Somber, and straight to the heart. Jon Tobias enters our contest

Hello from the Towers,

Jon Tobias is a young writer who has been submitting entries to us for five years and I believe he will be one of several among us who will find a larger audience for his work as novelist and poet. This contest explicitly asks each author to dig deep, be the archaeologist of your own soul.  Indiana Jones got nothin’ on him.

Here is

I called her Freddie Mercury

by Jon Tobias

I make pillow cases out of t-shirts and your sugar cookie body spray. I occasionally bury my face into the thin cotton and inhale the sweet chloroform leading to a heavy and sad sleep. I can still eat sugar cookies. It just happens slowly, the careful way a blind man eats so that the spoon or fork does not miss or crack his teeth.

I paint “morgue” on the door to the bedroom. I sleep on the couch which is soaked in a whole ocean of my salt. Delirious, some days I feel I am on a thin raft at sea, floating away from a small island big enough for a bed and a grave.

I still find sutures of hair threaded into my t-shirts. I do not remove them, though sometimes people pull them out too early, and I want to tell them that the wound is still healing. Their fingers carelessly let go, and thin strands of honey drizzle to the floor.

I finally wash the laundry so that I may donate it to Goodwill. Her friends have come and taken what they want. In the pockets of her jeans I find little paper pills. I unfold the paper like little fortune cookie suicide notes. They all say something along the lines of, “I can’t do this anymore.” I label the donation bin “hindsight” and drop it off at the Goodwill.

I take a long shower and masturbate, thinking of the last time we made love.

And after.

Are you going to do that to other girls you meet?

Not if you’re going to be up their watching me.

You save your best moves for me?

Why not? You’re Freddie Mercury and every other girl is going to be some remix.

Sometimes remixes are better.

They’re never the original.

Freddie Mercury had Aids, and I have cancer.

It’s a metaphor.

I just want you to be ready for life without me.

I moved and buried my face into her side. She squirmed and giggled, coughed a little.

A few days prior she showed me how she makes the chicken that I love, and wrote the recipe down. We bought me some work clothes and going-out clothes. We stocked the fridge with things that are easy to make. We went to the zoo and saw a movie.

We fucked.

Get your head outta there.

I just like the way you feel.

She stroked my head drawing long slow circles. She said, When you were a boy I bet you had a cowlick with a halo on it.

That’s why I shave it.

You’ll grow it out before you see me again.

Consider it a backstage pass to see Freddie Mercury.

She laughed again.

Will you hold me?

I held her until I fell asleep. Woke a little to her kissing my mouth hard and pulling the blanket over me, tucking a loose part under my head.

That morning she was cold and I was holding no one.


31 thoughts on “Somber, and straight to the heart. Jon Tobias enters our contest

  1. Thornton Sully says:

    Jon, this is the best thing you have ever submitted to us. I hope it means you’ve found your stride, and there is more to come in your career a writer. The paragraph about her hair being the sutures that bind your wounds…stunning

  2. Kyle Katz says:

    Astonishing. Now I know why the earth moved and the sky split open. You were writing! I Love this and your style of laying it on paper has no separation between your thought and your soul. Makes me want to be a better writer.

  3. Monica Brinkman says:

    I am crying such tears of sorrow, mixed with deep love and I cannot get enough of this story. It captures the raw emotion and reality of pending death. The hopelessness, the never ending sorrow, the need to capture each second, each moment before there are no more. Bravo, bravo, bravo. Okay, back to crying.

  4. Jacquie Schmall says:

    Thank you Jon.
    You shared an awesome blend of images, hormones, honey, and vinegar. I am inspired to dream how secret pillow cases color soothing memories, while freshly washed donations are set free to find renaissance at Goodwill.


  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    Jon I agree with all the other comments. This one – well it took me places that showed me how potent and powerful your writing has become. Your writing flowed carrying all the feelings that were not said but dripped from the words. Beautiful and outstanding. So good to read your stories again.

    • Jon Tobias says:

      I am glad you can see a positive change. It felt good to finally write a story again. Good to hear from you. Thank you.

  6. Tiffany V says:

    It’s so hard to make writing about death look this easy and fluid. Honest. I like the poetry in the way you describe the crying, and the artist response to the situation (writing morgue on the door). Powerful read. Unforgettable (the words perhaps, but the feeling ==> never).

    Sidenote about the masturbation as a character. It was actually kinda charming. Definitely clever. Aces.

  7. Laura G says:

    This grabbed me right away with specific, stirring images. Yet you didn’t give it away right away. You juxtaposed images that foreshadow the themes of life and death: sugar cookie body spray and chloroform, hair and sutures. Metaphor and emotion are seamlessly woven in, and the dialogue is humorous and real. Love the raw honesty of this piece!

  8. Mac Eagan says:

    I appreciate the pain of loss expressed in the beginning of the story, which I assumed was due to a break-up, that transformed into the realization that this event was much more permanent. The loss expanded to encompass both characters. Excellent.

  9. Grant Laurence says:

    Excellent work, Jon. Your story is a fine piece of work, great imagination, realism, a shades of dark gray. Fantastic!

  10. Andrew Perez says:

    Good stuff, Jon. This is . . . no words, just awe. Favorite line: “She squirmed and giggled, coughed a little.”

  11. Brian says:

    Life is a bitch, and I love it all the more. You capture it soooo well. It really is a joy, even the saddest parts.
    Thank You, for that.

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