Mr. Bradford and His Ox Collection

Flash Fiction

Photo by Samuel Sweet via Pexels

Mr. Bradford, the town farmer, has an ox collection. I mean . . . we call him the town farmer because it sounds a lot better than “The Town Lunatic.” He lives out near the Crescent Mountains on 200 acres of inherited land that he has kept maintained and ran like a tight ship for twenty years. He has a collection of oxen that increases every few months. There are no cows or bulls to be seen — none, only oxen.

Father Tony says he cannot part with any of them, not even as a source of sustenance or profit. He is attached — connected deeply to each of them and with time, this fascinating truth only gets weirder.

My name’s Toby Clemmons. I live five miles away from Mr. Bradford. My family’s his closest neighbors. Me and my best friend, Buddy Newsom, have walked his land in secret every other Saturday for the last three years. He’s got corn stalks, fields of wheat grain, collard greens, cucumbers, cabbage, and squash. Oh and his oxen. No chickens. No hogs or pigs. No horses.

My nana says he had his manhood stripped away from him when he was in his teens — something about being a sex-addicted fiend who couldn’t keep his third leg in his pants.

Me and Buddy were sitting on my porch one Thursday after school and she had been rocking back and forth in her rocker, smoking on that stinking pipe of hers when suddenly she struck up a conversation with us. “Old Man Bradford had his pecker tweaked and boys snipped when he was a young’un. He had a hard time learnin’ to be decent. He’d often run around town naked threatenin’ to stick that penciled thing in any of the town girls.”

I looked at Buddy. He looked at me. We looked at my nana. “Say what now, Nana?!” She patted the arm of the rocker, tapped the booty of the pipe, and stuck the tail back into her mouth. Mini smoke plumes circled around us as we sat with our mouths completely open. “The Griffith brothers got’im. They’d heard what he’d been doin’ — caught wind of it through Father Tony’s sister Cindy and her friend Maggie. They attacked Old Man Bradford one night when he’d been headin’ home. That ain’t a way to lose what God gave ya — no sleepin’ med’cin or anything like that. Castrated and left to bleed in the middle of Bennyhill Road, holdin’ what he ain’t even had no more.”

As you can probably imagine, me and Buddy probed her to go on for this was a story we hadn’t heard and I was almost positive my folks weren’t going to tell me anything like this. So, me and Buddy sat there hellbent on listening to Nana. “Sheriff Yates and his deputies went searchin’ for the Griffith boys that night, couldn’t find’em. Some say they took the next train to Norfolk. Others say some no-gooder named Tommy Stacks loaded’em all up in his Cadillac and drove four towns over. I don’t know which story to believe, but if you ask me, Bradford’s been a whole lot calmer since he lost his manhood.”

I know what you’re thinking. Maybe he collects oxen because they too have been stripped of what many believe makes a male, a male. I would agree with you. But my best pal Buddy put a bug in my ear that made me see things differently. “Them oxen ain’t judgin’ him, Toby. He can load’em all up, care for them the way he knows how — run on empty or be as off as the day is long, and guess what?! They ain’t gonna say a thing. They’re just gonna go about their days grazin’ on grass, shittin’ all over the fields, and being right there for Mr. Bradford when he needs them.”

The day Buddy told me this, I began seeing Mr. Bradford in a different light. To many in the town, he had been a man who had several screws loose — one who, if we had the courage to actually say the word “rapist,” would, in fact, be that word — an outcast, cast out, who would never be allowed back in. I opened my eyes and I see a man who never learned what respect is — how to give it or how to receive it. He never learned there is a time and a place for everything. He had no other way of expressing himself.


Me and Buddy were taking the back roads to get to Mr. Bradford’s fields when we spotted Father Tony. I decided to pick Father Tony’s brain. He was, after all, Mr. Bradford’s only friend.

“Father Tony! Hey! Father Tony! Can we ask you something?”

“Sure. What about?”

“My nana says Mr. Bradford lost his manhood when he was a boy to the Griffith brothers after he’d been trying to mess around with some girls in town. Is this true? Is this how he lost his mind?”

