In the Last Days of Pretending

The one time I remember visiting your family’s home, we discussed Tolkien and E.B. White in your bedroom while listening to a 78” recording of Tchaikovsky, thinking we were so mature. I was wrapped up in the sound of your voice rising and falling, your eyes aglow as you conveyed some fine plot point, when suddenly you decided to show me your secret escape hatch. 

We tiptoed past your father, drinking red wine from a coffee mug for lunch. Overly curious about this rare visitor, he turned and slurred an obscene question at me. He was a danger you shrugged off with an eye roll, urging me to keep walking.  

You led me to that place among the summer weeds, beneath the mulberry tree adjacent to the alley. We stepped in, ducking our heads because this fort had been made for littler kids by your younger dad, who had pounded every nail in place, never bothering to paint. Just some plywood boards with a window and a hole cut for a door.  

I might have thought we were too old for this—you with your paper route and band practice, me with my serious expression holding back the fear, cancer making my mother disappear. You too must have seen what a wild leap it was, donning our silver suits of play-pretend one more time.  

You laid in a course for anywhere but here, and I was glad for the ride, invited by your confident blue eyes, your hands steady at the helm. We flew until your house grew small, until all of Royal Oak was gone, until stars became the only eyes in darkness.  

We landed on planet after planet that afternoon, searching what remained of our imaginations for a more habitable place, a world that would gratefully receive such refugees as us. Neither of us brave enough to say aloud the things we felt and wondered about—the sudden closeness between us, the meaning of our bodies changing, the heavy sense of something beautiful about to be lost.   

It seems impossible that it was only one day I spent with you there, behind your three-story house. Your little sister peering at us from a second-floor window. Your older brother in the basement with teenage friends reading Robert Crumb and National Lampoon. Your dad drunk and crying at the kitchen table, a hazardous comet of rage and desire.  

And us, nowhere to be found. Lost among the stars one last time. Fearless. Invulnerable. Orbiting each other.

Photo by Bartek Garbowicz on Unsplash.

Alfred Fournier

Alfred Fournier grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan. He is an entomologist and an enthusiastic volunteer in the literary community of greater Phoenix. He coordinates poetry workshops for a local nonprofit. His flash and creative nonfiction have been featured in Delmarva Review, Lunch Ticket, New Flash Fiction Review, Drunk Monkeys, Quibble, The Perch Magazine and elsewhere. His poems have appeared in The Indianapolis Review, Hole in the Head Review, Welter, Third Wednesday, Cagibi, The New Verse News, International Times and elsewhere. In 2022, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editors of Gyroscope Review. His first poetry collection, A Summons on the Wind, is available from Kelsay Books and on He lives in Phoenix with his remarkable wife and daughter, and three mostly harmonious cats. Find him on his website and X.