The Northville Review
an online literary journal
I Do Not Want What I Have Got

Michael Dwayne Smith

My sister’s cancer surgery is coming up, and I hate thinking about this while I eat my oatmeal with flax and fruit, and I’m thinking about smoking a cigarette for the first time since, well, can’t even remember, and I hate that thinking about something I hate to think about makes me think of something hateful.

Want to avoid Jennette while walking Sinéad through the park. Morning’s already heating up, and I’m thinking winding behind the trees’ll be evasive, but holy shit there she is — “Good morning! You two are looking fit!”

She’s always so damn wide-eyed, chipper, whipping her blonde ponytail around. With that lime green running suit and face-eating grin she looks like a praying mantis, jogging in place, arms raised to her side, wrists limp. I’m not sure she blinks.

“Yeah, well, I think we’ll truck it all the way to Hansen’s so I can buy some smokes.” I try to look away when I say this, patting Sinéad’s head. She pants and pulls at the leash.

My cell phone blurts a Barry Manilow tune, so it’s my sister, and no, no, not picking up. Put it on vibrate.

Jennette’s nice enough, and pretty, too—tall, thin, nice ass, but good god those two dates were awkward. Nothing to talk about except what’s right in front of her. Said she used to listen to books on tape when I asked what she liked to read. We made it into bed on the second date. Wasn’t much point after that. Jennette gives me a scattered look about the cigarette comment, and lopes her long legs toward the marina.

Sinéad and I keep on to Hansen’s liquor mart. On our way back through the park I start to sweat, so I spot a bench, and we sit. The phone vibrates. Smokes lay in my lap, unopened, Sinéad beside me watching joggers with half-interest. Can’t believe what they cost me. Used to get a pack out of a machine behind the gas station when I was sixteen for two quarters.

Phone vibrating again. My sister. Can’t pick up because I haven’t called Dr. Mattis, the surgeon, like I promised, to discuss the details of the operation, the cancer—aggressive and invasive she said when she gave me his number.

She wants me to know all the details of what’s going to happen. But I don’t. I don’t want to know.

I pinch the little red tab, unwind it and unwrap the transparent skin from the box, and again with the phone, vibrating, buzz buzz buzz, and it’s dancing right to the edge of the bench as I slide a cigarette out of the pack. The phone throws itself off, smacks the concrete jogging path and jitters like an alligator tick—my sister’s face smiling on the little screen while it wriggles around in circles.

My sister’s not smiling right now on the other end of the line, I bet, and the cigarette filter sticks to my lips, but I’m unprepared and don’t have a light, and son of a bitch it’s only getting hotter out here in the open.

About the author

Michael Dwayne Smith proudly owns and operates one of the English-speaking world’s most unusual names. His poems and stories appear in BLIP Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Phantom Kangaroo, Quantum Poetry, and other convenient locations. He lives in a desert town with his wife, son, and many rescued animals—all of whom talk in their sleep. He can be conjured using the spell ""