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.

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.

Inches and Miles

“Give an #inch
& they’ll take a mile,
damn heathens.”

Grandma’s voice rang
loudly in our ears.
As she ages, there’s no
hope for discretion.

She has no #filter.

When she feels it,
she’s going to
say it.

And everyone will know.


Originally shared on Twitter as a response to the vss365 and vsspoem prompts.

2020, I’m Not Sad to See You Go

But I appreciate what you taught me

Dear 2020:

I could start this letter by saying “I’m glad you’re leaving,” “I’ll hold the door open for you,” or “I’ll even grab your bags, walk you to your car, and make sure you get home safely” happily but I’m choosing to let you know even though you have nearly taken me out, I am still here. And many of us can say this.

You tried, you almost succeeded, but we’re powerful enough to deal with you.

Coronavirus COVID-19 is raging with a significant increase every day of those who have contracted the virus. Pharmaceutical companies have introduced rushed vaccines for a thing that constantly mutates and brings about different strains periodically to shoot into faithful believers of being protected against it. Government officials delayed help, knowing human beings were suffering, had been suffering, and were going to continue to suffer, then threw loose dollars for us to catch.

Racism, divisiveness, bigotry, and an overwhelming number of things that paint hatred and insensitivity corrupted you and you allowed them to fester; to dig in deep into the hearts of man, burn their spirits, and press upon their minds. We learned that you harbored endangerment and only waited until now to show us your true colors.

I remained steadfast. I knew my place. I had support. I was not alone. You did not defeat me.

We learned that you harbored endangerment and only waited until now to show us your true colors.

2020, were you lingering in the air waiting for the perfect moment to swoop down on us and attack at will? If I were to question you professionally, would you answer truthfully about your hand in what has been the demise of thousands upon thousands? I would bet you will not confess openly and if you did — you’d lie through your teeth like a certain someone still trying to hold on to a presidency that is quickly flashing by before his eyes and continues to throw temper tantrums because his way is not the way.

You came with everything you had. You thundered into our lives in the beginning with hopeful appearances and a grandeur we had not seen before, and lo and behold — you rocked us by stabbing us in the back. There are many of us who are fighting. There are many of us who are conquerors. There are many of us who will ready a proper shoe and place a swift kick upon your ass sooner than later to get you out of the door.

We want you gone.

I remained steadfast. I knew my place. I had support. I was not alone. You did not defeat me.

Although you came for us with fire in your clutch, we are persevering. We are standing strong. You have taught me I have far more fight in me than I believed I did. You opened my eyes to a vast number of people who will take care of others and give their last to a fellow human being in need. You showed me that even when the depth of the belly of the beast is staring us straight into our eyes, we can overcome, we can stand firm, we can press forward.

You aimed to kill at will and you have succeeded — we have lost so many all around the world with thousands dying each day by your hand, however; you have not bested us. I have learned, am learning your weakness lies in the beauty togetherness can bring — the strength of a people immovable even as they fear what will be next.

2020, you came . . . You rattled us. You shook us from within ourselves. But you have not won.

We won’t let you.


Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.

I Waited, He Never Came

Musical Selection: Kendrick Lamar & Rihanna|LOYALTY

I Waited, He Never Came

Flash Fiction

You talkin’ ’bout Tony, right? That dude never came — had me waitin’ on the corner for him for like two hours. No show, man. A straight-up no show. I missed my mom’s-n-’nem homemade spaghetti for that dude, too. I don’t usually put anyone before a good meal and I did for that guy.

I thought he was real, ya’know? Thought I could hang tight for’em up there, make the exchange, get the money, then go home.

I bet you think I’m talkin’ bout drugs, dontcha? Yeah. Nah, pahtna. Me and the homie had a deal. I got a closet full of Jordans, some I ain’t even wore yet — still chillin’ in the boxes they came in — he wanted two pairs; some Retro 11s and a pair of Dub Zeros. Yo, that’s $375.00 I expected from Ole Boy!

I ain’t mad, though. I got two other cats hittin’ me up for a few more. But, I would’ve liked to have that extra $375, ya’know? I found me a nice spot over on 5th Avenue; 2 bedroom/1 bath, patio, hardwood floors. It’s time to get outta my mom’s place — been thinkin’ ’bout this for a while. I’m 25 now.

I thought he was real, ya’know? Thought I could hang tight for’em up there, make the exchange, get the money, then go home.


She all sad and whatnot. Shufflin’ ’round the apartment playin’ those bluesy, heartache tunes. I can’t take that shit, man. So I work, come home, make a few calls, and try to close these deals with some legit folk.

I got two sisters and a brother. My brother and one of my sisters, they’re twins. My other sister, she’s right under me — 23 and if she even thinks about tryna move, Moms on her like white on rice.

It’s time to get outta my mom’s place — been thinkin’ ‘bout this for a while. I’m 25 now.

She’s afraid of an empty nest. Afraid to hear her breath as the only one amongst the echoes and shit of a child-free home.

I told her, “You gotta let us go. Loosen your grip. We’re grown. We’re meant to leave.” She ain’t tryna hear that. The twins are 17. I feel for them when they get ready to make moves. My mom’s holdin’ on to these parts of her, you see . . .

My dad died 6 years ago — lupus. He had some type of relapse and couldn’t get back on track. Nothing helped. None of those damn meds they pumped into his body pumped him back into our lives.

He died right there at Mercy Medical Memorial Hospital and my mom been searchin’ for bits and pieces of him to hang on to since then. I don’t know what it feels like to be a widow but I know pain. I miss him as much as she misses him, but I know my missin’ him and her missin’ him are two different things.

“You gotta let us go. Loosen your grip. We’re grown. We’re meant to leave.”

But back to that dude Tony . . . No, I haven’t seen’em. Trust me, if I had, I’d be smilin’ right now from ear to ear. I’ve got 3 more weeks until the big move and I’m gathering up funds and saving as much as I can.

My gig — I’m a DJ, is enough to pay the rent and a couple utilities each month, but I need rainy day and play all day money, ya’know?

But, listen . . . if you see’em, tell Ole Boy, I waited and he never came. But if he still wanna get at me ’bout them Jordans, I got him. He knows how to reach me.


Originally published in P.S. I Love You via Medium.