portion of the artwork for Joseph Young's stories

A Pair of Men
Joseph Young

A man goes to the supermarket and stands in the yogurt aisle, 8 feet long. He knows they don’t have his brand so he buys his least favorite kind. He takes it home, puts it in a bowl, and does not eat it.

A second man sits in his threadbare chair. He has no money. He has no friends. He watches the white light of the day cast through the window and play on his floor.

The second man takes a bus downtown to sit in the park. The first man in his new shirt sits next to him. The two men watch children and pigeons and the dogs strut.

Do you live nearby? says the second man.

The first man points at the high rise rising past the trees.

Nice digs, says the second man.

The first man laughs. I prefer the country.

The second man laughs as well. Take what you can get, I suppose.

I suppose I don’t want what I can get, the first man answers.

The two men watch a woman walk by who wears ruffles about her neck. She looks into her phone and smiles. She neither sees nor not sees the two men on the bench.

Are you married? the second man says.

Eleven years. He holds back a yawn. He wishes not to speak. You?

No. I once was. In fact, 11 years ago.

Hmm, says the first man. Lucky, I suppose.

The second man laughs. Well, she died, he says.

Lucky, I suppose, the first man says again.

The second man feels his anger rise. That’s unkind, he says. He wants to hit the first man, and he does—he knocks the well-appointed shoe from where it rests across the first man’s lap.

The first man looks at his knuckles. He does not want to apologize. My apologies, he says.

The second man shakes his head. He watches the light fall through the trees to play on the ground. OK, he says, all right.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 57 | Spring/Summer 2021