top of page


Randy Dong

What do you do when the only reason your wife finally loves you again is Alzheimer’s, the equalizer grand, a gift from the Upstairs Big Man finally answering your prayers for forgiveness you know you don’t deserve, after the wife, the love of your life, went so many years mute and frozen, she would have been the same age as a house plant as your son before his departure – a plant which she metamorphosized into right there in the passenger seat of your beat-up Hyundai Accent on the drive home from Jesse’s funeral, a car which you have long since traded away because for the life of you, you could no more cast a gaze into its silver-grey without hurling out stomach contents of your day, which since her becoming of a catatonic Snake plant, has consisted mostly of just Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom and Sourdough bread, Jesse’s favorites for their nature modest and plain, fitting of a pious one who lived truly the Tao of Nazareth’s Jesus Christ - but even before then, before wife became a plant, when at Jesse’s funeral, people offered their condolences and shook your hand, wife stood far away from you and already then her words had gone dry, uttered were only sobs and hiccups, mourning condensed into drops into her hanky, and already she didn’t look at you no more, no way, as if you were some alien who murdered her son, a secret hush-hush because it was a damn shame in front of which, however, you stood guilty indeed, shocked still and you haven’t cried still because since the ambulance ride it was all a daze how it was possible your baby, while losing so much blood, an incredible amount of blood, still prayed for your absolution - God bless you Dad, Don’t blame yourself Dad, God bless you Dad - each breath drawn shorter and quieter, not the sirens growing louder, until Jesse’s squeeze went limp in the hand of his broken mother who in a matter of days became a plant for twenty-one years until now that she’s got Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember what she was so mad at you for in the first place.


What do you do when the man police with his little notepad dripping rainwater says What your son did was a heroic deed. The accident was freak. No one is to blame. Now he is in a better place., but you know you are to blame because a moment ago, while your wife still a person in the back seat and beside you the leather of the Hyundai Accent still warm from Jesse’s heat and in front of you the world lost focus, colors bleeding into each other, a painter’s palette spilled into night, until the next windshield wiper beat and it became the cars chrome silver, the traffic lights yellow-red changing, orange in the peripheral the lights city night, and fuming, you just sat there watching Jesse walk out toward the loud and chaos ahead, black-suited back straight, faithful gait, because you dared him, you did, you said why don’t you part the red sea then, Moses?, gesturing at the traffic stuck jam, you said why don’t you lead us out the desert then, Moses?,  when outside the Hyundai, more heads popped out their cars lost at how to get out of this mess and far ahead a woman trapped inside her injured red car, drop by drop, dissolved into a hazy crimson dot and still, you sat still, gripping the wheel til knuckles turned white because earlier during dinner Jesse announced to you and his mom he was going to attend Seminary after graduating and become a Catholic priest at Freddy’s Family Diner which he selected as his birthday eve destination for humble is the only way he nourished himself and Fuck! was what you responded because despite the bowl of cream mushroom soup boiling that stabbed your tongue numb and shards of sourdough crust that cut the inside of your mouth bloody, and the birthday dinner tasted only of iron, you just couldn’t understand how it all came to this, because as differently as you and Jesse saw this world, you never considered it would end as catastrophically as priesthood, Catholic no-less, because all you wanted ever was just an environment compassionate and peaceful with good education away from the bullies for the best boy easy-to-joy, easy-to-cry with a head-full of soft hazel hair and two eyes of long lashes black who was afraid of the night dark and people rude, so a Quaker school it was, so you decided, though Jesse’s mom, your wife, protested in favor of the value of the natural maturing and toughening of Jesse through the public education system especially given a private school tuition high enough to choke dead a dozen donkeys even with the financial aid from the Quakers generous and to reassure you, your wife said I trust Jesse more than you! to which you said I love Jesse more than you! while citing Quakerism’s fondness for pacifism, simplicity, and general liberal values – yet it turned out, Jesse was a bit too good at Bible classes and paid too much attention during those Meetings for Worship, and the next thing you know you had your first debate with your son, where you said A child born out of rape often means the destroyal of two lives trapped in the deep mire of life long back-breaking financial difficulties and suffocating social prejudice while Jesse retorted A decision matrix that measures the righteousness of the existence of a life against the quality of said life and their mother’s is morally questionable to say the least, akin to Eugenics, no offense, if to not mince words to which you could only through your teeth a deflated shit…

