This is Randy
Randy drives a truck for work, but the rest of the time he drives a 1989 Toyota Corolla. This is confusing to you, that such a large man would drive such a small car. Randy drives the car fast. Randy keeps a can of pomade in the glove box that he mousses up into his curly rust- belt hair when he’s bringing you home from a movie. Randy does not call this male bonding, which is refreshing. Randy turns the radio up loud. Randy loves Lynyrd Skynyrd. Randy cooks breakfast. Sometimes, Randy isn’t around for a while. Randy talks like he’s from Texas. Or maybe his father was from Texas. Randy smells like grease on weeknights when he takes you for a ride in the cab of his truck, up the corrugated steel steps into the smoky cab with the blinking bright lights, and like gun-oil on the weekends when he squints through his eyeglasses at the game laid out on the checkers-board and says king me.
This is Jeff
It is hard to mark the day when Jeff shows up. Suddenly he’s there, and then he never leaves. Then the whole family is living in his house. Jeff doesn’t pay much attention to you. Jeff calls you kid. Jeff has a gold chain and wears sunglasses. Jeff watches politics on television and scoffs. Jeff reads the newspaper Jeff thinks the boy needs a goddamned role model. Jeff doesn’t chat, Jeff shoots the shit. Jeff seems endlessly uncomfortable when he’s not in his own home. Jeff has a hi-fi tape deck and mountains of tapes. Jeff has a pool table. Jeff seems lonely, even with all these people around. When Jeff mixes you a Roy Rodgers at the kitchen counter-top, he says it’s on the house. Jeff was a wrestler, when he was younger. Jeff buys shoes with great arch support. He buys you a pair of boxing gloves for your birthday and teaches you how to throw a punch. Jeff owns a boat. Jeff will split you open from bow to stern if you spill that soda on the upholstery. Jeff says, does anyone ever pick on you? Does anyone ever make you mad? Sometimes, when Jeff sinks his teeth into a rare steak, he looks just like your father.
This is Tad
Tad is a teacher, and this sounds intimidating to you. But Tad makes it seem okay. He says maybe he’ll be your teacher someday, when you’re in high school. Sometimes you hope that he will. Tad isn’t around often, but sometimes he’s there in the morning even though he wasn’t before you went to bed. Tad carries a backpack over his shoulder when he leaves. He calls it a knapsack. Tad plays the guitar, and he teaches you to strum a chord. He plays you a song. Tad says to you quietly, my wife used to love that song. Tad has a tattoo that you see when he pulls up his sleeve. Tad cries at the end of movies. Tad leaves long messages on the message machine that he thinks you’ll never hear. Tad says I’m sorry, even when he hasn’t done anything. Tad whistles too often. Tad asks strange questions. He asks: Do you believe in God? Tad’s voice is high when he speaks, but low when he sings. How can we forgive, Tad asks, what we can’t forget?
Ryan Bateman is a lifelong Alaskan. Currently residing in Fairbanks, he is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.