Magnolia Blooms - Knoxville, TN


Pursuit of the Hyper Real Hero: America's Love of the MCU
© 2018 Chad McNabb

© 2018 Chad McNabb

a collaborative article by Chad McNabb + Daniel Hodge
Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is a generation by models of a real without origin or reality
— Jean Baudrillard

This May will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of the original Iron Man film, and the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) box office domination. It’s hard to overstate the success of these films.  Over the last ten years, the 18 films of the MCU have generated just shy of 15 billion dollars in revenue. This is not including the merchandise deals also valued at billions of dollars. Recent films in the MCU franchise such as Black Panther are continuing to break box office records. With more and more of these films being turnt out every year it’s safe to say the MCU isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  The time has come to question this.

This wasn’t always the case. Before Stan Lee achieved holy GOAT status, the history of the MCU pre-2008 is largely one of failure. In the late 80s onwards, Marvel housed more bombs than Ted Kaczynski’s cabin.  Howard the Duck, Elektra, and Punisher films all lost money.  The 1990 Captain America film which had a 10 million dollar budget, had box office receipts of just over $10,000.00, dying a straight-to-video death. The outlook of the fully produced 1994 Fantastic Four film was so bad, it remains unreleased! 

But something happened in 2008 with the release of Iron Man. The movies got better sure, but that’s not it.  The plots of these films are very similar to their failed predecessors. The special effects of these turds were largely on par (or better) than those of their time.  What changed, was America.  

To understand 2008, we must first look at the year before it. What happened in 2007?  A lot to make the world retreat to their polarized corners.  In 2007 alone, the iPhone is released. Twitter and Facebook become global platforms; Amazon unveils the Kindle. YouTube is purchased by Google. This life-altering year is profiled with considerable stank and gusto by Thomas L. Friedman in his book Thank You for Being Late.  So let’s move forward to 2008.  On September 15, 2008, about 4 months after Iron Man is released, Lehman Brothers collapses, triggering the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Which means that while many Americans were getting their Iron Man on, they were living in houses they were about to lose, that they could never afford in the first place. 

Americans in 2008 were yearning for hope.  After being exposed to new technology that only further alienated and polarized them, Americans wanted to feel like Americans again.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is emblematic of this nihilism.  In an attempt to recreate misguided 60’s nostalgia, Americans took to the streets in a synthetic attempt to protest a complex financial system so disconnected few of them understood it. What exactly were they protesting? The election of Barack Obama in November 2008 is further direct evidence of this.   His platform was literally “hope” and “change”. However, many more Americans placed their hope that year in Tony Stark and the MCU. Sho Nuff.

The MCU never succeeded pre-2008, because there was no need for it.  There was a sense of collective identity that outweighed the voice of the individual. Granted, America has always been a country of divisions, but these were largely a battle of ideas.  Not narcissistic alienation or outright exile. Even the philosophy of the vile 60s is telling.  Protestor’s goals were quite utilitarian in retrospect. “Leave us be, we don’t expect you to understand us. Just move out of the way.” Society today blames the other side for their problems and shortcomings.  In the 1960’s, counter-culture chose the middle finger, today it’s always the index.  The MCU allows us to use the index finger not to point straight out to an enemy, but up to a greater good.

There are no longer bonds that make us all Americans.  The American idea has failed. We can longer get behind someone as a “hero”.  We no longer see greatness in our leaders.  There are no more Roosevelt’s, Kennedy’s, or Patton’s.  But we can all agree on the fantastical “extra” that is Captain America or Iron Man.  Americans still have hope for an external communal existence bigger than the individual, a collective hero. We have often gone to the movies to escape. The question should be, what are we escaping to? The MCU allows you to escape into a collective world of duty, hope, and honor. We are grasping on to a thread of hope, even if we have to make it up. It’s not just a distraction; it’s something to believe in. 

Enter, the sidekick with some additional albeit different perspective.

An interesting facet of the escapism delivered by the MCU is that it offers us a compartmentalized, identifiable force that is easily discernable as the bad, in stark contrast with the easily identifiable force that is the good. Never mind that the spawn of the MCU’s “enemy” was ostensibly conjured by the negligence of the superheroes in the first place, what’s important is that the enemy, from the lay-perspective, is distilled enough into the bad guy/group who is villainous chiefly because the aims are against humanity, thereby unjust prima facie.