“Your nana said what, Toby?! Have mercy. Listen to me and listen to me good, boys. Daniel Bradford fought in ‘Nam and came home to his father’s death. Two years after that, his mother died too. No siblings. No cousins. No family. That farm you see him working on all the time was his father’s great-grandfather’s farm. His mind ain’t been the same since he came back from the war. As for his manhood — he attempted to court Lily Fleming one night at Vee’s Diner and she declined his invite loudly on a Friday night when the place was packed. He came home that very night, chopped off his frank and beans, and nearly bled to death.”

“Jesus Christ, Father Tony!”

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, boy. You heard me right. I’d been sitting up in my room feeling kind of down and something kept punching me in the gut. Something that said, “Get on over to Daniel’s place now.” So I hopped in my cruiser, sped through the back roads, and got to the farm just in time.”

Buddy looked over at me and shook his head. We didn’t know which story to believe now. Both stories could be movie thrillers, but this was Father Tony and my nana probably hadn’t taken her pills the day she fed me and Buddy that mess about Mr. Bradford.

“So, that’s what really happened?”

“That’s what happened, boys.”

“So, why doesn’t he talk? Can he talk? He always stares blankly with that boring smile on his face and waves flimsily at us.”

Father Tony shook his head and let out a loud sigh of disbelief. I don’t know if he couldn’t believe we asked this question or he couldn’t believe he was being asked to answer it, but all the same . . .

“I didn’t get there in time to stop that part. He’d managed to cut half of his tongue out too. Said it’d prevent him from ever asking another woman out. This, he had to write out during the police report and hospital intake.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. This man . . . This man really didn’t have anyone but those oxen of his. Well and Father Tony. I didn’t know it at the time, but Buddy slapped me on the back and said, “Toby! Man, you’re crying. You all right?!” I was all right, but I wasn’t.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and sweated through the sheets. I went downstairs for a drink of milk and Nana was sitting at the table in the dark, smoking on that stinking pipe. She looked up at me and smiled a sly smile. It was then I realized Nana’s maiden name was “Fleming”. I’d never called her “Lily,” only “Nana.”

“A damn shame, ain’t it?”

And that’s all she said.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Last Night, I Watched the Salt-N-Pepa Biopic and Thought of You

All-knowing Moon

And how odd was the image of you that crept into the recesses of my mind as I looked on at a bond that began quickly, kept up with the changing of the times over the years, then pent itself into harm’s way by backing into a proverbial wall. Years later, that wall was torn down and those same souls who’d bonded quickly built the strength of their love up to a level that none of us can touch.

That is Salt. That is Pepa.

That is missing you. That is remembering graphic pictures sent to my phone. Skintight jeans cuffed at the ankles. Spaghetti strap tops. Fishnet stockings covering naked legs and supple ass cheeks. No panties . . . You were a voluptuous work of modern-day art and I salivated at your will.

Beckoned and Called.

I was younger then. Way younger. And I hungered for you. Those flicks kept me satisfied when distance had been too much to bear. I knew you were probably watching the biopic last night too and being overly-critical.

I was Salt. You were Pepa. And the difference between us versus them is we had lust pockets purging our friendship into a nasty ball while we allowed our feelings to turn into something bigger. I fell too hard, though. Something I was prone to doing many moons ago.

You pointed that out. My kind of love was not what you had been seeking. Still, you threw your bait at me and I swam to it like an eager fish. I had many nets. If I could have chosen, all of them would have caught you.

We didn’t part ways like adults should have. You stopped talking to me when you figured out the way I love could never satisfy you. I found that out five years later after dreading another ghost. It’s hard tracing the tracks of someone who never leaves footprints.

The music of our youth reached my ears and “The First Ladies of Hip Hop” reminded me of you and what I put you through and what you put me through and I wanted to pull them both into an embrace and tell them how brave they are for shooting the shit publicly and apologizing to one another for their wrongdoings.

We could NEVER be that mature.

