Myles Standish, I Am Dying

Alida Dean

Mike’s phone does its song and dance on the counter. Unknown Caller. He sets down the can of pumpkin he was eating from and picks up. “What?” he says.

“Oh, hi. Is this Myles?”


“Hi Myles, I’m calling about the Massey I saw on Craigslist?”

The Massey’s been listed since winter. He hasn’t gotten a call about it in months. He’d been thinking, sell the tractor—it takes two hands to operate—give the money to Mouse, his daughter, guilt her into coming up to see him every day. But then she went to Hawaii for an unpaid internship at a wildlife sanctuary, feeding gruel to dumbass baby birds, so he might as well keep the Massey. “Not for sale,” he says. “Lemme alone.”

His main rival at this point is a woodchuck. The cocksucker tunneled beneath the fence into the berry field and now it’s eating his precious blueberries. He swallows extra Levodopa dry, throws Belka—dog—a carrot, gets his Remington, yesterday’s paper, and some kindling, and makes his way down the driveway to the berry field. It’s a lot to carry with only his right arm, his left arm swinging around behind him. Sometimes it swings so forcefully he has no choice but to follow it with the rest of his body and do a spin-around or two like a drunk ballerina. Parkinson’s is no joy ride, but there are these moments when he finds himself marveling at what his body gets him to do these days. Pre-Parkinson’s it never would have occurred to him to do spin-arounds in his driveway.

Hot! Not a cloud in the sky! What a drought. He’ll swim in the pond after he takes care of the woodchuck. He can still swim, sort of. The extra Levodopa has tipped him into a manic state, but if he doesn’t take enough, his body and thoughts stiffen, become fixed. He drops the gun twice on his way to the berry field but nothing exciting comes of it.

The tunnel is farther from the gate than ideal. He’ll have to light the fire, jog along the fence to the gate and make it back to the other end before the woodchuck catches on. If he doesn’t move fast enough the woodchuck will saunter into the berry field, again, and continue its feast, assuming it’s in the tunnel to begin with. This plan would work better with a partner. A man with a gun at each end of the tunnel. Or it wouldn’t have to be a man necessarily—but none of the women in his life would be up for blasting a woodchuck. The women in his life, his wife and his daughter, are both vegans. But one man, one gun, one fire, should do it. If not, he’ll lure the woodchuck into a have-a-heart trap, then shoot it. Splat! But hopefully this will work, an old fashioned smoke out. Like in the movies.

He gets busy twisting up sheets of newspaper, but the obituaries suck him in. Cathy Clark died? She was younger than him. Ha! Cathy was the worst. She’d come by with a cucumber from her garden and stay for hours, if she could find you. Not at his place, at Jane’s. Fifty years ago Jane and Cathy danced to Beatles records in Cathy’s bedroom and Cathy thought—Cathy had thought—this meant they were still friends, but whenever Jane saw her yellow VW bug pulling in she ran and hid in the sunflowers. Well, not anymore. Heart attack. Take that, Cathy. There’s a quote from the husband: “Her free spirit never wavered.”

He positions the newspaper logs at the entrance of the tunnel, tepees the kindling, throws a few matches, and runs for the gate with the shotgun. The kindling should catch quickly, and it does. Too quickly! When he pivots at the gate he sees that not only the kindling but the surrounding grass is ablaze. Rocky—draft horse—looks down from the knoll with mild interest. Mike spins around twice, he can’t help it. The woodchuck peeks out the non-fire end of the tunnel. Cocksucker! He fires in its general direction, doesn’t see where it goes, then rests by the gate for a few minutes, making sure the fire is serious. Rocky whinnies that’s my-hye-hye-hye grass. Mike calls Jane. “I set the pasture on fire! Barn’s gonna burn, Rocky’s flipping out, you have to come up!”

“Slow down,” she says. “You did what?”

“Set the pasture on fire! What if my house burns down?” His house is a long way up the driveway with an intervening creek. No way the fire will spread that far. Unlikely it will make it as far as the barn even.

“Why are you calling me? Call the fire department.”

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Photo by ali elliott on Unsplash