And theirs is a cause of justice and cosmic balance, after all.

Swooping in to save humanity from the ails of utter extinction, slavery, or worse, subordination to otherworldly beings with questionable fashion sense, are these superheroes:  humanoid beings with powers and personal affectations of altruism so great that power or wealth have no primacy over the pursuit of justice and the provision of humanitarian aid. This is a hyperreal aim, as it has no basis as a positive characteristic in human nature. It is aspirational.

In the objective sense, there would be no humanity or civilization if there were superheroes from the outset. Yet, as the saying goes, faith is the essence of things hoped for – and when nothing seems to mean anything, perhaps the victory over otherworldly injustice (over which normal humans have no intrinsic power) behooves our collective faith. Mr. Joseph Campbell has much to say on this topic, especially our propensity for latching onto origin stories and subsequent identification with the hero’s trials. It’s likely not a stretch that the recent uptick in superhero fandom has increased in lockstep with the inclusion of these superhero’s trials and the human-like problems they encounter along the way. 

The contrast between the Iron Man and Thor origin stories is a particularly striking quirk in the MCU. Tony Stark is a human genius channeling his vast wealth and knowledge while Thor is more of a mythical god, tasked with protecting and serving humanity. One broadcasts his identity while the other chooses to downplay. Interestingly, their common denominator is a collective pursuit of justice characterized by a hyperreal conviction:  that humanity is worth saving.

And perhaps we need to be reminded of this basic tenet of existence as Dawkins’ attempts to do with The Selfish Gene. Perhaps the emphasis on the hero’s journey and the less-than-super inner conflicts and tribulations experienced by the MCU superheroes affords us a chance to see the value of working together to achieve common aims. Even if the ultimate reason is a zero-sum game, when presented from the perspective of extra-human beings, the beauty of existence is confirmed as worth preserving.

The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.
— Joseph Campbell
A Set
© 2018 Chad McNabb

© 2018 Chad McNabb

An original short story by Chad McNabb

Luther and Lot were identical twins.  They were born on Christmas day with four unevenly distributed testicles.  This was not a source of strife between the brothers as one might expect.  Lot was quite grateful to spend three times less on ball maintenance.  It made sense that Luther was the slower brother of the two.  Always late for gatherings, always leaving early.  Lot knew why.  Having one ball was a blessing. 

They weren’t like twins from the movies.  They didn’t finish each other’s sentences or even share common interests.  The brothers complimented each other like a strong marriage.  Lot was strong at science and math, while Luther had a strong sense of history and literature.  They were absolutely identical in outward appearances.  6 foot ½ inches tall, 180 lbs, sandy blond hair and blue eyes.  Neither was handsome. 

Neither twin had ever married.  They lived together in their dead parent’s house on the edge of town.  Lot was a scientist that worked on weaponizing uranium.  Luther was currently receiving disability payments for his nerves.  Despite the six-figure economic stratification, they shared all the expenses.  The twins had over time entered into a comfortable division of labor.  Luther would handle the domestic chores, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc.  While Lot would handle the finances and negotiations outside the home. 

Then Lot got sick.  It came on gradually as these things often do. Fatigue, sharp pains in the lower back and abdomen.  Nausea.  He had continued to go to work and had been using the restroom when he noticed that his ball had swollen up to the size of a ripe grapefruit.  It looked horrible and smelled worse.  Though the pain was only dull, Lot knew there was something seriously wrong with his ball. 

The irony was not lost on the brothers.  Lot had always been stronger, having not been hospitalized overnight during their 52 years on earth.  Luther took the news badly.  He had never considered life without his brother.  His nerves further deteriorated, despite the fact that Lot’s prognosis was positive.  The cancer had been caught in its early stages.  The Doctors thought it to be isolated to the ball which upon removal should fix the problem without chemotherapy. 

The operation went as planned and Luther and Lot soon returned home.  But slowly things begin to change.  Arguments became more intense.  Trivial things that were previously shrugged off had begun to run deep.  The brothers would go days now without speaking.  Lot decided to move out.  It would be the first time in fifty-two years the brothers were apart.  It was an exciting time for Lot.  Renting and decorating his own, apartment, staying too busy to think about his brother. 

