How Not to Break Your Nose

1. When someone picks up a pebble, you laugh, and call them a pussy. Laughing, you turn your back to them, and wait for the pinpoint of pain, so you can jump up and down and laugh some more, but you don't call them a pussy and you walk three steps behind them, scanning the ground for something to throw.

2. When someone picks up a stone, jagged and white like the limestone in the Washington monument, the word pussy enters your mind, but you leave it there, as a reminder of what you might become. Dude, don't, you say and laugh, hoping they won't hear that tingle of fear in the last note of your voice. When he tells you to turn your back, you look at the girl, and because she only shrugs her shoulders, you do as you're told.

3. Now he hefts a stone, lobbing it up in the air, where it rotates end over end. The thought of ending it somehow has replaced the thought of calling him a pussy because you tried that already and clearly it didn't work. The girl no longer meets your eyes, but only stares at the ground. You wonder if she is looking for something to throw as well. This could turn into a regular "Lottery." You smile at your recall of ninth grade English. He, of course, thinks you're about to laugh again. I wouldn't do that if I were you, he says and you think finally we're on the same page, but you turn around again just in case.

4. Revenge, you think, but don't have the energy to go much further. You have mud in your hand and he has turned his back on you, inspecting the girl's wound, a prick of the skin by an errant flying bee. You should throw a rock, but are afraid you'll miss or worse you'd connect between the vertebras of the spinal cord and pull-off a different kind of lottery and besides who would want to be like him, a pussy that throws rocks at people while their backs are turned. So you race up behind him, stifling a laugh, and just as you move your hand around the globe of his head, counting the long hairs his barber forgot to shave, ready to smash the mud there like a lemon meringue pie, he rears his head back and all of this time you have been trying to protect your nose from flying rocks, you forgot about the force of two similar objects coming together.

5. You should have stayed in class, should have finished reading "The Lottery," you should have called him a pussy, you should have turned your back, you should have...because now it's broken and you don't know how to un-break it.

About the author:

Tommy Dean is a supplanted Mid-Westerner living in the heart of North Carolina. A MFA candidate in fiction at the Queens University of Charlotte Low-residency program, he has been previously published in Pens on Fire and Tuesday Shorts. He is currently working on an untitled novel.