Box Within a Box

Box Within a Box

I was bored, waiting for my friend to call, but that was nothing new.

My mother, Judy used to say, “Just find something to do.”

I’d whine, “But there isn’t anything to do.”

She’d say, “I’m not your entertainment committee.”

And I’d sulk away, usually to my room where I’d light plastic G.I. Joe’s on fire. Or surf the net, looking at dirty pictures that I knew I wasn’t supposed to. I sort-of grew out of that phase, not entirely. I still enjoy a good bonfire, and the net is, well, the net.

The phone rang. Anastasia, or Shannon. Who would it be?



“It is I.”

“Why are you talking so weird? Did I catch you masturbating again?”

“Yer funny, Stazi. What’s up?”

“Ray Ray from Tampa Bay and I are over. Done.”

I sat up, boredom slipping away like wildfire. “No way. What happened?”

“We went to Art Bar last night. Shannon was supposed to bring that dude, Carl. Turns out she had other plans, if you know what I mean.”

I fiddled with my laptop. “I’m not sure I follow you. Shannon and Ray Ray…?”

Stazi let out a groan. “I’m so stupid. I should’ve seen it coming. She was all over him on Tuesday night when we bowled at Bayshore. I hadn’t had a single drink. Ray Ray had about ten vodka tonics. I told him that night, we’re done. Finito.”

I thought it over. I’d just cut Ray Ray’s hair for a trade. Plan was he’d give me a tattoo. I wondered now if that would happen. “I guess it’s better to know his true nature now, rather than if you, well…”

“Maybe, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I mean, what is it with guys? Can’t keep their dicks in their pants for a day?”

I sighed. The other line beeped. “Hey Stazi, hang on, k?” I clicked over. “Hello?”

“Hey Parker, it’s Ray.” He preferred my last name.

I hunkered down on the sofa. What luck! Both on separate lines simultaneously?

“Hey Ray, can you hang? I’ve got Judy on the other line,” I lied.

“Sure,” Ray said.

I clicked back over to Stazi. “Honey, that’s my mother.” The lies were flying out faster than darting bats.

“Aw, Judy? Tell her I say hi. And Jim Squared, too.”

My mom was on her second Jim. Long story, unimportant. “Will do, and hey, hang in there. Let’s go to the mall later? Or Alterra?”

“Okay. Anyplace where we won’t run into him. That asshole.”

We hung up, and my phone rang.

“Parker?” he said.

I smiled, it was Ray Ray. “What’s up, Ray?” Spill it all, man.

“Not much. Wondered if you wanna do yer tattoo today?”

My heart raced. “Yeah, that would be cool. Should I come to the shop?” Ray worked at Cutthroat Tattoes on the east side.

“Do you know what you want done?”

Oh shit. “I was thinking, maybe some Chinese letters. You know, like a box within a box?”

“Huh? I thought you’d be down for a spiral or a dragon image.”

“Nah. Got any books at the store?” I had no clue what to get. And the only place I could imagine a tattoo was my pelvis. That way it would only be private viewings.

“I was gonna do it at your house.” Ray paused. “Is that okay?”

Okay? What would Stazi think? Not to mention Shannon. The pot thickens. Aw, why not. “Sure, that’s fine. How about this afternoon? Say, around 3?”


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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11 Responses to Box Within a Box

  1. Suzi says:

    Ray Ray is a shady little dude… target? Justin/Parker – I just know it!

  2. Angela says:

    Justin is suspect. He lies to his friend Stazi and to Ray to be entertained.

  3. Angela says:

    The pot thickens.

  4. Don says:

    Shady, indeed. But not sure who? Justin seems devious, and yet, I get the same feeling as Suzi here that Ray Ray is not all who he is cracked up to be. Once again, you have lots of details in a short slice of life. Well done. I am intrigued by the concept of Box within a box, too. Very Joseph Cornell. Could play around with this one as metaphor/symbolism, for sure.

  5. Andrea says:

    Child that is VERY shady!

  6. Shari says:

    Nothing like being a punk in your 20s (hopefully) with friends in the same mindset you are in. I like lots of what you are exploring here: liars, and relationships that seem full of miscommunication, lack of trust, etc. But then, wasn’t that was this age was about? Defining who you really are? Not sure if tattoos help, but this generation seems to think so.

  7. david says:

    that’s hot..
    not knowing what kind of tattoo you want= priceless

  8. Beverly says:

    I like this, but I have to say, tattoos are over-rated. I got one (yes, bad moment to make that choice) when I was 19 or so. Had it removed when I was around 35- sun damage, and for other personal reasons. I’m just saying, you can put a band-aid on it, but it ain’t going away! Nice try, Justin Parker. I do enjoy characters that have double “first” names. Weird mood today, just where I’m at.

  9. Dr. Crunk says:

    AAAhh, Justin Parker…..just the sort of boy that nobody wants to get stung by; but just so close to the honey that people are just buzzing around.
    Your characters are so vividly developed in such few strokes!

  10. Dez says:

    I think I’ve met a few Justin Parker or Ray Ray folks in my life. These are so vivid and real characters, or at least based on folks that seem real, right? Either way, so many ways that this story could twist and turn. I like how you leave it up to us, once again, to decide exactly where this might go. Even if it might go anyplace! And the title, the “box within a box” made me think of an assortment of things, so I thank you for that.

  11. Tom Froehlich says:

    Nice dialogue between friends.

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