With a Face Like This

Let’s say you walk by the door of a bar, and a man stumbles out and punches you in the face. There’s no time to stop him, and there’s no time to find out why you’re being punched. But you’ve had a feeling your entire life that people want to punch you, and you can’t ask them why because that would feel like an invitation, and they might just punch you, so you walk on by ducking your head, never even saying hi, because what if they knocked you down, who would help you? Surely, not the other strangers that wanted to punch you, that are happy that you’re on the ground half-conscious, and possibly bleeding from the mouth. And you wonder where you mother has gone, and wish that she had prepared you for this punching, and where the puncher’s mother is and whether she prepared him to always punch first, or if she would be proud or disappointed, and whether she still washes his laundry, whether he still lives at home or whether the mother now lives with the puncher, and he’s paying her bills, and whether he’s taking her Social Security, and whether the money he spent on booze tonight came from her account, and how could any mother be proud of this puncher, and how will you get up from the concrete, and move on with your life, because concussions are real, and maybe you have one, and maybe if you stand, he’ll punch you again, and you’ve seen this cool leg sweep done by self-defense experts and there’s something in you that wants to try it, that wants to fight back, but you know you could never pull the cool leg sweep off, and the man, who is quite large would possibly fall on you, especially in his drunken state, and wouldn’t that be worse, and maybe if you lie still, he will go away, everything will go away, and people will stop wanting to punch you, because you’ve been punched enough, and your mother could return from wherever she is hiding.


Tommy DeanTommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press 2022). He lives in Indiana, where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, 2023, Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Visit his website or find him on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.