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April 2, 2023 by The Citron Review

by Cameron Green

We grew up learning to lie—to strangers, each other, our mothers’ faces. We grew up laughing and dirty, with smiles as wide as the fronts of semi-trucks. We were boys, brown-skinned and bruised, and our mouths dripped gold; the venom of boys’ mouths.

We grew up with them open, our mouths, like frogs and hungry plants, like waiting little beasts. And in our mother’s kitchens, we smiled our sick shiny grins and they fed us—our mothers, the color of the sky: baby blue with open arms. Our mothers: their grit, their clenched fists, their hunger and their touch.

We congregated outside of any store that sold things our mothers wouldn’t buy for us. We walked the edges of parking lots with our pockets out-turned, convincing strangers for paltry donations: playing cards, cigars, pornos. We made our best guesses at poker, invented rules as we went along. Spades means you’re a bastard, we said, all hearts and you’re in love.

But who? we asked, who loves you? And who do you love?

Some of us watched while the others walked in and tried grifting a machete from the one-armed cashier.

“Am I supposed to laugh?” he asked.

“If we can make you, can we get it for free?”

This got him to chuckle. He ripped the tags off, handed it over. Outside, we took turns pressing the blade against the tops of our furred arms.

“It’s cold,” one of us said.

We all agreed.

And we had fathers too. Can you believe that? We had fathers too, once. Fathers who looked at us like natural disasters, who were disasters themselves. Fathers who taught us how to play spades, blackjack, dominoes. Whatever they knew, though later, we were always forgetting. We had been taught how to forget, by our mothers maybe, and so we did. We never knew the rules.

But still, we grew. Our skin stretched to sheets from the too-tall bones inside of us until we thought we couldn’t possibly be more, hold more, that there could be no more to us. And still we grew, stretching, hurting, screaming at our bones to stop. Still, we grew. Despite our best and only efforts, we grew up.

So we kept on lying, and shouting, and boxing each other’s ears, and puking hose water into the flowers of our mothers’ gardens. And from our mouths leaked gold, no matter how tightly we clenched them, our lips, our lips. And we gathered up our metal juices, our sticky-sour grit, our evil dirty insides. We gathered them up and we spat. We left trails of honey-poison in the dirt, trails to be followed through parking lots and empty woods. We peeled back branches to the point of breaking, felt the wind whip past our cheeks. The untamed grass tickled our shins. We took our new machete deep into the forest and struck anything that we could find: lamps and old televisions, beer bottles and picture frames. And everything was poison, glass, and metal.

The shattering of silent darkness.

And that was when we knew that we were men, finally. That very moment. Just then, we were men. Yes, men. That was what we were. Men at last.


Cameron Green is a 29 year old writer based in North Carolina. His fiction work has appeared in Into the Void Magazine, Touchstone Magazine, The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Drunk Monkeys, and more.






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