Family Planning

“Give me a minute,” Stuart pulled out his pack of Marlboros. “Nothing like a think stick to get the neurons lubricated.” After a few puffs he butted out his cigarette and got down to business. “I’ll need a needle and twine.”

“Check that tackle box over there for the line. I’ve got a few needles in the drawer that I use for leather work.”

Stuart picked out some ten pound nylon and matched it to a needle. He popped the arm back into its socket and sewed a dozen loops around the shoulder. Next he put a series of stitches at the base of the neck to hold the head up off the chest and then examined his work. “Best I can do,” he admitted. “But I’m sorry now it looks like a lopsided softball that’s seen too many extra innings.”

Woody brought out a new Mason jar and set Manny down into the fresh formaldehyde. As they watched, a line of dark fluid began to ooze out from around the stitches spreading like liquid smoke. The clear preservative started to cloud up.

“It’s the devil coming out of him,” Woody pronounced in a panic. “Satan has taken possession of poor Little Manny. We might need to hire one of those exorcists.”

“Now don’t go all ape shit on me,” Stuart adopted the voice of reason. “That’s just some kind of bodily fluids. Whatever. As natural as spit. Give it time. It'll settle to the bottom.”

“Always think of blood as being red but it turns black pretty quick. Floating in that stuff Manny looks as dead as my army buddy.”

“Well, like they say,” Stuart tried to philosophize. “The operation was a success but the patient died. Can’t you get another?”

“Fairly Honest Bill closed up shop. Besides Manny was one of a kind.”

“Did you look on-line?”

“You can’t just go out and buy one of these things. Maybe if I lived in Malaysia. Don’t kids like you know how to navigate the dark web?”

“They teach us a lot of junk at school, but not anything like that.”

As Stuart put the jar back down Woody got out his wallet. “Anyway, thanks for trying, this is worth a lot to me Doc. Three Jacksons gonna be enough?”

“I can’t take it. Didn’t really help you at all. Maybe made things worse.”

“You tried. I need to compensate you for your time.”

“Suit yourself,” Stuart pocketed the bills as Woody offered him another Marlboro. “Thanks anyway, gottta get back to my homework” he lied and then added. “But don't hesitate if there's anything more I can do for you.” Stuart thought about how he was going to brag to Johnny, “This guy's a gold mine.” Back at the computer Stuart refreshed the screen. There he was once again back in the Wild West, falsely accused, wanted by the law with only one way out. He quickly emptied his six shooters and was rewarded by hearing the game’s theme song “Unshaken” one more time: “Am I to wander, as a wayward son? Will the hunter be hunted, by the smoking gun?”




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