Fucking Death Without a Condom

David Musgrove

I saw a sign. YARD SALE.

I followed the arrows and came

to a modest house in an average neighborhood.

A man and a woman sat in lawn chairs

In the front yard. They were drinking lemonade.

The sun was out. It was a little warm.

I parked on the street and walked up the driveway.

There were just a few customers standing around.

The goods were set out on some tables -

three children - a girl, maybe four years old

and two boys around six and eight respectively.

They were tied hand and foot.

There was an old man completely wrapped in rope.

He had a nice cane, tightly held against his body by the cords.

His expression was one of barbed wire and broken glass.

I approached the couple lounging in their chairs. 


  Having a sale? (I said cheerily).

Yes, (said the woman) we just couldn’t afford them anymore.

Those children, there’s nothing wrong with them, (said the man)

we just don’t want em anymore, to tell you the truth.

(The woman patted him on the shoulder) George here, he’s not

a people person. (She smiled)

(I smiled and took off my hat) Yes ma’am, I can understand that,

say are you selling them as is?

I’m not sure what you mean. (Said the man)

Well, the old man there, that’s a nice cane you’ve got wrapped 

up with him.

Oh yes, we thought we’d include the cane in that bundle, might

help move the product.

What’ll you take?

For the old man? Well, he’s my father, I couldn’t let him go for

less than 20.

I’ll give you 15.

How about 18?



  We shook hands. They helped me load the old man

into the back seat. I drove out into the country

and stopped when I cam to a bridge.

Below was a slow, brown river full of dead trees and snakes.

I dragged the old man from the car.

He had the expression of an earnest lover

who’d walked miles in an old pair of boots and no socks

to see his girl, only to get there just as she was leaving

in a long red convertible driven by a man

with an iron jaw and shocking black hair.

I cut the ropes loose and got the cane-

it was smooth and brown with a silver tip

and the handle of it was carved in the likeness

of a man and woman copulating.

I started to shove the old man into the river,

but then I thought I’d ask him something

     - where did you get this cane? 


  He began laughing and I looked into his eyes,

his expression had changed now

and I saw something there. I looked close, I saw birds,

a flock of dark birds wheeling slowly, descending,

they were dropping down on something,

something very still on the ground, He spoke.

When I was a young boy I ran away from home

because my father beat me all the time.

I hid myself on a freight ship carrying 

a cargo of second hand American culture.

The sailors found me and took me to the captain.

He told me I could jump overboard or stay in his cabin every night.

What choice? Another two months at sea passed by.

One day I was on deck, I saw land and jumped in the ocean.

Tired of that hairy chest, pipe breath,

the blue anchor tattoo, the loving, crushing arms.

I was almost to the shore when a small shark bit me.

It tried to bite my leg off, but couldn’t because it was a small shark.

I made it to the beach, but I was crippled from then on.

I was in Mozambique. The natives carved me a cane from an acacia


I lived there for years. That’s me on the handle, fucking . . .

(He took the cane from my hands and held it up).

I’m fucking death you see, and I ain’t using a condom. (He smiled) 


  The birds in his gaze landed. They hopped close to the thing on the ground,

Closer. I smiled. He smiled again. He handed me the cane.

Then he spread his arms and leaped over the railing.