All of my writing is now being collected at NickSimmonds.com


The Vaccerelli Variations


We trade pictures of paramours
Like two Edwardian dandies
Making admiring noises to each other
Him in his impeccable suit
And I in my nerd-chic and cool shoes
Joking that we should get married
Get a house in Queens
Get two Italian greyhounds
Well, half-joking


I tell him about The Crush
And he says “n-word, ”
And he *says* “n-word, ” I mean
He does not say *the* n-word, he says to me “n-word,”
Maybe as a joke
Maybe because he knows I’ll yell at him for *the* n-word
Maybe both
He says “n-word, you are playing with fire”
I point out that I am explicitly NOT playing with The Fire
The Fire has a boyfriend
I am admiring The Fire from a respectful distance
And The Fire is welcome to let me know if The Fire’s situation changes
That’s all


He writes a slam poem
About how much he hates the local slam
I write one about how much
I love mine

We would be the most
badass team
Maybe one day will be
Walk into a slam together
Suit and shoes
and just *trash* the place
(House in Queens)


And ANYWAY, you giving ME
relationship advice is ridiculous
Like you haven’t
torched every attempt you’ve ever made
You burn romantic bridges like
Like a maniac arsonist
Who hates travel


I tell Carrie it’s interesting
We’re so different and so close
And she goes “you’re not different”
I don’t know
I mean I care about politics
And he watches more movies


Bromance is a word straight men use
To sanitize their feelings
Along with “no homo”
(House in Queens)


We talk literature

John Green is like
brain poison inside cheap candy
But he’s so brave
I know because he said so

He loves Grossman
I hate the guy
I just don’t think any of the darkness
Is earned

I am, ostensibly, reading Ulysses
I am always ostensibly reading Ulysses
I feel like we are all, always
Ostensibly reading Ulysses
Never to stop, never to finish
There is only Ulysses
read Ulysses
cherish Ulysses
put Ulysses down
You are still reading Ulysses
forever Ulysses
Behind your reflection Ulysses
You flee
You turn the corner
Alone except for a small black cat
Who whispers


“I’m going to meet the circus performer this weekend”
“The one with the orange hair?”
“Apparently it’s pink now”
“She’s a zipper buster. I drunk texted Alanna last night
that I was crazy about her
and I’d buy out her modeling contract
if she wanted to come spend some time with me.
I don’t think I could afford to buy out a UK modeling contract for Bazaar”
“You could take some time and fly to the UK, though. Woo like a person.”
“You know that “taking time” thing is tricky.”
“I do.”


We are both thirsty
Both throwing ourselves
At other people
Trying to be



The pumpkin spice latte you hate so much
Is not the mere affectation you believe
It is the first shot fired each year in the eternal Holiday War
That’s right!
In response to the Christmas aggression in November
We are annexing September in the name of Halloween!
Pumpkins in everything!
Candy sales!

We didn’t fire the first shot,
But I promise you we will fire the last
We will fill everything with
Cloves and cinnamon
Orange and red leaves
That crisp breeze across a college campus
A temperature that is just warm enough during the day and just cool enough at night
That one gif of a guy with a pumpkin face dancing
Night on Bald Mountain
Fake cobwebs and straw men
All the empty warehouses will become haunted all year long
Every hayride will be harried by the Headless Horseman

Yes, this means we’ll have one more month of
Sexy insert-random-object-or-concept
But every conflict has casualties
And it’s usually the women

Just remember our end goal:
We will hold the line at October 31st
While gradually assimilating the rest of the year
Into the Grand Empire of Costumes and Cider
In the name of cheesy horror movies
And Jack Skellington
The future is a leering pumpkin
Squashing the face of a reindeer



Grandpa picks up the strangest things by the road and sends them to me:

1. A tent without poles
2. A Speedway card
3. An honest-to-god troll doll
4. Santa and a reindeer in a car. It plays Jingle Bell Rock.
3. What I find out is a “geri chair”, which most likely someone died in

My mother’s packages have sea glass, or strange rocks. Seashells. I will send you snippets, or links, or pictures of my cat. It’s all the same principle.

Grandma gets science magazines. She teaches me about petrified wood and warm-blooded dinosaurs. With mom it’s architecture and history. From me it could be anything I’ve picked up: the earth’s axis wobble, computational theory, sociology, but what we’re all saying is that we love you.

I am nine years old the first time I hear the phrase “idiopathic neuropathy”. This is when I find out why grandma doesn’t walk much. She’s helped make me too smart not to understand: neuro pathy–your nerves are dying–idio pathic–cause unknown. My grandma is dying from the outside in, and no one knows why.

Grandma once tells me, “if anyone ever hurt you boys, I’d have them killed. I *know* people.” She laid into me once because she thought I was saying that people aren’t born gay–her Donnie, my uncle, was a GIFT to her–and she had misheard me but I could tell she had given that lecture many times in our small town. She loves fiercely, with her claws out, and sometimes it’s hard to love her back but it’s always impossible not to. She is a warrior of love.

Grandpa makes me a little wooden plaque that says “my funny, funny clown”. One of the Ns is backward. Grandma teaches me to cook a turkey. Mom will be my best friend through every breakup.

These people are baking bricks of themselves, and they are building me structures. They are making a lonely little boy into a man I’ll be proud to be.

I am 22 years old when grandma steps on a nail. She doesn’t know until she gets home, because she has no feeling in her feet. It’s decided that she won’t walk around outside the house any more. It is like watching a monster take bits of her.

I am 32 years old, in a nursing home with the family. We are talking. Around her. This fierce, clawed woman, this warrior, who owned every room I ever saw her in isn’t part of it. She’s smoke where there was fire. Fog. She


She’s there behind the eyes. The conversation is light. She manages…barely…to kiss me before I leave. She loves me still, even claws in.

