I Am Not Lenny Coolidge

by Justin Hamm

Originally published in The Brooklyn Review

They say it is very important for me to remember I am not Lenny Coolidge.  They say it, and I try.  But sometimes it is too hard a thing for me to do.  These are the times when I can forget. 

In the summer my brain feels different.  My mother’s apartment gets smaller and smaller around me.  It is too hot in there and the walls are too thin.  I worry she can hear me when I masturbate myself at night.  And in the daytime I sweat too much, so I have to go out. 

I have one friend.  His name is Raymond Michael Douglas and we like to fish together down at Foster Pond.  We have to ride our bikes to get there, though.  The law people took away Raymond Michael Douglas’ driving license and car because of how much he likes to drink.  I am not all the way sure why they took his house away, but I think it might be because of how little Raymond Michael Douglas likes to work. 

There are lots of neighborhood kids who live in this neighborhood, fast little mean little ANGRY little devils who like to chase us fast and laugh at our bikes and call us “stinky retarded ass-fuckers” when we are on our way to Foster Pond.  And also they like to chuck some big heavy rocks, when they can get them.  But none of the rocks hit us at least. This is good. Big heavy rocks are hard and painful to my feelings, and also sometimes to my brain.   

The neighborhood kids are little, and I am pretty big, because I am thirty-one years old and they are not.  If I wanted, I could get off my bike and hurt them easy.  Their little heads, their little brains—I could make them just like me.  But I will not do this. 

I am not Lenny Coolidge.  

I think worms are icky and I will not bait my own hook when I go fishing.  Raymond Michael Douglas baits my hook for me.  We fish the north side of the pond, and pretty soon I catch a catfish, a great big sucker with a big white belly and some whiskers on his face.  Raymond Michael Douglas wants us to take my catfish home to cut and clean and cook, but I do not want to.  I want to throw my catfish back.  I am very worried about its feelings.   

When I tell him this, Raymond Michael Douglas makes a not-so nice laugh.  So I scream real loud and make tight ANGRY fists with both of my hands.  I turn to Raymond Michael Douglas.  In my eyes there must be a kind of fire.  And Raymond Michael Douglas knows. 

Oh, man.  You should see it—he sure does throw my catfish back fast! 

Did you know I used to have a wife?  She was pretty, and we had lots of sex.  Also I had a motorcycle.  Me and her would ride around and around the city, and she would hold onto my waist. 

I wrecked my motorcycle, though, and that is why now there is this weirdness about my brain.  I live with my mother.  She cooks a lot of so-good food, and I am not supposed to go fishing or even leave her apartment without telling her first.  These are the rules.  Because if THEY find out she does not watch me close all day long, THEY will try to take me back to the WARD. 

Raymond Michael Douglas tells me that he has had four wives. He says that they were all named Lisa and had nice white blonde hair and liked to wear bikinis and serve him cold fancy beer on a platter with different kinds of fruit all along the side.  He also says that he used to have “one super shitload” of money.  Now he does not have any wives or any money, but I can not really tell you how he lost them, because he only talks about sad things like wives and money when he has had a whole lot to drink.

Lenny Coolidge also had a wife, but I am not supposed to talk about Lenny Coolidge’s wife, because that would mean I am also talking about Lenny Coolidge.  And like I told you:  I am not Lenny Coolidge. 

When my mother goes to bed at night, I let Raymond Michael Douglas into the apartment. He sleeps in my bedroom closet on a pile of my old wrinkled dirty stinky clothes. My mother works all day, and Raymond does not come out each morning until she has gone. We have to be very careful about mornings. Here is for instance an example of what I mean:  Raymond Michael Douglas likes frozen waffles, and my mother likes frozen waffles. I do not like frozen waffles.  So if Raymond Michael Douglas eats too many frozen waffles, what do you think will happen?  That’s right, my mother will notice. Because she is oh-so very smart! 

Let me tell you something Raymond Michael Douglas did that was not oh-so very smart.  One time I woke up in the middle of the night, and instead of sleeping on my dirty clothes in the closet like he was supposed to, he was standing over my bed with his fat purple pecker in his hand.  And he was masturbating it hard!  I almost screamed out for my mother, but then I remembered how Raymond was not supposed to be in my room.  So I instead asked him very nice if he would try not to do things like masturbate himself so close to my head anymore.  I think that he listened.  But I cannot really be too sure.  Usually night is the time when I am mostly asleep. 

When my brain is different in the summer, I also get ANGRY easier, and my mother is the only person in the whole world who can calm me down.  You should hear her sing sometime.  She has an oh-so pretty voice for “Rolling on a River.”  Oh, man, except when she is ANGRY.  Then her voice is hard and mean and ugly and can hit you just like a big heavy rock. 

One good thing is that my mother does not get ANGRY with me very often.  But she is always ANGRY with the woman who used to be my wife.  This is because she is not my wife anymore, and I think also because she does not even visit me ever since the wreck that gave me all this crazy damage to my brain.

Today while my mother was at work, Raymond Michael Douglas and me watched some TV.  It was just stupid soap operas, but at lunch he had to run and hide in the closet because my mother came home to make me one of her oh-so good grilled cheese sandwiches.  I could hardly eat it, though, because I was thinking all about my friend in the closet.  Oh, man.  It was a really close one.  What do you think will happen if my mother ever catches us?  I think probably it will not be very good. 

Here is something that I have not always known, but that I have learned:  Everything that is alive has got some feelings.  Like you would not probably think as an example that a catfish has some feelings, but it does.  It can feel pain, and it can be scared, too—otherwise I do not think it would wriggle and jerk and try to get away when you catch it on your hook. 

Across the street in the big house with the green roof lives a woman with a big black dog.  I watch that dog sometimes when Raymond Michael Douglas is not here, and my mother is at work, and it is just stupid soap operas, and there is nothing else to do.  He is not a very exciting dog.  He just lays there most of the time, or he gets up and scratches himself, and poops or pees, and scratches himself again, and paces around the yard for a minute, and lays back down.  He wags his tail at people when they walk by on the street, and do you want to know what I think about the lady and her dog?  I think she forgets about him.  And I think the dog has some feelings, some very hurt feelings, at that lady for how she forgets about him.

You must be damaged in your brain if you can not understand what I am saying.  Or maybe the damage is someplace else; maybe you are really just damaged in your heart.

After the wreck the doctor told my mother and me that I am “blunted” now.  He said there was “nothing to be done, medically speaking,” and that all we could do was “to hope and wait and pray.”  Now, I am not sure what that doctor meant for all the way sure, but if he meant what I think he meant, then he should not be allowed to be a doctor anymore.  Because even though I am not a dog or even a great big catfish with a white belly and whiskers, I am alive, and I do have feelings. 


Right here. 

I do. 


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