A Dog’s Best Friend

by Derek Hamilton

Edgar came home from work – the same as every day. When he got out of his truck and shambled to his front door, he noticed something out of the ordinary. His dog Chuck had a hold of a small, shiny, brass button and was happily chewing away at it. Edgar didn’t recognize it from his wardrobe, and he wasn’t sure where ‘ol Chuck had managed to find it. Then again, he didn’t care to think too much of it.

The next day, Edgar came home to another surprise on his porch. Chuck had a hold of an old, dirty, leather shoe and was joyously chomping on the laces. Edgar tugged the shoe out of Chuck’s mouth only to discover he had never seen this shoe before, and didn’t own a pair even closely resembling it. Edgar didn’t know what to make of it. He thought it was strange, but he also figured it didn’t require any more of his time or energy to investigate.

The next day, Edgar came home to yet another surprise on his porch. Chuck had a hold of a tattered, shabby, stained scrap of cloth and was blissfully gnawing on the corner. When Edgar was able to wrestle the cloth out of Chuck’s grip, he thought the stains looked a lot like dried blood. He didn’t know where Chuck was acquiring his newfound treasures, but now Edgar was determined to find out.

The next morning, he let Chuck out for his usual trek around the yard. Edgar decided to trail his dog, but wanted to keep his distance to avoid distracting Chuck on his new mysterious routine. After circling the house, sniffing around the barn, and tracing the fence line, Edgar was starting to think this was all a big waste of time. That’s when good ‘ol Chuck sat down at the gap in the fence and stared out into the woods.

Waiting.

He sat there intently for nearly five minutes while Edgar thought about how he could have spent the day doing anything else and it would have been more productive than what was taking place right now.

Just then, Edgar heard a faint whistle from the tree line. Chuck’s ears perked up as he popped up in a flash and trotted over to the woods, slipping out of view under the greenery. Edgar hustled over to the tree line to catch up with the mutt.

Edgar peeked through the foliage to find Chuck on the other side of a tree stump, triumphantly munching on a bone. His first reaction was to get him to drop it – who knows what animal that came from, or where that thing has been?

Well, the answer came quicker than Edgar had expected. When he was a few steps away from Chuck, he heard the whistle again. It was the same whistle that called them into the woods, only this time it was right behind Edgar. He slowly turned and saw something leaning against the tree stump.

It looked like a woman in most regards, but she was more skeleton than person. Her leathery skin draped over her bones, poking up in rigid forms. What little flesh she had left was hanging black and rotten. Her skin peeled away in chunks to reveal the viscous meat below. She was hunched over on one knee because her missing leg rested in the paws of good ‘ol Chuck, gnashing the hell out of that bone.

He’s a good boy,” the stranger hissed in a scratchy voice.
“But you shouldn’t let him wander off alone – it’s dangerous in these woods…

Edgar wanted to run, but he couldn’t. The stranger lunged at him, knocked him to the ground, and bit him in the throat – latching her decrepit teeth into his soft flesh. Her jaw locked on so tight that it made tiny popping noises as her molars dislodged from her mandible.

Edgar didn’t even have time to scream. The blood was erupting from his neck, spritzing the surrounding vegetation with vibrant red splotches. He quietly choked and gasped; slowly drowning in his own blood.

Chuck eagerly nibbled on the bone without a care in the world – treasuring every bit of sinew he could retrieve from its core.

Such a good boy…


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

Something Else

by Derek Hamilton

I remember his smile. I remember making him laugh. I remember how he gently held my hand. I remember chilly nights spent looking at the stars. I remember long drives to nowhere in particular. I remember how the summer air smelled when he walked me to my car.

I remember when he said goodbye.

It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve all been told that time heals all wounds, but that’s a crude simplification of the healing process. You can always ask why. You can torture yourself trying to figure out where everything went wrong.

That’s how I’ve been spending my time lately.

I go to work. I think about him. I remind myself not to think about him. I think about him. I try to distract myself. I think about him.

Growing up, I was always told “If you want something bad enough, you have to earn it. Nothing is worth having that isn’t worth fighting for.” Looking back on it – there’s a strange disconnect.

