HomeSouthern VoiceForgive Us Our Debts

Forgive Us Our Debts

by C.N. Bean


De-clawed fingers played
in the muffled coins

in his right pocket
until he slipped off

his brown leather belt
that raised welts in flesh

he would beat one day
and preach Judas-like

to the next with words
as smooth as cloth for

waxing souped-up cars
on streets from his past

and as quick as he
in his underwear

hitting the ocean.
It kept churning back.

Had he done eight more
years in the Air Force,

he could have retired
with a full pension.

Instead we lived in
a rented trailer

in a run-down park
in Huntsville, Texas,

where Mom spent her nights
as a nurse’s aide

at the hospital
of our prison town

whose death row inmates
waited for Sparky.

Dad went to college
at Sam Houston State,

pumped gas on weekends,
painted a saw mill,

studied while he drank
coffee and chain-smoked,

and turned ugly fast,
eyes bulging with blood,

as when we went to
collect pop bottles

for their deposit.
The moment he saw

our candy and coins,
he flung his money

and screamed, “Steal the rest
if it means that much!”

Linoleum made
coins go everywhere

as he glared at us,
pocket inside-out.

We left the trailer
to sit in the shade

stuck under a tree
and talk in whispers.

When we came back in,
his fingers stirred up

the pocket of coins,
and he asked, “Who’s first?”

The coins fell silent.
Off came his worn belt.


C.N. Bean has published three novels, A Soul to Take, Dust to Dust and With Evil Intent. In 2011, “15 Minutes in the Life of Joe Hagar,” was a finalist in Yale University’s search for a short script to produce through its film production company and drama department. “Smilin’ Away the Dreams,” a revision of that script, was an official selection in the 2013 Richmond International Film Festival. In 2014, Virginia Tech produced “The Dream Interpreter” as its first public film. Bean’s recent poetry has appeared in Copperfield Review, BlazeVox and Deep South Magazine, where “Parable of the Sewer” was a Pushcart Nominee.

Precious Perversions