

He didn’t leave a note.  He hasn’t called.  None of his friends have seen him.

Right, I said.  Missing.

We’ve checked with everyone, she said, swallowing a sob.  Police, hospitals.  We’re worried sick, Lez.

Why didn’t I just give Jonny up then and there?  He’d arrived on my doorstep two days ago, hangdog and taciturn, with no explanation for why he’d come or how.  Maybe I blamed Barb and Drew and wanted to stick it to them.  After all, it wasn’t exactly Jonny’s fault he was a gifted student and an excellent athlete, who had no curfew, was never reprimanded, and basically got away with murder.  Then again, maybe I enjoyed seeing Jonny in this new state, down from his golden pedestal, wandering for once among us mortals.

What about his phone? I offered.

Sniffling, nose-blowing.  I can’t leave another voicemail, she said.

A school bus growled down the street.  Kids laughed in the autumn sunlight.

Or do you mean we should have it tracked? she asked.

It’s worth a shot.

Thank you, sweetheart.

Barb’s voice was warm with misplaced hope.  I’d counseled Jonny to ditch his phone, but, as usual, he was way ahead of me.


I was having trouble sinking into nothingness, concentrating on my breathing and emptying my mind.  I’d already been sitting on my mat on the back deck for twenty minutes.  As if Jonny’s unannounced visit wasn’t already a thorn in my side, now he was lurking around, acting skittish, spying on me while I tried to meditate.  Honestly, I thought I was done with him when I left for college.

I tried for another five minutes to lose myself, but I could sense Jonny’s presence.  When I knew it was a lost cause, I opened my eyes and waved him outside.

He wandered across the back porch, looking sheepish.  He hadn’t changed since he got here:  khaki shorts, a faded Maui tank top, leather flip-flops.  He slid into a patio chair and crossed his right leg over his left, scratching the stubble on his unshaven chin.

Okay, look, I said.  You can stay here for as long as you need to.  I won’t ask questions, and I won’t tell Barb and Drew.

Who? he said, forehead creasing.

Our esteemed parental unit.


A mockingbird twittered on a power line.  The steady scrape and rattle of leaf-raking.

But you need to understand a few things, I said.


This is my house—

Technically, it belongs to Mom and Dad.

I took a deep breath that burned in my nose.  Be that as it may, I live here, and possession is three-fifths of the law.

I think you mean nine-tenths.  Three-fifths was the compromise between the Southern and Northern states during the Constitutional Convention of 1797.  The debate was about—

Thank you, Prince Pedant.  I swallowed and swallowed again; the whole thing stuck in my craw.  A few ground rules, I said.  No windbag lecturing, à la what you just did.  No entering my studio—

The garage, you mean?

Incorrect!  You’ve won the grand prize of never setting foot fucking one in my studio without an explicit invitation from yours truly, which isn’t likely.  Got it?

Just relax, Lez.  He wagged his head in an amused-but-annoyed way.  I get the picture.


Anything else? he said.

I still sat in the half-lotus, the autumn sun warm against my back.  Squirrels dashed around the yard collecting nuts.  Someone fired up a leaf blower a couple houses down.

Yeah, I said.  No interruptions while I’m meditating.

Easy enough.

I unknotted my legs and folded my arms across my chest.  Jonny, what’s this all about?

What do you mean?

Why are you out here?

Jonny tried not to smirk.  He uncrossed and re-crossed his legs.  He swiveled the patio chair back and forth, then set himself spinning, the post creaking with each revolution.

I thought you said no questions.

I’m eager to hear why you came to Austin in the middle of football season, I said, skipping class and ditching practice and probably jeopardizing whatever hopes for a scholarship you might have.  But that’s not what I’m asking.

A recycling truck clattered down the street.  The air smelled of warm leaves.

I leaned back, the deck boards rough against my elbows.  There was an odd energy in the air.  Finally, after whole epochs of time had passed, he said:

It’s not enough.

What’s not?

I don’t know.  His head moved slowly back and forth.  Any of it.

