The McKinley Review Magazine


By: Niles Reddick | Posted on: March 2018

When Eli said the word, it was too late. He couldn’t take it back, and even if he did apologize for calling her stupid, it didn’t erase what’d he’d said or how it made her feel. He might as well throw a lamp or slug her, but he wouldn’t do that. It was his passive-aggressive way, a knee-jerk way he’d learned from the generations of white trash from which he descended. Eli’d had his mouth washed out with a bar of soap when he was three for calling his own mama a bitch, a word he’d learned from an aunt and uncle who fought their way out of their marriage cage and continued to do that throughout their lives, at least three times each, until they had strokes and had no fight left in them.


Oh yeah, he knew those hairy Neanderthals with protruding brows and wide noses carrying clubs he’d seen in school videos when the teacher needed a smoke break were alive in

his collective unconscious and DNA, but now the words were the clubs. Though he got an “A” in

science, Jesus, Vishnu, Muhammed, and even Buddha would have given him a “F” in what was

right and true.


Instead of saying any more, Eli stormed outside, ran the orange extension cord, plugged in the electric clippers, and went to town on the holly bushes, bushes he could curse because the tips of their leaves had stickers and they scratched or stabbed him, and when he had them manicured and shaped like glasses of wine in an English garden, he felt as if he’d won over nature. By the next week when the holly bush sprouted new growth all over, he’d moved on, forgot about his anger, and didn’t see nature had won, thumbing her sticker leaves in his face.


The next day at work, an employee at the retreat center made Eli so mad he said the “F” word in front of people. It hadn’t been long leaving his mouth when he knew the Human Resources manager would be after him quicker than buzzards on the road kill leading to the retreat. A group was coming in and had reservations, and the resulting visit meant thousands of dollars in revenue. The employee in charge of one particular area at the center said he couldn’t accommodate them, which meant a huge loss in revenue. About three people got involved, and when word finally reached Eli, he exploded. He didn’t understand why they couldn’t be accommodated. He went back into his office, slammed the door, and heard Peter, Paul and Mary on Pandora, but missed the answers blowing in the wind.


Ten minutes passed before one of the clerks came in, said the employee had accommodated them after all. In her post game analysis, she said the employee simply wanted to assert his authority, demonstrate his control, and be the hero. Eli hadn’t thought of his behavior like that, but it made sense to him. Probably had some Neanderthal in him, too.

Niles Reddick is author of the novel Pulitzer nominated Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over two hundred literary magazines all over the world including PIF, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, With Painted Words, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released.