He worked as a framer,
sawing and nailing
rough-hewn boards
for rooms made of drywall,
climbing ladders
until he blew out his knees.

We have nothing in common, she said,
but you make me laugh.
And her eyes became slices
as he poured her beers
and slipped her big, round pills,
ones, he said, that would make her sleep
and keep her happy
so she’d never feel pain.

You can’t know what it’s like, he said.
Not unless you’ve been there.
And as they slurred and tumbled,
he talked of his wife
and why she left him,
blaming him for the baby
that died in the crib
the night he laid drunk
on the floor.

They say it just happens, he said.
It’s nobody’s fault.
And as they talked
about ex-wives and husbands,
he filled her days
with cigarettes and beer,
making her laugh
until she found him
lying half-naked,
a string of white pills
near his gray, still body
on the sheets.

Image credit:Darren Birgenheier

Ann Kammerer lives near Chicago, and is a recent transplant from her home state of Michigan. Her short fiction and narrative poetry have appeared in several publications and anthologies, and have received top honors in a writing contest or two.