What do you do when the bull black and crazed locks with your eyes its pupils orange, burning, bloodshot in the street lights fogged, its smoker-teeth-yellow horn pierced through Jesse’s torso, your son’s entrails dangling out his back, long like a pink snake made of condom, and with the bull’s each flutter, Jesse’s body jolts, his limbs jerk, like a bad wig on the head of the bull, and Jesse’s mom, your wife, the love of your life, is already out the back seat door running, falling toward your baby son and screaming back at you What the fuck are you doing?! but your ass is stuck to the seat, your hands paralyzed on the wheel, your diaphragm choked up in your throat, and drop by drop, in front of you blurs into Guernica, blurs into an impressionist painting kitsch and camp, until the next windshield wiper beat and then there’s an elephant wearing a bellboy’s hat roaming, two zebras dragging a cannon dark as the bull sitting on top a chariot, and the bull charges the injured red car again and Jesse’s body flails against its doorframe dented, until the next wiper beat doesn’t erase the light spots fuzzy on the windshield no more, and the next one doesn’t either no way now that the moisture is not just on the glass but behind your eyelids, and finally the radio intercepts Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird’s And this bird you cannot change with an emergency broadcast about circus animals of Circo de los Muertos escaping their transport trucks causing multiple traffic accidents and that civilians should watch out for exotic animals on the street potentially dangerous, most definitely pissed-off, and in hell, this is your personal hell, all you can try to not remember is the last conversation with your son being an argument, you throwing allegations Look at the wars and famine! Look at the suffering of the North Koreans! God’s either idle and blind, blind but sadistic, or God’ simply indifferent for which he might as well not exist., but Jesse once again left you tongue-tied with He is not our nanny, with God hides himself between the lines., with I will study for priesthood, to bring people to Jesus and Jesus to the people, and what do you do, when in hell drawn by Picasso and Kinkade, but confess one must imagine Sisyphus, at this traffic light jammed, curse: fuck this shit.

What do you do when your boy small, scared, loves-his-blankie, hides-under-your-arm grows into almost a man faithful and righteous whose new daddy is Upstairs Big Man Almighty and says that Man is your daddy too, and you can’t father Jesse no more, even though Upstairs Daddy never took out a loan for Jesse’s private school, never went to Jesse’s cross country meets, never checked under Jesse’s bed for monsters, but still Upstairs Daddy wins, doesn’t he, now your sons is kebab’ed by a black bull, isn’t he, the Man with the Plan sends your son to heaven and you to hell with a night of Old Testament profundity and twenty-one years of silence, until now your wife finally loves you again because Alzheimer’s and you say thank you Big Man for your forgiveness at last, except now your wife, the love of your life, forgetful and almost blind, calls you Jesse and brings you Jesse’s blankie and goes looking for Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom and Sourdough bread in the pantry, she calls you Mama’s heart, Mama’s flesh, and now what do you do but run out the house and drive to Jesse’s headstone heavy.

In the Far East, people burn by the grave of their missed-ones money to send to the beyond. I’m burning this when I finish writing. Tell me what to do. You are much smarter than I because after I’ve read the book black leather bound until the pages fell from the glue, I still never found the answer on how to walk with my back straight and resolute, like you. Tell me what to do, Jesse, and Mom loves you and misses you. And I love you and miss you. I hope God is with you.

Yours Regrettably,


Randy is the founder of New York Story Night - an open stage for writers of all levels to share their short stories in front of an audience. He worked closely with Chuck Palahniuk at the founding of the Story Night event, running parallel with his Hindsight Story Night in Portland.  New York Story Night celebrated our one-year anniversary this year and has all the intentions and support to continue spotlighting literature and the short story form.
bottom of page