SYNTAX by Samuel Cole

As a boy, I listened carefully to my parents who talked openly in the kitchen about everything. I was rarely the topic of conversation: a face seated at the table; a vexation with a big appetite; a house pet who wore my father’s ski-slope nose and my mother’s bottom-heavy ass; a creaky fulcrum on which their tiny world swung. And missed. Sometimes they laughed. Oftentimes they stared at each other menacingly, as if to erase the other altogether.

When I turned ten, I sat atop the kitchen table to practice spelling words. My parents didn’t yell me off the table or point me upstairs. Invisibility: a word I could spell, define, and draw upon. With refrain.

One night, creating a top 10 favorite vocabulary list of 1991, I overheard my mother ask my father, “I wonder if rain ever wishes to be something other than wetness.”


“God, you’re dumb,” he said, leaning against the baker’s rack. “Rain becomes snow if the temperature gets low enough.”


“How cold does it have to get before that happens?”

“It depends on the amount of humidity in the air and the rate at which precipitation falls. Do you know nothing besides pea pods and chicken?”

“Don’t be mean to me.”


“Speaking of rain.” His voice turned cavernous. “I’m feeling a downpour coming on myself.”


“Henry.” My mother snapped, stirring with a spatula pea pods and chicken. “Don’t be a pervert.”


“Said the biggest dick tease in high school.” He laughed.

“Miriam Bensworth was the biggest dick tease.” My mother turned around and threw a dishtowel at his crotch. “I was the biggest seduction.”

He threw back the dishtowel which landed on my mother’s face before it fell into her hands. “Miriam Bensworth was a dick thesaurus who knew all the freakiest words to explain everything I needed,” he said.


“Miriam Bensworth was a classless slut.”

“No.” My father shook his head. “She was simply unwilling to change her character.”

“It’s time we both got over her.”

“Still threatened, I see.”

“A rose isn’t threatened by a skunk cabbage.”

“You, a rose.” He stepped forward and wrapped his fingers around my mother’s waist. “No, I don’t think so.”  He squeezed her neck. “But you and your ways won out.”


“You can be so vile sometimes.”

“Say it.” He squeezed. My mother stood quiet, her cheeks turning red. Water poured from the faucet as he slapped her ass. Over and over. He buried his lips in her cleavage. She shrieked. Her boobs jiggled like Jello. “I said say it.”


“You said last time was the last time.”

“I lied. Now say it.”

She stared at the floor, and whispered, “Whore.”

“Now come upstairs so I can show you what a real rainstorm looks like.”

  1. WHORE

My mother turned off the stove and covered the pan with a dinner plate while my father’s face took on the wild lust my sexual adulthood would become. Embedded. Combative. Disturbed. So very.


Samuel Cole lives in Woodbury, MN, where he finds work in special event/development management. He’s a poet, flash fiction geek, and political essayist enthusiast. His work has appeared in many literary journals, and his first poetry collection, Bereft and the Same-Sex Heart, was published in October 2016 by Pski’s Porch Publishing. His second book, Bloodwork, a collection of short stories, will be published in 2017. He is also an award-winning card maker and scrapbooker.

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