Justin Brouckaert

Chris Bosh Will Hold You Tighter

       Both my parents were unintelligible to me the summer Chris Bosh lived in our garage.

       My dad ate his meals outside in the driveway with his power tools and a pile of sawdust. He spent most of his summer building a new set of furniture for the master bedroom, and the last few weeks of August tearing it apart.

       My mom wore pastel sundresses and took long bike rides into the city at night when my dad was sleeping. It was the summer she ordered takeout every day and waltzed through the house singing songs we didn’t know—or else they were familiar songs, sung in an unfamiliar tongue.

       I spent that summer basking in the glow of the Miami Heat championship run. It wasn’t the first Heat championship I’d been alive for, but it was the first one my mom let me stay up to watch, all five games, all the way through. With my father in the driveway I had to bike to the local court to emulate my heroes. Of course James and Wade were the stars, but I loved them all the same—loved them the way young boys loved their hometown basketball team when basketball seemed like just about the only thing that made sense anymore. When I came back from playing one day and saw Chris Bosh slithering into our garage, I was too excited to keep it to myself.

       “You’ll never believe this,” I said feverishly, stuttering and lisping.

       “Todo lo que quiero hacer es tomar el sol,” my mother sang in reply, offering me a plate of almond chicken.

       “Hand me that nail gun and don’t trip on the wires,” my father commanded, snapping on his safety goggles.

       “Smell this,” Jimmy said, holding out his finger.

       Jimmy and the rest of my friends spent most of that summer sticking their fingers up their own butts and sometimes each other’s, too. It wasn’t something I ever joined in on if I could help it, but high school was just around the corner and I wasn’t trying to turn friends into enemies. I was willing to make a few sacrifices, is what I mean.

       This is all to say that during his very brief period of captivity, Chris Bosh—though a magnificent beast to behold—was rarely beheld.

       The whole butt thing was a phase, I guess, like circle jerks but less structured. It usually happened in Jimmy’s basement, where his parents let us do pretty much anything as long as we kept the TV turned up loud enough. I went over a few times, hoping they’d really just be playing NBA 2K like they said.

       It was a rainy Friday night when Chris Bosh slithered into our garage, and a damp Saturday morning when I sprinted the three blocks to Jimmy’s place to let him know.

       “Dude,” I said, panting, “you’ve got to come over.”

       “Dude,” Jimmy appeared at the screen door, eating a Twizzler’s. “We’re in the basement.”

       “Chris Bosh is in my garage,” I said.

       “Oh yeah?” he asked, his eyes shifting to the space above my left shoulder.

       “Dude,” I said. “Chris Bosh.”

       “That’s lame.”


       “LeBron and Wade were on Letterman last night. Are they in your garage, too?”

       “No, just Bosh.”

       “Chris Bosh is lame, bro,” Jimmy grinned. “I bet Mike Miller came with him, too, huh?”

       “Mike Miller!” someone shouted from the basement. A joke.

       “What? No. It’s Chris fucking Bosh. What’s wrong with you?”

       “What are you feeding him?”

       “Scraps, mostly, but I think he might have gotten the neighbor’s dog.”

       “Shit, yeah, that’s crazy, man,” he said. “So are you gonna come downstairs or what?”

       I walked back to my house instead.

       At home, it was getting close to the end of things. I guess it always felt that way in August, when dad came back inside and started hunting for things to pick apart, but this time it felt final. It was the sticky Florida heat, maybe—my family sweat shadows on the floors all summer and spent the final days of August slipping all over each other.

       When I got back, my mother was dodging around the house in a yellow sundress and purple pumps. My father followed her with hard questions and a hammer. It was the kind of night that shook the walls.

       I walked up to my room and started a new game of 2K against the computer. Halfway through, Jimmy messaged me.

       “Come over,” he said. “We’re gonna watch these pornos Alex stole from his brother. Some HD shit.”

       My father smashed a vase in the living room. My mother was testing threats, the next one louder than the last.

       In the garage, Chris Bosh was thrashing about.

       I slipped down the hall past the living room and pressed my ear against the door that led from the kitchen to the garage. Chris Bosh was panting. He sounded sad and confused.

       I slid the door open slowly so as not to startle him, but when I peeked in he was already staring.

       Our eyes met. His tongue flicked out through his teeth. Around him were scraps of flesh, shreds of cardboard and a collar. His muscles tensed, pulsed beneath his scales. He could have torn me to pieces.

       I stepped all the way into the garage and closed the door behind me. This, I hoped, was a sign of trust. A sign of peace.

       Chris Bosh’s tongue flickered like a snake.

       I stepped closer to him, slowly, and he did the same, until we were standing inches apart. His tail slapped the ground behind him, kicking up sawdust. He leaned down toward me until our faces were even and loosed a single breath through his nostrils.

       I knew then this was a moment I would smell for the rest of my life.

       Chris Bosh is so unpredictable, people say, but really he is just misunderstood. He is to be feared, no doubt, but he is also tender, so tender. Really he is a gentle beast.

       Chris Bosh has claws that could pierce you like a hacksaw and eyes that will put you back together. Chris Bosh has arms that are thin but strong, and he will hold you tighter than you are comfortable with. He will do it until it’s comfortable. In that moment, that long moment, the sound of your father’s hammer will be mute on your ears. There will be nothing to do but wrap your arms tight and return what has been given. To learn in and rest your head on Chris Bosh’s shoulder. It will feel at first like muck and slime, something shameful or forbidden, and then more like heat and summer rain, earthy and familiar. When you feel yourself being lifted, guided from the ground like a child, you will simply close your eyes and give in to his grip. It would be impossible not to.


Justin Brouckaert is the author of the chapbook Look At This Fish (Burning River Press, April 2014) and a James Dickey Fellow in Fiction at the University of South Carolina. His prose has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, The McNeese Review, Metazen, Monkeybicycle and Squalorly, among other publications. Find him atjjbrouckaert.tumblr.com or on Twitter @JJBrouckaert.