What if I’m fighting for him and he doesn’t reciprocate? What if he doesn’t want me? Why is my happiness so dependent on this other person being in my life?

I guess it’s love, but it doesn’t seem right to call it that. It’s something else. It’s like the shadow that love casts. The negative energy that balances out all its positives.

Someone asks me how I’m doing. I think about him. The pit in my stomach turns as I wrestle for sleep. I think about him.

This is my life now. I think about him.

This is all I have to look forward to. I think about him.

This is the summary of my entire existence. I think about him.


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

Life After Debt

by Derek Hamilton

As of this week, I’m officially debt free. As a millennial, just saying that feels unnatural.

I must have logged into my student loan account three times per day this week to be greeted by the “Congratulations!” zero-balance notification. It’s a celebration GIF that makes confetti rain down on my screen. I don’t get any satisfaction from it, so that’s not why I keep checking my non-existent balance. I keep logging in because I’m afraid the bills are going to somehow re-materialize on my account.

It’s like I’ve become so accustomed to student loan dread that I’m filling the void with my own fabricated version of the anxiety it caused. It’s debt-related PTSD.

The journey started at the low point that all new grads experience: tallying up the bills and realizing what I’d gotten myself into at the behest of my teachers, family members, and even my own overly-idealistic self.

Student loans felt like an anchor. They felt like a prison. They felt like a tombstone. Here lies: my financial stability, and all hope of establishing personal wealth. It was like being in an abusive relationship – where there was a domestic disturbance every time my paycheck was deposited.

Throughout my repayment process the past five years, I realize that I became financially anorexic. Even now, knowing I’m in the clear – it’s incredibly difficult to splurge or treat myself to anything. I’m such a fiscal fascist that I can’t even justify my own celebration. After years of practice, I can tactfully convince myself to avoid any non-essential purchase.

The only glimmer of assurance in this story is that I couldn’t have done this without my wife. She had her own set of student loans that needed to be addressed as well, so the threat was on both of us. We’ve kept a running tab in our minds of everything else we could have spent this money on. It has been painfully unmistakable to us.

Paid in full. That’s the only concept we’ve been focusing on since we graduated. Now that our student loans are gone, we’re finding ourselves becoming more and more debt averse. We don’t even want to purchase a home unless it’s with savings and we pay for it outright. We’ve already experienced the smothering curse of debt.

We have drunk from that cup, my friends, and it is bitter.

We keep asking ourselves how we feel about all of this, but we still don’t know what to make of it. It’s insane that we’ve joined the minority of Americans who have paid back their student loans without defaulting. It’s sickening to think that we’ve paid off the equivalent of a 30-year mortgage in five years and have (basically) nothing to show for it. We know it’s for the best. We know we did the right thing. We know we finally achieved what we set out to do – but we don’t feel any relief from it right now.

Paying back student loans is a personal victory that has all of the symptoms of an absolute defeat.


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

Auld Lang Syne

by Derek Hamilton

I’ve seen this exact same party in stupid teen movies. The dining room’s primary function has been transformed to accommodate for beer pong. The kitchen counter is littered with dozens of bottles containing various types of alcohol. The front door is at the end of a long narrow hallway directly in front of me. I wish I could walk out that door right now. Annie wants me to be here, or at least she keeps making it seem like she does.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

I think about how I could be spending New Year’s Eve anywhere else with my actual friends instead of in this shitty house with these idiots pretending to be adults. I lie and tell Annie that nothing is wrong, because I know that’s all she wants to hear. I can tell she doesn’t believe me. She nervously tucks her hair behind her ears, leans in, and kisses my cheek. She forces a smile and flutters off to join in the next round of shots at the kitchen counter.

It’s at this point that the host of the party, Lauren, stumbles into the bedroom door to my left. She’s so drunk that she can’t walk in her stupid four-inch heels. This is her house though, so I don’t know why she doesn’t just take the heels off. I have no idea.

She attempts to sit on the end of the bed, but slides off in a lurch. The enormous purple comforter clings to the bed frame, partly suspending her like a makeshift hammock. She calls to me, still holding onto her drink somehow, and asks me to help her up.