I waited.  That seemed to be the alpha and omega.

Thus spake Jonny, I said.

No response.

Alright, kid, duty calls.  I hoisted myself up from the deck and moved toward the house.  I had my hand on the doorknob when Jonny said:

How do you do it, Lez?

What’s that?

Do you have to focus on the Om or whatever?

I studied his face, trying to determine if he was mocking me.  There was always a good chance of it, but I couldn’t read anything in his perma-smirk.  I felt myself shrug.

Nothing to it, really.  Sit, breathe, empty your mind.

Of what?

Everything, Jonny.  It’s about the dissolution of the self.  You want to get out of your ego and transcend duality.  Make yourself nothing.  Become part of the One.

Jonny nodded solemnly, but he looked as if he were about to burst with laughter.  Seriously? he said.

Yes, Jonny, seriously.

He crossed his legs and put his hands on his knees, palms skyward, thumbs to forefingers.  Ommm, he chanted.  Ommm, Ommm.

I tasted bile, my throat burning.  You’re an asshole, I said, slamming the door behind me.

Jonny didn’t even flinch.


I could’ve just kicked him out.  I probably should have.  Instead, I made a concerted effort to avoid him, locking myself in my studio, not that I got any real work done.  I splattered alizarin crimson onto canvases and scrap wood, sheet metal and cardboard, searching for an image or form or pattern, fucking anything to hang onto.  My show, my first solo exhibition, was coming up.  I didn’t have much time.

A couple of days passed.  I listened hard, holding my breath, before I opened my studio door:  no thudding footsteps or clanking silverware.  I cracked the door and breathed deeply, but couldn’t smell sweat or soap or aftershave.  On the other hand, the aroma of coffee lured me out of my lair to the kitchen.  The house was quiet, still.  I grabbed my favorite unicorn mug and poured myself a cup.  The tidy kitchen gleamed.  I lit a Gitane, wondering if this was Jonny’s way of apologizing.  A thrill surged through me:  maybe he went back to Dallas!

Only no such luck.

A flash of autumn gold caught my eye through the back window.  Leaves swirled in the wind.  In the midst of the vortex, Jonny sat in the lotus, hands on his knees, palms skyward, thumbs to forefingers.  For once in his life, he wasn’t smirking.  In fact, his expression was blank, empty.

I shook my head at the mystery of it.  Then I tiptoed back to my studio, closing the door gently behind me.


I became devoted to that giant golden Buddha, meditating with it all day for a week.  I ignored the neighbors’ prying eyes and the racket they made with their lawnmowers and weed whackers.  Yet I was too excited to disappear into meditative nothingness, so I sat and sketched.  I worked my old Olympus, snapping photos in that glittering autumn sunlight.  I even did a little plein air painting, which amounted to nothing.  Not that I needed any more material:  Jonny had helped with that.

The movers from Galerie Éveil arrived two days before my show.  They packed up the paintings and boxed up the photos.  There were a couple mixed media collages, too:  wire and wood and gold lamé.  Marc, the gallery director, was already working on the photo and video projections.  This was really happening!

They found me out back, burning a joint in the sunshine.  The giant golden Buddha gleamed and sparkled.  Squirrels darted madly from one tree trunk to another.

We’re all squared away, said the crew chief.

I took a long, slow drag, then offered him a smoke.  He politely declined, on the job, on the wagon, etc.  When I finally exhaled, I heard myself say:  Don’t forget Golden Boy.

Come again? he said.

I gestured languidly at the twenty-foot Buddha.

This thing?  He pat the Buddha’s sparkling surface.

I waited.  Well?

No problem, he said.  Happy to haul her.

She’s a he—but good.


Maggie dropped by one afternoon while I was in the studio, wasting good alizarin crimson on expensive, freshly stretched canvas.  She tapped on the glass, then flung her dreadlocks around and made a blowfish on the window.  Laughing, I let her in.

Making progress? she said.

We both gazed at what I had underway.  So far, it looked like a crime scene.

Something like that.

When’s the show?

