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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 2


written by

Mercury Marvin Sunderland

“Are you remembering to eat well?”

Julius looked at the ashtray on his desk. He’d forgotten to throw last night’s roach away.

“I just ate dinner,” he replied.

His mom sighed loudly.

“WHAT?!” he rebutted. “I don’t call you asking for every tiny detail of your private life.”

“I’m your mom,” she growled. “And, besides, I know you’ve been skipping meals.”

“UGH. MOM. NOT THIS CONVERSATION AGAIN. I’m eating fine. Sometimes I just forget to eat. It happens.”

“No, you have an eating disorder.”

“I do not,” he rebutted, lighting a fresh joint.

“You better not be smoking weed right now,” she snarled. “I told you that stuff was going to ruin your life.”

“MOM. I’M TWENTY-FIVE. This is Oregon, for Christ’s sake. It’s legal.”

“You know better than to have that attitude. Those are drugs. I don’t give a shit if it’s legal.”

“Yeah, well, wine’s a drug too.”

“I’m not an alcoholic.”

“Uh-huh,” Julius muttered. “Isn’t it a work night?”

“Oh, come on, you always use that excuse. You do realize that I work on all the school days, right? That’s pretty much my job by definition.”

“Yeah, for elementary schoolers. I can take weekend classes all I want.”

“If you do, I’ll take your tuition away,” she snarled. “College is a privilege.”

He set the phone down. He opened his laptop and moved onto working on that frog-themed minigame he was making for class. It’d always made his mom upset that he’d never leave his room.


Green lily pads.

“I know you’re there, Julius.”

He hung up.


“What,” he growled.

“Just don’t become a dealer like your father did, okay?”

“Mom. It’s legal. This is Oregon. I can even do psychedelics if I want because that’s legal here, too. I’m twenty-five and you’re calling me every da --”

“I’m forgetting.”

“That’s not an excuse.”

“I keep forgetting.”

“You already said that.”

“No. You don’t understand. I’ve been really forgetting a lot lately.”



“I mean -- you’re my youngest. And I don’t want to lose you.”

He closed his laptop.

“No, Mom. You don’t. But I’m still here.”

He eyed his calendar. Then his alarm clock.

Then the floor.

“How are the second graders?” he asked.

“Oh, wonderful, we’re working on planets. I taught them about Pluto today.”

“That’s great to hear, Mom,” he replied. “Lovely planet.”

Mercury-Marvin Sunderland (he/him) is a transgender autistic gay man with Borderline Personality Disorder. He's from Seattle and currently attends the Evergreen State College. He's been published by University of Amsterdam's Writer's Block, UC Davis' Open Ceilings, UC Riverside's Santa Ana River Review, UC Santa Barbara's Spectrum, and The New School's The Inquisitive Eater. His lifelong dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He's @RomanGodMercury on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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