Luther had become more withdrawn.  Here rarely bathed or left the house, which was much harder these days to do, as the only driver’s license in the house had left with Lot.  He gained weight, he grew bitter.  He tried not to think about his brother but an hour rarely passed without this happening.  Luther was very unhappy. 

Lot was experiencing the big difference between one ball and no balls.  He still felt like there was something there.  He would never have children of his own. This had never bothered him previously, but now it carried a strange weight inside of him.  He and Luther would be the last of the line. 

Lot had not spoken to his brother for over six months when he met Penny.  She was a very plain woman in her late 30s.  Penny worked as a librarian for the County.  She also had never married and had no children.   Lot had never dated much in his life, but soon found himself lost without Penny.  She made him very happy.

Penny encouraged Lot to speak to Luther.  Being an only child herself, she thought a sibling was a very special blessing.  He resisted her ideas until they became engaged and started planning their wedding for the spring.  Having a wedding and not inviting Luther would be an unforgivable act.  Lot was not ready to shut the door completely.  It was in this mindset that he drove to Luther’s house.

Nobody came to the door after several knocks.   It was impossible to tell if anyone was home since Luther did not own a car.  After a few minutes of waiting, Lot went home.  He kept this routine for the next three days.   On the fourth day, he checked the mailbox.  Water damaged letters overflowed into the street.  Lot knew his brother was dead inside the house.  Not sure what to do next, he went home, sat at the kitchen table and drank a glass of water.  Penny was at the library. 

He picked up the phone and called the police.   A welfare check confirmed his suspicions.  Luther had been dead for some time.  Lot felt an immense sadness come over him, like a sprinkler. He wanted to vomit.  It didn’t feel real. 

After the funeral, there were only a few matters left to settle.   Their parent’s home would need to be cleaned and put on the market.  Penny had found a cleaning service with good reviews and reasonable rates, but Lot insisted that paying anyone would be a waste of money.  He would do it himself. 

It was a week before the wedding when he went into the house for the first time since Luther’s death.  Penny had been very angry with him for even considering taking on a project like this so close to the wedding.   He opened the door and the smell of dusty mothballs greeted him.  Had the house always smelled this way?  He didn’t think so.  He immediately regretted coming here. 

He didn’t know where to start so he sat down on the couch for a long time.  He looked around the family photographs, still on the wall.  Everyone was now dead.  Were they together somewhere?  His father, his mother, and Luther?  In heaven, in hell or in the ground?  He wasn’t sure. 

He looked at the framed photographs on the mantle.  Luther and Lot around four years old with their Mother and Father around Christmas time.  These photos seemed so sad now.  There they all were.  Frozen in time together, not knowing how it would end.   Yet he was still here and he didn’t know why.   Lot took the photo out of the frame and looked at it closer.  Two smiling sandy-haired boys, 4 years old.  Luther did not deserve to die here alone.  Lot put the photo in his jacket pocket and cried for a long time.  He felt an urge to run as fast as he could through the front door.  He never wanted to see his parent’s home again. 

Penny helped hire the cleaning service and soon the house was put up for sale.  The wedding was a simple, but heartfelt event for all and soon the couple got back to their lives.  About a month after the wedding Penny became very depressed.  Lot didn’t think much about it at first, but after weeks went by it soon became apparent this was a clinical case of depression.  Nothing seemed to be helping. 

Penny had stopped getting out bed and going to work.  Lot’s comfortable salary at the lab had allowed this without much strain on the family.  Lot began to worry on the drive home from work that he would find Penny dead.  His hair began to fall out.  After a heated argument, Penny revealed that the source of her depression was the couple’s inability to have children. 

Lot was dumbfounded.  Penny was aware of his situation long before they had gotten married.  Why was she humiliating him like this?  While she was talking, Lot thought about putting his fist through the window.  No solution was found that night.   After awhile Lot began to warm to the idea of children when he realized Penny’s feelings were genuine.  The couple began to research adoption, but after careful consideration, it was ruled out. 

Lot was encouraged by Penny’s improving condition.  Just discussing children had breathed new life into her.   She got out of bed.  Her color improved.   He was disheartened when she so quickly ruled out adoption.  Penny cited genealogical concerns.  They would not know the child’s biological family’s medical history.  What if the child’s father had been a serial killer?  Lot echoed her concerns but had no idea where she was going with this line of thinking.  If they weren’t going to adopt they would never have children.  Lot reminded her several times over the next few weeks that he had no balls. 