Three weeks.

Exciting! she said, rubbing her palms together and grinning.

I rolled my eyes and led her into the kitchen.  I poured coffee, she lit a joint.  Maggie was in this indie rock band, MoPac, and she was trying to hire me to design a poster for a new autumn festival they were playing at Zilker Park early next month.

Forget cash, Mags.  I’ll make your poster if you’ll play at my opening.  Deal?

She nodded through the ganja smoke, and I could tell she was about to say, Deal, but something caught her eye.  I followed her gaze to the back deck, where Jonny sat in the lotus, eyes closed, meditating in the afternoon sunshine.  He was shirtless, and his chiseled pecs and deltoids and biceps shimmered with sweat.

Maggie exaggerated wiping drool from her lips.  Damn, girl!  Why you holding out on me?

No, I said, suddenly nauseous.  I swallowed and swallowed again, my throat burning.  It’s not what you think.

She leered through the window, giving him a thorough head-to-toe.  You got a half-naked hottie in your back yard, Lez.  What am I supposed to think?

That’s sick, Mags.  He’s my baby brother.

Her face went slack.  She took another long drag, then passed me the joint.  She held it in for a while, then, exhaling, said:

How long I’ve known you for?

Long time, Mags.  Since I moved down here.

Never heard you mention no brother before.

That’s because he’s not just my brother, I said.  He’s Golden Boy.

Maggie took a sip of coffee, studying Jonny through the glass.  Body like that, he’s anything but a boy.

Simmer down, Mags.  I gave her a look.  He’s still in high school.

Say what?

I grinned.  Don’t go robbing the cradle.

Then tell him to put some clothes on!

I took a deep drag and exhaled, gray-blue smoke billowing over the table.  You don’t give Golden Boy orders, Mags.  Try it, he’ll say, Rephrase it as a question, and I might be more receptive.

He’s uppity like that?

I pondered.  No, just articulate.

Smart and sexy!  Deadly combo.

Look, he’s been a straight-A student his whole life.  He excels at every sport he’s ever played, especially football.  You can imagine what his social life’s like.

Big man on campus?

I nodded.  Dudes revere him, girls fawn over him.

Maggie handed me the roach, but I waved it away, and she smoked it down to nothing.  So he’s got talent, smarts, and a hot bod makes you want to jump his bones.

Mmmnh, I said through a sip of coffee.

She gave me a skeptical look.  Then why you a hater?

I pondered for a moment.  Okay, long story short.  Growing up, I could do nothing right.  Barb and Drew were on my case twenty-four-seven about everything.  I wasn’t a good student.  I wasn’t pretty or popular.  They thought my friends were a bad influence.

Were they?

I smiled.  Still are.

Fair enough, said Maggie.

I was this angsty Goth chick, would rather skip school and drop acid.  When I actually attended class, I spent the whole time making graphic novels in which the smart, popular jocks and cheerleaders met their demise at the hands of vengeful misfits.

Maggie grinned.  The more things change, right?

Fuck you, I said, fighting down a smile.  But Golden Boy could do no wrong.  Barb and Drew showered him with love and affection.  He was the Chosen One.  Any idea what that’s like, living in your little brother’s shadow?

You so resentful, what’s he doing here?

Don’t ask me.  He’s hardly said word one.  I gazed over my shoulder at Jonny, who still sat in the lotus, unmoving.  Look at him, I said.  I just taught him to meditate two days ago, and he’s already better than me, more focused and disciplined.

Maggie slurped down the rest of her coffee.  I gotta run, girl.  It was me, I’d put that hunk of burning love to work.

I bet.

Seriously, get him to, I don’t know, pack and lift and carry, all that brawny man stuff.  He’s happy to be involved, you’re happy for the help.  It’s good for everybody.

I feigned interest.  She stole another glance at Golden Boy.

Just remember, she said, grinning, you get him to take his clothes off to model or whatever, you make sure and call me.

You’re sick, Mags.


