The 2River View 28.3 (Spring 2024)

Steve Coughlin

Summer Days

When my father waves a loaded pocket pistol
in the middle of Vine Street
in July 1947
shouting Bang Bang into the blueness
of a late-morning sky
he’s twelve years old
and has just discovered
this small weapon
in the bedroom drawer
of a neighbor’s house he’s snuck into
while his mother works a double
stripping soiled sheets at the nursing home
and his dead father
lies in the ground
several years forgotten
and his older sisters are off with boys in the city
or sunning at the beach
and the summer 
has opened wide with empty houses
and drug stores with soda bottles
my father pockets without paying for
and his neighborhood feels like a universe
of the unexplored
as he looks through windows
and cracks open doors
and tosses sticks for dogs
in backyards that aren’t his backyard
concerned with nothing
but the immediacy of each moment—
the pureness of now—
as my father admires this pocket pistol
he will soon return undetected
planning the days in front of him
when he’ll reclaim it
to fiercely wander these streets
only meant for him.



When John Coughlin raises his hands
to form a T
at Steven’s Junior League basketball game
and calls among the other fathers
sitting in the middle school gymnasium bleachers
Timeout Timeout
he’s thinking of his son’s difficulties
dribbling a basketball
and how the taller boys in blue jerseys
keep taking it from him
and what John Coughlin desires
is a pause in the action
to kneel beside Steven
whose face burns at midcourt
and encourage his son
to take a few deep breaths
before insisting
with a hand upon Steven’s shoulder
that dribbling a basketball
is of no importance
and to assure him how after the game
they’ll leave the gymnasium far behind
to go for another ride to the ocean
with the windows down
and radio on
where they’ll walk their ancient dog
on cooling sand
and perhaps shoot a few hoops
on the seaside court
though John Coughlin knows
what father and son have always preferred
is the gentle motion of water around rocks
as seagulls float above the pier
and daylight fades
inviting a stillness of thought
in the safety of their companionship.

Steve Coughlin is the author Another City and Deep Cuts. His work appears widely in places such as The Cortland Review, Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Slate. He directs the Creative Writing program at Western Colorado University.
<< Brendan Constantine Virginia Bach Folger >>
Copyright 2River. Please do not use or reproduce without permission.