I am 34 years old and I am at her funeral. It seems like the whole town is there. I talk about the magazines and the petrified wood and I find out that when I grew up she would give those magazines to the neighbor kids, that they loved her, too. Everyone talks about her.

Everyone there had known that fierce love. She left everything on the field. My grandma was not here to be forgotten.

I am every age that I will ever be.
My mother’s feet and fingers crack, parts fall away, like a torch lit from both sides.
Mine go slowly numb.
Idiopathic neuropathy means I am dying from the outside in. No one knows why.

But I got more from these people than some bum genes, so
I have been giving my magazines to the neighbor kids
I have been picking you trinkets from the roadside and the shore so you’ll know
I love you
Claws out
I have been baking myself into bricks. I am building structures.
I am leaving everything on the field.
I am not here
To be



Justice completely failed to be done, so to speak, by the stories. The creature was somehow larger than the space containing it, a conflagration of feathers and scales and teeth and color, with two slitted eyes right in the center. It was hard to focus on the thing, because one’s gaze kept shifting away to follow some new flash of movement, the way that a drunk can’t help but stare at the siren screen in a bar.  There was no pattern to the thing, but the mind kept trying to make one, attempting to forge the chaos into meaning. It did give the vague impression of a snake, but that was probably only in the way that it folded and undulated. It was ultimately more like watching a quick-motion video of a fault tremor, or watching plate tectonics happen on a compressed scale. It was like a hundred chickens had been dyed competing colors and dropped in a bouncy castle. It was like a birthday party as drawn by an alien who had only heard one described. It was like everything, all at once, but also like nothing, in that there was nothing like it and in that there was nothing comprehensible going on, nothing to learn, no way to grasp it because there was nothing to grasp. It was obvious why none of the depictions matched another, because there was no way to depict this in fewer than seven dimensions, two of them imaginary.  Quetzalcoatl was beyond description, or understanding, beyond knowing, beyond seeing. Simply beyond all.

Harry, the Wingman to the Gods, said, “This is going to be complicated,” and finished his drink.



“So,” said Yeshua, “one bourbon for you, and, heh, a water for me.” He waved over his glass and it darkened.  He lifted it to his companion, and drank, winking.

Harry, the Wingman to the Gods, said. “Didn’t we already do this? I took you to a dive bar, you asked about virgins, and-“

“WHOA! Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” said Yeshua holding his hands in the air, “that was dad and I reallly really don’t want to know what you guys did that night.”

“I thought the whole point was that you’re the same person, along with your ghost thing.”

“One god. Different people.  Look, it’s like…. think of us as shift workers who all have the same position.  We’re all God, but he’s day shift and I’m evening shift.”

“So what about night shift?”

“Oh, that guy. He is really weird. Less said the better, but I don’t think he’s going to call you, so it’s not really worth thinking about.”

“All right,” said Harry, relaxing into the idea that this wasn’t going to go the way that evening did, “what are we here for? Are you into virgins, too, or -“

“LALALALALALALALALA ME H. CHRIST I said I didn’t want to know what dad’s into, man! Oh god that’s just… him and mom, AGH, wow I so totally wish I did not fucking know that!”

“Oh, shit, I’m sorry, I still don’t get this. I deal with some weird stuff every day but you guys take the cake.”

“Just, look, think of us like any other family, and don’t tell us what the other ones are into. I do not want to know.” Yeshua leaned back, pulled a joint from behind his ear, winked, and lit it with a zippo that he had hidden somewhere in his robes.

“All right,” Harry said, “so you’re not your dad. We’ll start over. What are you into?”


“I guess.”

“Well,” said Yeshua, leaning back forward, “you know any whores?”



“I’m sorry, I guess I’m not following. You’re a professional wingman?”

Harry, the Wingman to the Gods, said, “Not exactly professional, more like a very experienced amateur.” He gave the bartender a precisely calibrated nod which conveyed refill my drink and hers, put hers on my tab, but don’t tell her unless she asks, I’m not doing this to score points. The bartender nodded back and refilled Harry’s bourbon, then began mixing a new cocktail for his friend.

“What does it pay?”

“It doesn’t, really. I get payment in kind, I guess. While I’m working for someone they put me up and cover my expenses, but it’s not like I’m socking away cash and there’s no 401k.”

“No benefits and no pay?”

“Well, ah. My clients put me up, and the health plan is killer. Or maybe the opposite of killer,” he said, remembering his morning hangover’s fading to nothing with the first bite of ambrosia as Athena and Cindy laughed quietly at the other end of the table.

“I still don’t get it. You couch surf and help people get laid?”

“Not couches, as a rule. My clientele is… high end. Very high end. Mountains, clouds, that sort of thing.” Of course there was the occasional pit of fire or moldy castle under the sea, but this wasn’t the moment to bring that up.

She squinted at him, then noticed the drink. She started to turn to the bartender but Harry said, “no, it’s on me, my tab’s being picked up.”

She turned back, squinted at him, shrugged, and sipped. “How do you even get a job like that?”

“Eh. It’s less a job than a geas,” said Harry, remembering the cold grip on his soul as the Crone intoned the curse. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Okay. So is tonight your night off?”

“Sort of. I don’t really get ‘nights off’, but,” he looked across the room at Baldur, surrounded by a knot of beautiful men and women, each laughing uproariously at anything he said, each jockeying for position, trying to lay a hand or a finger on the impossibly beautiful man. At the end of the evening, he’d simply select one to three of the most interesting and then wave Harry over. They had the routine down, and the only reason Baldur would request him was to give Harry some rest. “Tonight I’m not really needed.  So what do you do?”

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