Penny began spending large amounts of time on the internet, researching fertility science.  After a few days of research, she came across a scientific research paper about testicular implants.  A doctor in Sweden had successfully completed the operation on a Danish patient.  There was a general lack of interesting this procedure for obvious reasons.  The DNA contained in the donor’s balls would not match the recipient.  It was seen as only helping the receipt cosmetically.  But it could be done. 

Then Penny’s mind really began to wonder.  Lot’s dead brother had three balls resting in his coffin.  What if the doctor could implant them or their tissue into Lot’s empty sack?  The DNA profile would be almost an identical match. 

This would be a difficult idea to propose to anyone.  Penny thought it would be best to speak with the doctor first before bringing it up to Lot.  After several weeks of persistence, Penny was able to get the doctor on the phone.  He sounded like the photo on the internet of him looked.  Energetic, fast-talking, his hair disheveled.  His English was surprisingly good.

The doctor did not seem to find the request strange at all.  He only asked how long Luther had been dead.  There was a long silence on the phone after Penny told him six months.  Penny began to check the phone to see if it was disconnected when the doctor, in a hushed tone said he thought it was possible, though logistically and bureaucratically complicated. 

This type of operation would be highly illegal in the United States.  But getting the balls to Sweden would also be pressing.  The doctor told Penny he needed time to think and would phone her in a few days. 

A scheme was hatched.  If Penny and Lot could get Luther’s balls to Sweden, the doctor would take care of the rest.  It was time to talk to Lot.  It would be squarely on Penny’s shoulders to convince Lot to go Sweden.  There were no visual aids or tasteful pamphlets for a situation like this.  He would have to trust her. 

Penny brought up the subject slowly.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could have their own children?  Wouldn’t it be great to honor Luther?  Lot thought she was joking.  Sweden?  Luther’s balls?  His mind began to race with questions.  Would he have all three balls implanted or just two?  It made no sense.  He went out to the rocking chair on the porch.  He wanted to be along with these strange thoughts.

Penny said there would be little to no chance of serious side effects.  He had accumulated months of vacation time at the lab.  Money was no object after he had sole his parent’s house free and clear.  Lot knew himself well enough to know that he could debate this issue all he wanted but the decision had already been made.  The thought of Penny leaving him was too much to bear.  He refused to end up like Luther.  He was a coward.  He would save his marriage.  He would fly to Sweden to have his dead brother’s balls surgically implanted into his empty sack.  Penny was delighted!

Working at the lab on weaponized uranium put Lot at a distinct advantage in negotiations with the State Department bureaucracy.  Lot had spent much of his adult life wading in the thick, endless labyrinth the federal government’s bureaucratic cockles.  Much like the Swedish doctor, the state dept bureaucrat Lot spoke with did not find the request to fly his dead brother’s corpse to Sweden to be out of the normal scope of his day.  The bureaucrat simply did what he was trained to do.  He asked for paperwork.

Lot was prepared.  When the bureaucrat asked for five pages of documentation, Lot sent ten.  When he asked for ten, he got twenty.  Lot rather enjoyed this duel.  When he got correspondence informing he had checked the wrong box on a form, he checked the right box and sent an accompanying supplemental index explaining his reasoning for checking the wrong box, based on the legislative history and intent of the form. 

This process went on for some time.  Penny was getting frantic.  Luther’s balls were, after all, rotting.  Lot assured her, she should rest easy.  Luther’s third ball would buy them some extra time until the process played itself out.  Lot had declared the reason for transporting the body overseas was his brother’s posthumously discovered last wishes. 

The official story was that after their estrangement, Luther had rekindled his deep commitment to the Orthodox Christian faith.  It was his dying wish to be buried in the Swedish Countryside of their mother’s heritage in an orthodox ceremony.  The bureaucrat needed to look for no further evidence of this then his dead brother’s surname.  He had been named after Martin Luther by their deeply religious parents.  Lot included photocopies of Luther’s most famous writings, complete with notated margins and highlighted passages from the dead Luther.  This, of course, was bullshit. 