I really don’t want to be in a bedroom with an inebriated girl unsupervised. I look over my shoulder and can’t see Annie anywhere. She must have stepped outside for a smoke or gone to the bathroom.

Lauren grumbles incoherently as I grab her outstretched hands. She shakes her head like a toddler, waiving me toward her, signaling that she wants me to lean over to pick her up.

I can’t believe this shit.

Two or three girls gather in the doorway to raise a commotion about me putting the moves on Lauren. Fucking morons.

Annie appears in the doorway now, from wherever she was.

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY ROOM!” Lauren screams as she pushes me out the door and into the crowd gathering in the living room. Annie pulls me into the kitchen as everyone else’s attention quickly shifts to the TV to watch the ball drop.

“What was going on in there?” Annie asks.
“I was just trying to help her. She’s drunk as shit.” I explain.
“You don’t have to lie. It’s okay, you can tell me.”
“Nothing was going on, I swear. Why don’t you believe me?”
“Look,” she cups her hands and holds my face gently, “it’s totally fine if something happened,” she assures me, “I’ve been in those kinds of situations too, so I get it.” She giggles expectantly, hoping that I’ll join her in the laugh.

“What does that mean?” I ask sharply.
“I’m just saying, that’s how I’m sure I want to be with you,” she tries to convince me. “Just because I was with other guys doesn’t mean…” She continues on from there, but I already stopped listening.

Everyone in the living room counts down from ten. The crystal sphere descends upon Manhattan.

I reluctantly look into Annie’s eyes and see fear. I recognize it. It’s the same fear that consumed me two months ago when she told me that she didn’t want to be with me. It’s the same fear that tore me apart every night.

Annie’s slender fingers graze my cheek. I remember when I used to find peace from her touch. Now, it’s like the pores on my skin are electrified at every point of contact with her. Each charge sparks back to a memory from the break-up:

The gossip I would hear from people at school. Her late-night, drunken calls that would make me worry so much I couldn’t sleep. That hollow feeling in my stomach that wouldn’t go away until I heard her voice again.

And that’s when it happens. That’s when I realize – I don’t love her anymore.

I walk past Annie and head toward the front door. Our shoulders brush, but she stands her ground. I continue to pass by as she reaches her hand across my chest, her last attempt to stop me. I push her hand away.

She strings together a combination of obscenities and hurls them at me, but I don’t respond. I open the door as everyone in the living room cheers, welcoming the New Year.

I step on the lawn and the cold air hits me in the chest. Snow falls slowly, accumulating on the frozen lawns. I can still hear the muffled cheers from the living room, contrasted by the silence of the winter night.

There are dozens of cars lined up on the front yard, and that’s when I remember – Annie drove me here. I think it’s safe to say she won’t be giving me a ride home.

She’ll probably stay here all night. She’ll probably try to drink away the pain. She’ll probably fuck somebody she hardly knows. She’ll probably call me tomorrow and expect me to forgive her.

It wouldn’t be anything new because it’s all happened before, but it doesn’t matter now.

I bury my hands in my pockets and tilt my head up to the navy-blue sky, watching the gray clouds gather in front of the moon. I figure it’s about a five-mile walk home from here, but that won’t be so bad. Actually, it’s a good thing. New Year’s Eve is typically the night that most alcohol related automobile accidents take place.

Ah, who the fuck am I kidding? I wish I’d driven separately.


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

Enough

by Derek Hamilton

Lonely; whispers and echoes, and I’ll answer the
Call me; ask if I’m sleeping, I wonder if it’s lost its
Appealing; the jury’s decision, you’ll have it for once in your
Lifestyle; but after a while, it gets harder to know what you’re
Worthless; give it a rest – I’ll make you think I’m something I’m
Not here; I’m no Shakespeare – I’m the best that you’ll never get to
Have fun; when it’s all done – you’ll end up resorting to
Pleading; your case to the courts – something you’ve gotta see to
Believe me; we belong to the Keys – and I don’t need to ever get
Homesick; learn a new trick – a showcase to try to
Impress you; it’s the least I can do – but it seems like it’s never enough

It seems like it’s never enough.


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com