I took Maggie’s advice, sort of.  In the beginning, it was just an experiment.  I saw him out there, glistening in the sunshine, so I grabbed my Olympus and started shooting.  I took a few through the glass, then crept out to the back porch, treading lightly, trying to avoid crunching any leaves beneath my clogs.  Jonny didn’t stir.  Not even when I crept up behind him, clomping quietly as I could across the redwood deck, steadily working the camera’s mechanical click-and-pull.

Talk about focus:  Jonny put me to shame!

But what else was new?

The light was beautiful, and the shadows gave the photos depth and texture.  I slipped inside, reemerging with my digital SLR.  I took photos from every angle I could manage:  in front and behind and profile, from the porch and deck and back fence.  I even clambered up into the pecan tree, framing Jonny through the bare branches.  I tried to get some aerial shots from the roof, but I nearly broke my neck when the gutter I was using for a stepladder gave way with a clang.

Jonny never moved a muscle.

Later, after I’d uploaded the digital images and processed the film, I ordered enough pizza to feed a small army.  The delivery guy was still at the curb when Jonny rounded the corner to the kitchen.

Hungry? I asked, stubbing out my Gitane in a mermaid ashtray.

He wandered over to the stack of pizzas.  Starved, he said.

I passed him a plate, and he loaded up.  We sat at the kitchen table with a couple of Dos Equis, eating in silence.  Or not talking:  Jonny devoured four slices before I was halfway through one, slurping and smacking and moaning.

Seconds? I asked.

He was already hovering over the cardboard pizza boxes.  He returned with a full plate and two beers; he cracked open the sweating bottles and slid one across to me.

This calls for a toast, he said.


We raised our beers.

Jonny cleared his throat.  Through the lips and over the gums, look out belly, here she comes!

We clinked bottles.

Great, I said, so original and sophisticated.  Cheers.

He grinned, gulping his beer.  Then he stuffed more pizza in his face.

Full and sated, he told dumb jokes and took slobbery drags on the skunky joint I rolled.  It was possible he now felt too at home.  I left him for a moment, returning with a stack of black and white prints, along with my laptop, already fired up and whirring.

I want to show you something, I said, spreading the prints out on the table.

He squinted through the harsh smoke.  His expression was inscrutable.  What is all this? he wondered.

I flipped through the color shots on my laptop.

Huh, he said, I always thought you were into girls.

Wait, what?

So he’s your boyfriend or something?

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  How could such a dim bulb have Ivy League prospects?

Look again, Jonny.  It’s you.

He took a long drag and gazed blankly at the photographs.  I explained how they came to be.  I had no inkling what he thought of any of it, but I went for it, explaining the promise of those photos, insisting that for once in our petty, pathetic lives we had a golden opportunity to collaborate on something bigger than either of us, something more important than we could even imagine.

I expected him to balk, nauseated by my saccharine spiel, completely oblivious to everything I’d done for him since he showed up at my front door.  Instead, he said:

Where do we start?

Jonny was game for whatever I suggested.  I considered all manner of humiliations.  He probably would’ve hung upside-down naked from a high branch of the red oak if I’d been vindictive enough to ask.  But time seemed to be speeding up, and there was much work to be done before my show.  So we got down to business.

Mostly, that meant I took more photos of Jonny meditating in the October sunshine.  I bought a little foot-high Buddha statue and photographed it and Jonny in a variety of poses.  I worked in color and black-and-white, using only natural light.  I didn’t even mess with filters.

Then I got another idea.

I remembered these giant golden Buddhas Barb and Drew took pictures of in China.  Jonny remembered them, too, though unlike me, he’d seen them in person.  I’d begged to go on that trip, but Barb said, Who won first prize at the Mandarin competition?  It was all so unfair.

So now I painted Jonny gold, head to toe, even his short, bristly hair.  It was all non-toxic and water-soluble.  He voiced some doubt, but he looked amazing meditating in the lush sunlight.  I burned through one roll after another.  I filled an entire digital memory card.

