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By Brandon Shane

It took longer than we expected, 

his words had been reduced to mumbles,

hands shook like an old boxer,

but he never used to talk much anyway.

I stared at my class and drifted

across the Atlantic, somewhere in England

we'd learned from his DNA, or Japan,

where he met my mother as she sold

sweets to stationed Americans.


how he'd always smell like cigarettes

even though he stopped smoking in his fifties

the rare smile after all that had gone wrong

& we were still asking him for advice


"Are you going to pass around the worksheet?'

a student speaking for them all said in equal parts

worry and boredom


"What's it matter anyways?" I say, and then 

bury my head into my cold, wooden desk.


Another student shoves her creaky chair

and grabs a sheet for herself, as she's already

began reading the assigned book: Moby Dick


"I'm stuck in a whale line, "I mumble. "There's a quote about that

in there, this is a part of the lesson, what does it mean?"

She's the only one who gets it, some students walk out of class

in defiance, groaning about wasting their precious time.


"This doesn't count as an absence, does it?" 

"No, why would it?" I say, feeling absent myself. 

The classroom is soon empty, and so I close my eyes,

cover my face in shame, as if I drank all those bottles,

swallowed copious amounts of unprescribed pills,

ordered too much at restaurants, but somehow finished

every ounce of grease & when I opened my eyes,

remembered he'd died in a car crash;

somehow that made it worse.

Brandon Shane is a Japanese-American alum of California State University, Long Beach,where he majored in English. He’s pursuing an MFA while working as a writing instructor and substitute teacher. You can see his work in the Berlin Literary Review, Acropolis Journal, Grim & Gilded, Livina Press, Messy Misfits, Remington Review, Mister Magazine, Discretionary Love, among many others. Find him on Twitter @Ruishanewrites.

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