After three months and approximately two thousand pages of correspondence, a special visa was granted for the body of Luther to enter the kingdom of Sweden.  The State Dept informed Luther they had no authority over the exhumation process at the graveyard.  This was a local matter.  Lot would need special permits from the County.  Lot took the campaign into overdrive.  The local bureaucracy could be quickly defeated.  Op-eds were written. Donations were made.  The County Council addressed.  Within thirty days, Lot had his permits. 

The night before the flight to Sweden the reality of the situation hit Lot.  He had run out of paperwork to send.  Everything was approved.  All the appropriate agencies were informed.  Unlike Penny who was giddy with happiness.  Lot never lost sight of the fact that was a strange thing to be doing.  The idea of operations like this bothered him in a way that he found difficult to discuss verbally. 

Lot and Penny arrived at the airport very early as suggested.  They checked Luther’s corpse and their possessions and ate a quick breakfast at the airport café.  The flight was peaceful.  The special Swedish team was waiting on the tarmac for to remove Luther from the plane.  The team dropped the casket several times on the tarmac, leaving a large, visible dent.  Lot filed this away for a future online service review. 

A waiting driver took them to the doctor’s office in the middle of town.  The body followed behind them in a long black hearse.  People didn’t pull over to the side of the road here.  The doctor’s office felt very cold and very Swedish.  He was waiting in the lobby with two assistants when they arrived.  Pleasantries were exchanged.  Lot noticed the doctor’s eyes stayed focused on the hearse outside and them clumsily loading the casket through a back entrance. 

Lot asked the doctor about side effects.  He was assured that none were foreseeable; the doctor did stress the lack of empirical data.  The operation would only take about two hours.  Lot was to arrive at six A.M. the next day.  They exchanged goodbyes.  The doctor had work to do. 

Lot and Penny stayed in their hotel room the rest of the night and watched Swedish television.  It was very hard to follow.  Penny began to suggest names for their children.  Lot reminded her this plan may not work.  He was doing all he could do.  Lot didn’t sleep.  He had no idea what time it was. 

They arrived at the doctor’s office thirty minutes early.  They were greeted by the doctor’s two assistants who led them to a small patient’s room.  After a few minutes, the doctor greeted them.  Excising Luther’s balls had been a success.  Everything was going as planned.  Lot was given a stack of paperwork of disclosures and disclaimers to sign.  He kissed Penny goodbye. 

He was alone on the operating table.  The Doctor and his assistants arrived in fire engine red scrubs.  The doctor asked Lot if he had any final questions before the anesthesia was administered.  Lot looked up at the doctor.  He looked much different then he had yesterday. 

“Should we be doing this?”

“Excuse me,” the doctor said.

“Should we be doing this?”

The doctor looked him in the eyes for a long time.  He then had a few brief exchanges in Swedish with his assistants and Lot was given the anesthesia. 

Lot felt like he was falling down an empty mine shaft.  Right before he hit the bottom, he woke up.  He wasn’t sure how long he had been out but he knew exactly where he was.  Somewhere in Sweden.  He had just been implanted with his dead brother’s balls.  He was afraid to look down.  There was Penny, sitting in a chair at his feet.  Smiling.  Everything went as planned.  She kissed him on the forehead.  It was going to be ok. 

The doctor entered a few minutes later, holding a clipboard.  The doctor took his blood pressure and asked him how he was feeling.  Lot felt fine, he wasn’t even sore.  The doctor said the operation went smoothly, but ultimately success would be judged after the couple conceived.  The doctor then asked the couple if they would like to have a final moment with Luther’s remains.  They were in a steel box in the operating room.  Penny looked at Lot for an answer. 

“What will happen to him?” Lot asked the doctor.

“He will stay here with us”.

Lot nodded his head.  He wanted to go home. 

After a few days back home, Lot was able to get the bandages off his ball sack. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present.  There they were two ripe, bulging balls.  Lot rubbed his hand over them.  He thrust them into the air until they slapped against his leg.  He was a proud man. 

Within a month of the operation, Lot and Penny had conceived.  It was a very happy time.  The doctor had been checking in regularly to monitor Penny’s progress.  Since the operation, the extra testosterone had given Lot endless energy.  On the way to perform a simple task such as getting a glass of milk, he would stop to do sit-ups or jumping jacks.  If Penny had a craving for ice cream, Lot would literally run to the nearest grocery store two miles away, returning home well before it melted.  His beard grew thick and his temper shortened.

