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Your Dad Insists On Doing The Barbecue Even Though It’s Not His Housewarming Party

By Michael Conley

digital art of a man's face by the artist opie

We used to have barbecues all the time,

he assures the new homeowners.

I know what I’m doing. I am one of the best at barbecues.

He stacks the charcoal into a tight pyramid

and holds a match underneath. The coals glow red

at the edges but don’t turn white.

He squirts lighter fluid on and tries again:

there is a brief high flame, then nothing.

Chuck those chicken legs on it, he tells a woman,

the fat dripping down will ignite it. The chicken legs

do change colour but after half an hour

they’re still mostly raw. While your dad

is away looking for more lighter fluid,

somebody removes the chicken legs

and puts them in the oven instead.

When he returns, he doesn’t say anything,

just takes a packet of sausages from the fridge.

As night falls, the sausages reach room temperature.

We used to have barbecues all the time,

he keeps saying, although the party

is now mostly in the kitchen. When your dad

comes indoors, somebody offers him

an unseasoned oven-baked chicken leg.

No, he says, carrying some burgers into the dark.

MICHAEL CONLEY is a poet and short story writer from Manchester, UK. His work has appeared in magazines such as Rialto, Magma and Butcher's Dog. He was the 2022 recipient of the Peggy Poole Award.

Art by Opie


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