Charlatans

by Kristen Csuti (Malone Univ.)

Second Place

"Find someone to love. Your heart has never been broken. You've never done anything unforgivable or hurt anyone beyond reparation. Everyone you've ever loved you've treated like gold." -George Saunders


The other day I bought a bearded dragon.
I named him Liz
(short for Lizard)
because I thought I was cool
and what's funnier
than a girl's name
on something with a beard?
(Sorry, Carl, for
calling you Carly for all those years.
I knew you only laughed out of pity.)
I bought Liz an aquarium--
a big one, fifty gallons,
and even though lizards don't live in water,
I still made sure it could hold all fifty.
I don't know why they don't sell them by cubic feet.
Because it only held forty-eight.
(He watched me do this,
from the arm of my couch
with a scowl that said,
I'm tired of your shit
and I don't even know you, and I heard Carl's voice in my head:
"Why even bother?"
with that same scowl on his face.)
I also bought a couple brown rocks--
they were advertised as
"Your new best friend will love it!" and
"Sale! Limited time only!"--
even though I could have gathered some from my yard
and my best friend now lives in Arizona
and isn't really replaceable,
especially by a fake dragon
with boredom in his eyes
and judgment in his beard.
I call that false advertising.
(Carl would have laughed at that
and told me I think too much
about things that don't matter.
Liz stared at me from his tank with disdain.)
The crickets seemed to hop around his head
with confidence even as
he picked them off one by one,
and now that I think about it
I suppose the two of them
aren't that different after all.
Ungrateful bastards.