J.A. Tyler

Fight Between Friends



By J.A. Tyler

I had written about how I once stabbed my brother in the back with a wooden pencil. He was running away from me, down a hallway. You can still see the mark there. It looks like a grayish freckle near his shoulder blade. But, as writers often are, I was dissatisfied with my performance, so I wrote a different story. This new one personified my voice as a fist, how it bellowed when I was younger, smashing obstacles in its way, driven by shame or embarrassment or the frustration at feeling unheard, or not listened to. And I was tuning that one yesterday, poking and prodding its body, when the Nevada school shooting happened. I’ve taught high school for the past 9 years and these shootings and other instances of school violence – and potentially here, again, bullying – have made me re-think what I should write when tasked with writing about violence. I’ve never been in a fight, not really. Not unless you count my brother holding me down with his knees and threatening to languish spit on my face. Not unless you count my vocal cords, which have shredded many an emotional being down to its nubs. We live in a combat zone of a new sort, and I’m not ready for it. I’ve never punched anyone, but it seems to me the new fist is a spray of bullets, black-eyes replaced with body bags, and I have two kids who are going to grow up equating geometry and physics and social studies and language arts with bullet-proof backpacks and ID scans. I have two kids who are going to grow up thinking all of this is normal. And I have two kids who are going to look for art to help console them in this state of being, and maybe they’ll look to see what I’ve written, and find this.

J. A. Tyler is author of the forthcoming novel The Zoo, A Going (Dzanc Books) as well as several earlier books of poetic hybrid. He teaches high school in Colorado.