Family Planning

Stuart was playing his favorite video game, Red Dead Redemption, when he heard a persistent knock at the door. Reluctantly pausing the computer he found his neighbor in the back yard, covered with a cold sweat, looking like a wet dog.

“Doc you gotta help me,” Woody begged. “I'm in real trouble.”

“What’s going on?” Stuart’s mind was still in the middle of the digital gun fight with a posse of bounty hunters. “HBO go out?”

“No, TV is fine,” Woody led Stuart over to his garage where he turned a light on that illuminated his work bench. “This is my real problem.” Woody pulled back a white sheet. “The bottle broke and now his arm is just hanging on by a thread.”

“Looks like a baby Yoda from Star Wars or a stillborn ET,” Stuart held his nose. “A real pickled punk.”

“Please. Don’t blasphemy the little fellow.”

“What is this thing?”

“It’s not a thing, he’s my son.”

“Yeah, like Mother Goose and her Humpty Dumpty.”

“His name is Manfred.”
“OK, so he’s got a name. Where’d you ever get something like this?”

“A second hand store called Fairly Honest Bill’s. Had this curio section in the back.”

“What’s a curio?”

“You know, all sorts of weird shit. Sponge Bob salt and pepper shakers, certified moon rocks, a stuffed rabbit with deer antlers, Mardi Gras masks with the devil on one side and a court jester on the other, stool made out of an elephant foot. Even had somebody’s fingernail collection.”

“And so you bought your girlfriend this skunk monkey?”

“I didn’t buy it for Delores, I bought it with Delores. She likes poking through other people’s junk. And there he was. Sitting on the shelf. Just waiting to be adopted by a caring couple. We started talking about him like he was our son. Delores is funny like that. She thought he was cute.”

“You gotta be kiddin’?” Stuart snorted. “That thing’s ugly as sin. So how'd you break it?”

“Long story short, we were already going to church every Sunday and when Father Frank found out about Little Manny he gave him his blessing, invited us to these rallies once a month that he calls Faith Friday. Gave us this leadership role, using Little Manny to keep those sinners from entering the gates of Hell. And that unborn human being in the jar has become part of my bond with Delores but now she thinks her Little Manny is dead.”

“Well, wouldn’t want to break it to her, but he was never alive.”

“She knows that. But when I got pushed, fumbled the jar, I could feel my life slipping out of my hands. Then it broke all over the sidewalk. The little fella’s arm came off. Looked like he broke his neck too. She said it was all my fault. Wasn’t holding on tight enough. Like I put him in harm’s way. Didi’s never gonna talk to me again.”

“Thought her name was Delores.”

“Oh it is, Didi was her stage name.”

“She’s an actress?”

“No, no, she used to dance.”

“Like a ballerina?”

“Oh dear God. If you’ve got to know, she danced at the Devil’s Door. It’s this strip club out by the warehouse where I work. Used to go in there and tie one on while she twirled around this pole in a g-string. One night she asked me to drive her home because she had this stalker. Then I started doing it every night. She’d get to the club with a girlfriend but felt she needed a man to escort her out. One night that creep was following us, flashing his light on and off and I got nervous, wrapped the car around a light pole. Hit my head. Felt like I was back in Afghanistan. Poor Delores was more shook up than me. When the police came I failed the breathalyzer. It was my third crash. Lost my license. Had to sign up for this diversion program. Joined Alcoholics Anonymous. The crash changed her life too. That’s when Didi went back to being Delores, quit the club, moved in with her sister, took this job down at the Dollar Store and started attending services at St. Francis. Religion’s been good for her, but today she just cracked up, crying her eyes out, blames it on me. Said I didn’t care enough for our baby. Now you gotta help me fix Manny back up. I don’t want to lose the love of my life.”




Casey Bush

Casey Bush is a long time Portland poet whose collection, Student of the Hippocampus, was published by Last Word Press in 2017. Casey is known to hunt mushrooms, throw the yo-yo, and push pawns. For many years he was a senior editor of The Bear Deluxe Magazine, exploring environmental issues through the graphic and literary arts. He currently writes reviews of avant-garde jazz for Audiophile Auditions. His poetry has most recently been featured in Oddball and Mad Swirl. His essay “Marcel Duchamp Gets Mugged by a Street Hustler” appeared in The Decadent Review (March 2021) and was translated into several languages. Casey recommends Chess for Success and SMART Reading.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, May 9, 2022 - 13:54