Soon I had more material than I knew what to do with.  We celebrated over Dos Equis and wacky weed, then ordered Taco Heaven.  I even broke out a bottle of Cuervo Gold, and we toasted (again and again, etc.) to our artistic collaboration.  The tequila was sharp and silky and packed a real wallop.

A little later, after we were completely wasted, we moved the party to my studio, blasting ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Los Lonely Boys.  I laid a half-dozen huge, blank canvases out flat; we stripped to our skivvies and doused ourselves in gold paint, then dribbled and splattered all over them.  We rolled and splayed and made golden snow angels.  We chased tequila with beer and vice versa, howling to the music, dancing and laughing until we were completely winded.  When had we ever had this much fun together?

It was a first.

And a last.

I didn’t remember Maggie dropping by until I saw her note dangling from my video camera.  Morning sunlight stabbed at my eyes.  Fumes from open cans of paint and thinner made my gut roil.  I crawled over to the tripod, squinting up at Maggie’s scrawl:  Amazing footage—use it!  Luv, Mags.  It took ten minutes for the room to stop spinning, another five before the spongy ground firmed up.  I turned the camera on and played back the video, projecting it on the wall.  Maggie’d caught most of our drunken creative frenzy, that unprecedented moment of sibling camaraderie.  I could already see the possibilities.  The volume was on high, blasting our peals of laughter and squeals of delight, but Jonny was curled up in the corner, dead to the world.


About a week before my show, I phoned Barb and gave her the good news.

He stopped by, I explained.


For a couple days.  Asked me not to say anything.

She found him! Barb yelled without covering the receiver.  He’s at Leslie’s!  A pause, followed by a staticky, garbled exchange.  Then, to me, she said:  Put him on, Lez.

No, I—

I’m his mother, Leslie.  He needs my help.  Now would you please put Jonny on the phone?

He’s not here.

But you said—

I said he stopped by.  Meaning he was here, now he’s gone.

To where?

I gazed through the back window.  The giant golden Buddha glistered in the afternoon sunlight.

He didn’t say.

Well, did you even ask?

I ground my molars.

In the background, Drew asked, When’s he coming home?

What are we supposed to tell his coaches? Barb wondered aloud.  How should we explain this to his teachers?

Talk to Golden Boy.

What?  Who?

Disgust churned in me like curdled milk.

Look, Barb, he just needs some time.  He’s a little lost right now.

I find that very hard to believe.


I paused, listening to her whimper at Drew.

But there’s a silver lining, I announced.

Jonny can’t wait to win the state championship, ace his AP exams, and make us all proud?

I have my first solo show next Friday, and it would mean a lot to me if you and Drew could make it.

Barb huffed.  Honestly, Leslie, at a time like this.

This is a family crisis, Drew insisted from down a well.

We have to find your brother.

I shook my head, biting my lip.  I wanted to scream, only when had it ever done any good?  But that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, I said.

Spit it out, Lez.

Jonny will be there.

Shrieks of joy down the line, then Barb and Drew shouting in unison:

See you next week!


Earlier in the day, I spent some time with Marc surveying the layout of the show, moving around some of the paintings and photos, anticipation jangling through me like electricity.  Everything looked stunning in the sleek gallery, even the crazy, looping video art.  The star, of course, was the twenty-foot golden Buddha.  Marc thought it best to situate it at the back of the gallery, giving viewers a chance to take in the rest of the show first, before being completely blown away by Golden Boy.

His words, not mine.

MoPac set up about an hour before doors opened, running through a blaring sound check while the caterers set out the food and wine.  I listened near the front entrance, scanning the street for Barb and Drew.  When Maggie was finished, she sidled up with a glass of Malbec for each of us.

We chinked glasses.  I guzzled more than half my wine.

Glad the video worked out, she said, grinning.

Thanks for that.

Y’all were three sheets to the wind, friend.

Tell me about it.

She swirled her glass.  So where’s baby bro at tonight?

I looked around:  Jonny was in practically every piece of art in the show.  Everywhere, I said.

He oughta see this.


You know, in the flesh.

We swilled our wine.  I couldn’t stop fidgeting.