Underwater Tricks

Photo by Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

Boris had twenty-five seconds to escape from the chains that bound him. The blindfold was never an issue — it was always the key. Sometimes, it’d slip. Others, his fingers just couldn’t grip it in time. He had no problem holding his breath — at this, he was the state champion. Could he unlock the padlock to the chains, swim to the top of the surface, remove his blindfold, and tell the crowd how he did it?

Five seconds remaining. 5, 4, 3 . . .


This is a microfiction example used in A Cornered Gurl for writers to take note of for our most recent challenge, “Underwater Experiments” where “Microfiction is our addiction.” If you want to join us in this challenge, please click here . . . Challenge ends on Friday, January 29, 2021.

Tempted to Leave in the Midst of Mixed Emotions

Flash Fiction

Photo by Alex Iby via Unsplash

Locked in the basement of their home, she waits. Years of feeling used and unwanted hang at her side. He has a crazy way of showing he loves her. She feels love, though. Is it indeed that? When he caressed her cheek lightly after she cooked his favorite meal . . . When he held her close to him in post-coital bliss . . . When he showed her off at public affairs . . .

This is their life. A back and forth of safety and danger and defeat and peril. She is at the center of a damaging storyline. Can she turn the page? Will she shift the plot?

He doesn’t like his story yet he carries it with him.

He is a burly man. A tall, lumberjack with a thick red beard to match his thick red hair. His voice is a boombox set to the highest volume. He bleeds disruption. Deep inside, there is this gentle boy who spent hundreds of nights trapped in a closet — put there by his drunk father who didn’t like the way he breathed.

At the age of ten, he was tasked with being the man of the household. A paper route and bottle cap hunting became odd jobs with little pay. A breadwinner. A means to an end.

His mother wrapped herself in blind intelligence and sulked her life away in the folds of a Tempur-Pedic mattress while her children played house. She died on his fifteenth birthday.

He makes sure she’s fed. The fattened calf. The precious lamb.

He doesn’t like his story yet he carries it with him.


She pulls the small window latch towards her, calls the winter breeze inside to feel something other than the pain stuck to her bones. She knows he’ll come downstairs soon to offer a plate a food. Maybe spaghetti tonight. Or stewed beef. 

He makes sure she’s fed. The fattened calf. The precious lamb. He was a chef in his former life. She fell in love with his alfredo sauce. It was bait.

There are no children. Her mother said to be thankful she did not have the extra baggage. She can leave without tethers. She can bolt upright and out of her life with the right tools. Does she have the right tools?

He weighs the rice before plating it. A cup full. Steamed broccoli. Baked chicken bathed in homemade gravy. Scratch honey cornbread.

He walks the plate down to his wife. His prisoner. His catch. He loved her deeply. He hopes she knows this. This is for her own good. No one else will leave him. No one else can try. She is all he had.

“I made your favorite tonight, babe. Be careful. It’s hot.”

The scent of the food overpowers the fresh breeze outside. She closes the window. She looks at her husband. He stands before her with sad eyes. An even sadder smile. He places the food on a tray five feet away from her.

“I made your favorite tonight, babe. Be careful. It’s hot.”

Was she careful? Could she be? It isn’t love when you start thinking about throwing a hot pot of grits on another human being. It isn’t love when you imagine their face melting off right before your eyes.

She tastes a spoonful of rice with gravy. Her body remembers the comfort she was lured to in the beginning.

“Tomorrow, I’ll leave,” she says under her breath. “Tomorrow.”

Does she have the right tools?


Originally published via Medium.

Stop Using Love

What in you says you actually love when it doesn’t seem so? How is it you can say you love someone when you don’t call, text, write, or haven’t heard their voice in years? Why would you say you love people even though nothing about your actions suggest this is true? Love is action, what are you doing to prove you truly love someone?

What?! Do you know what love is? Do you know what it takes to love another? Can you even try?

It’s time to stop using a word you aren’t actually using. Be real about what you do and don’t do.

Be real about who you are to others. Get to know the person in the mirror staring back at you. Love doesn’t need you lying on or about it. Stop using love.