Lot began to get into disagreements at work.  One afternoon, while splitting an atom, Lot got into an intense argument with a co-worker.  Lot picked the man up by his throat and asked him if he wanted to continue to fuck with him.  The man pissed on himself and filed a complaint.  It was decided it was a good time for Lot to take his family leave. 

Penny was gaining a lot of weight.  More than should be expected.  At 7 months her pre-pregnancy 140 lb stocky frame had ballooned to 270lbs.  How big was this baby going be? She developed high blood pressure, preeclampsia, blood clots and gestational diabetes.  Her doctors were very concerned.  Still, Penny was happy when she thought of the baby growing inside of her. 

At eight months the doctors decided Penny’s body could no longer withstand the baby’s continued growth.  The decision was made to induce labor.  After 62 hours of intense labor, a cesarean section was performed.  A healthy baby weighing 18 lbs 6 oz was born.  Lot took a good look at his son.  Something was off.  He held him tightly trying to mimic Penny and her parent’s elation. 

The baby looked nothing like him.  Whose balls had the Swedish doctor dropped in his sack?  The baby looked strikingly Swedish.  He had a visible European scowl on his fast at all times.  Lot was stunned.  Penny insisted on naming the baby Sven.  He did look like a Sven. 

Over the next few weeks, Lot made a good effort to develop genuine feelings for baby Sven, but he couldn’t.  One afternoon while Penny and Sven were sleeping Lot called the doctor’s office in Sweden to confront him about the situation.  The number had been disconnected.

Lot and Penny’s marriage began to deteriorate.  Lot’s new found passion for fitness became a problem.  He began to make snide comments about penny’s weight, well over 300 lbs. at this point.  Penny did her best to ignore him.  Still on family leave, staying at the house with a screaming baby made the situation seem even more intense.

Lot truly dreaded having any contact with Baby Sven.  Everything about him felt wrong.  Penny had taken to the child.  She and Baby Sven were inseparable.  Lot had begun to feel like a stranger in his own house.  He was now carrying a deep resentment toward Penny.  Small disagreements that would have been brushed off in the past now lasted for days.  Communication broke down. 

At 7 months old, Baby Sven began speaking in Swedish.  “Hej Mamma.”. Wasn’t that some shit.  Baby Sven kept getting bigger.  52 lbs at 7 months.  Something was not right with Baby Sven. 

All hell broke loose on a warm May night.  Lot, Penny and Baby Sven were having a fine day.  After dinner, who had been uncommonly affectionate told Lot she wanted another child. A brother or sister for Baby Sven.  Lot started laughing uncontrollably.  Penny didn’t understand why he wasn’t happy with his family.  The fight raged. Penny was screaming and making hysterical motions.  The climax came when Penny told Lot he wasn’t a real man.  If it weren’t for her, he would be walking around without balls, which would suit someone like him better.  Lot thought he might hit penny when she said that, so he turned and walked pass baby Sven right out the front door. 

He walked for a long time.  He walked to his dead parent’s house.  The yard had been mowed and a garden had been planted.  Children’s toys were scattered about the yard.  He walked to the front door. He looked down at the doormat, “The Stair’s” written in cursive.  He looked under the mat and found a key.  He looked through the windows and saw that the lights were off.  Nobody was home.  He didn’t recognize this place anymore, but it still felt familiar.  He sat down on the front porch, the key in his hand. 

It was very dark outside.  He took of his pants.  He clinched the key in his hand and jabbed it violently into his ball sack, creating a large gash.  He felt no pain.  He inserted his ring and middle finger into the opening and in one fast motion ripped his ball sack from his body. 

He thought about Penny.  He would have to go home.  There was nowhere left to go.  He closed his eyes for a few minutes.  He got up, placed his balls on a window ledge and put his pants back on.  He didn’t smoke but he could have used a cigarette.  He picked his balls back up and walked into the front yard. 

There was the mailbox.  He thought about all of Luther’s unread letters falling out into the street.  He put his balls in the Stair’s mailbox and closed the door.  Baby Sven was eating a Butterfinger, watching Swedish television on his tablet when he got back home.  Penny was in bed.  He took off his clothes and got under the covers, still bleeding. 

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I shouldn't have said that.”

“I’m sorry too.”

He put his arms and around her and held on all through the night.