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My Life with Cheetahs

By Brendan Sheehan

Mom went on a girls weekend to Vegas and stayed in a hotel casino famous for its elevator that roared like a cheetah every time the doors opened, and she loved the effect so much that as soon as she got home she made Dad trigger all the closet doors to play the same roar through tiny speakers mounted above the frames, which freaked out all of us boys—Bobby, Craig and me—because we used closets for things best kept hidden, items we reached for after dark, and just as we expected, our nights became filled with cheetah roars bringing attention to mischievous behavior like Bobby digging out his secret Nintendo controller so he could keep playing Contra instead of doing homework, or Craig pulling a Juggs magazine from the bottom of a Sports Illustrated stack, or me grabbing my shoebox and rereading notes with little hearts and bubble letters exclaiming You Float My Boat! that Amelia D’Amico slipped me during first period Social Studies, and yet as the years passed and we got older, the cheetah roars became background noise, sounding duller, wearier, less scary when closet doors opened for Dad gathering clothes to bring to his new apartment, or Bobby scrambling for his rig so he could shoot up after deciding a week of sobriety was plenty, or Craig storing his biker jacket and denim vests in a garment bag because he wouldn’t need them in Iraq, or me grabbing my shoebox and rereading notes that Justin Gaveston slipped me during sixth period Chemistry that didn’t have little hearts or bubble letters but rather chaotic declarations of true love, threats of suicide if we couldn’t run away together, and eventually after I’d opened the closet door, grabbed my shoebox and reread those notes hundreds of times, the cheetah went on the fritz, roaring on a warped loop, a sad dying roar fighting through static, a roar that continued even after I’d shut the door, kissed Mom goodbye and left the house.

Brendan Sheehan writes and lives in New Jersey. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Columbia Journal, HAD, Pithead Chapel and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine.


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