Second Place Short Fiction: "A Mustache with a Man"

by Sean Frasier '06

After his mother squirted him out into the doctor’s hands the baby sat there slimy and silent as a possum, twisting the ends of his black waxen mustache, thick and full on his newborn face. Bystanders say that as he tugged the pitchforked ends they heard the distant sound of violins.

He took two girls to his prom. Twirled one girl with his mustache as he tipped another backward with a lean arm.

The mustache has defeated nine razors and even broke the wrist of a cocky barber named Humberto. Now Humberto has the mustache’s silhouette tattooed on his cutting hand. When a customer spots it in the shaving chair Humberto gravely whispers, “The one that got away.”

He married exactly one half of his prom dates. In the honeymoon suite with tapered candles lit she stroked his mustache. Seven months later he left his pregnant wife in a town outside a town as he hopped a camouflaged plane headed for the nearest battlefield.

He unknowingly killed a man when he sprayed covering fire into a smoky city street. Saw an army buddy kill a goat for no reason but to unload his last bullet. Learned French swear words from an orphaned boy in a gutted library. Wrote about his favorite nightmares.

He returned to American soil in a city where no one knew his name. But he changed his name anyway. When he drank too much he thought about the child he would never see, then cursed himself for being too sentimental and too drunk.

There’s a rumor he died 20 years ago in a gunfight and left three marshals dead in the cracked clay street. The pistol smoked in his mustache’s grip as the coroner shook his head.

But for the last 20 years he has been sleeping on trains with the brim of a Stetson over his eyes as his mustache watched the dead trees groan by the frosted windows. He thought of women he had known, women he passed on the street and loved for three seconds and then they were gone. At a train station in Pennsylvania he watched a fire coughing in the distance as the snow fell. 

He is grey now, eyes and hair and skin. Except the mustache. The mustache is still black as a midnight swamp. He aches and rests on benches, watches young men charge by with places to go and lovers waiting for them. His adventures have faded and names escape him. Places are now the idea of a place. A cold wind. He closes his eyes, trusts his mustache to stay awake for him. The mustache turns like a flower to light and watches the sun set.