Casual America

She’s started refusing furs. She turns up her nose at mink. She will not wear weasel. She won’t allow me the coonskin cap, either. It’s all about collegiate dress, she tells me, and one doesn’t wear furs to lecture.

She’s chained herself to the dead dogwood out back. The tree will fall any day, maybe on the house, maybe in some other direction. Don’t know, can’t care. I tramp down the driveway beneath mockingbirds harmonizing with the gibbons, the gibbons coming over the neighbor’s outdoor sound system. I bring a platter of triangular club sandwiches and a bottle of Cabernet Franc. I call it Frank. 

“How do you define yourself?” she says, sweating through a corduroy Oxford. Light splashes her face through the spotty canopy.

I say, “I’m a man who is no longer allowed his coonskin cap.”

She urges me to define myself in positive terms. 

I say, “I’m betrothed to a microfascist.”


I say, “I’m the tomcat.” 

“Ask me who I am,” she says.

When I do, she says, “I’ve gone casual.”

Next door, the neighbors switch from gibbons to a recording of crashing wave-sound from their pilgrimage to Big Sur—they recorded it with an eight-track from the back of their Astro van—and the mockingbirds go on gibbon-warbling over it.

She tells me about her yogi, whose buns and whose strenuous spiritual regimen are bound in a state of perpetual tautening.

From the television, through my open window up the hill: something about riot squads. From next door: vintage Big Sur wave-crash in crescendo. 

“Cheryl,” I say, “I’m multitudinous in here.” I rub the belly. “Microbe strong, kitten.”

We knock the Frank back to nothing. 

I say, “Casual dress has sown fascism across the amber waves.”


I say, “Unchain yourself from this dead tree. Come inside and cloak yourself in furs. Cloak yourself in me.”

Cheryl says, “I’ve gone casual, sweet.”

Stadium applause floods the Pacific coast, and our mockingbirds fall silent. I think they’ve put on a live Joan Baez album or something, but then the applause just keeps on coming. Applause, applause, applause. 

Inside, I open another bottle, this one gin, and I sit by the window. My wife hugging the dead tree, ruining her chinos’ creases. She used to wear furs even to the First Manassas reenactments. I have pictures in a shoebox. I don’t understand these fads, but that’s all they are. Yoga, casual dress, chaining ourselves to dead trees: fads and lost causes all. Aren’t they? 

Yes. In a week’s time, my wife will slip into the bedroom wearing my coonskin cap and a cape of powder-blue velvet. We’ll set the house on fire, bid the rotten dogwood and ambient neighbors a solid farewell. We’ll find bliss among the gibbons, swallow sunlight through the trees like it’s box wine, revert to the source, slap the bag, spank the monkey, run amok in the arboreal dusk and be naked no longer. If only I don’t pull too hard. 

Charlie Sterchi lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds an MFA from the University of Florida. His work appears or will appear in The Southampton Review, Subtropics, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. Find him on Instagram @csterchi and on Twitter @charliesterchi