So what’s with the big-ass Buddha?

Golden Boy, you mean.


I sucked down the last of my Malbec, considering where to begin.  I shook my head and said, Long story, Mags.

Soon viewers began trickling in.  At first, they were all people I knew from the scene, musicians, poets, fellow artists.  They came mainly for the free grub.  I didn’t hold it against them, since we were all known to graze during lean times.  But other people wandered in before too long, hipsters, tourists, wealthy West Lakers looking for a little culture.  Soon the place was abuzz with chatter, folks taking in the photos and paintings, video art and collages, while MoPac rocked out.

An hour in, Marc glided over and told me we’d already made three sales.  I chalked them up to Golden Boy:  the giant golden Buddha was the major attraction, for its scale and sparkle if nothing else, though the price tag placed it well out of reach for any but the wealthiest, the most reckless and foolhardy.  So, inspired, people bought other pieces.

I was already on my fourth glass of Malbec when Barb and Drew finally showed up.  I watched them fight through the crowd, heads on a swivel, faces aglow with hope.

Is he here? asked Barb.

Thanks for making the drive.  Traffic okay?

Barb’s glow flickered.  Where is he, Lez?

Let me get you a drink.

They followed me over to the wine table.  Chardonnay for Barb, Cab for Drew.  We stood there, feeling awkward, as Maggie led MoPac through another gritty indie rock number.

Have you seen any of the show yet?

Drew nodded and smiled, nose in his wine.  Barb’s brow furrowed.  I pretended someone was calling me over.

Mingle a little, I said.  I’ll be right back.

But Leslie, Barb began.

Drew clutched her arm, whispered something, and they slipped away.

The night wore on.  The caterers replenished the hors d’oeuvres twice, and started in on the second case of wine.  I kept trying to get back to the parental unit, but couldn’t.  This was my night.  Everyone wanted a piece of me.

At one point, I glanced over and noticed Drew on his phone, but he’d always been a workaholic, so no alarm bells went off.  When, a little later, I saw them bolting for the door, I followed them out to the sidewalk.  Traffic spluttered down South Congress.  The sky glowed indigo.

I teetered, dizzy with drink.  Leaving so soon?

Drew faked a smile.  Gotta get back, sweetie.

There’s plenty of room at the house, I said.  Why don’t you stay the night, drive back tomorrow?

Barb shook her head.  Her eyes were tearing up.

Did you hate it that much? I asked.

Why didn’t you tell us? said Drew.

About what?

He’s so beautiful, Barb said.

I waited, nonplussed.

Something in the near distance glinted in the streetlights.  Half a block down, movers were strapping the giant golden Buddha to a flatbed truck.

Golden Boy! I said.

How they got him out of the gallery without anyone noticing, I couldn’t fathom.  Maybe we were all too distracted by the wine and music and pretentious, self-congratulatory conversation.

We knew nothing of his awakening path, said Barb.

Why didn’t you tell us? Drew repeated.

Where do you think you’re taking him?

Home, Barb said.  Where else?

You can’t just haul him off! I yelled, slurring.

Our boy, Barb sobbed, dabbing at tears with a ripped Kleenex.  He realized his Buddha nature!

Drew pulled her close, and they ambled toward their Beemer sedan.

But what about my show? I said.  Golden Boy’s the centerpiece!

Drew waved.

Call you from home, said Barb.

Then they eased away from the curb and disappeared in traffic.  I stood there, mute, fuming, for what felt like hours.  Leaning against the wall, I concentrated on my ragged breathing, struggling to find my center.  Nearby, a diesel engine rumbled, and not ten seconds later, a flatbed truck lurched into view.  Through a blur of tears, I watched as Golden Boy drifted away, smiling beatifically, into the warm autumn night.


J. T. Townley has published in Harvard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Threepenny Review, and other magazines and journals.  His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an MPhil in English from Oxford University, and he teaches at the University of Virginia.  To learn more, visit jttownley.com.

Untitled, Madeline Stoll

Digital Photograph

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