Bug Spray

We stared out the window at the rain as it fell in torrents from the dark sky. It looked inhospitable as the trees swooshed and hissed as the wind roared and rustled the leaves. We ran our fingers down the window, tracing the raindrops as they trickled down the glass pane. Well, I ran my finger down the window. Mosquitos don’t have fingers, so Culi ran his tarsus across the window. His long, fuzzy arm — for lack of desire to refer to a tarsus repeatedly — fumbled clumsily as it fondled the inside of my window. We were picking out raindrops to race. We each placed our fingers on the window where a visible, unstreaked drop lay and, as it accumulated more water and broke into a flow, we followed it as low as we could before it dissipated with the other drops. Whoever got the lowest, the fastest, won. I won every time, except for when I’d let Culi win. He was having such a hard time keeping his oddly shaped limb on the window without it bouncing around. By the time he’d get it back on the window, he’d lose track of his drop and we’d have to start all over. I could tell he felt badly for not being able to play such a simple game. He always felt badly. Culi was generally a somber little man; rightfully so, I suppose.

When my bedroom door opened, the two of us jumped; my stomach sank with fear. Mother wasn’t supposed to be home until eight o’clock, but there she stood before us. Her hands were firmly placed on her hips, elbows too pointy, even for someone as skinny as she was.

“Excuse me, William, I want to have a word with you,” she said. I knew exactly what those words were going to be.

When I looked over at Culi, his large, round, red eyes shrunk, and his head drooped, which led to his proboscis touching the floor.

“Um, excuse me, could you please keep that off of our floors?”

He quickly wrapped his trunk into his top two tarsi and embarrassingly nodded in affirmation.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Culi.

When I came out of the room, Mother took me by my hand and pulled me down the hallway into the bathroom and shut the door.

“What is that thing doing in here?”

“He.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s a boy.”

“Cut the crap, William. He is not like us, and don’t you give me any sass about that again. Do you understand?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Now you go in there and tell him he has to go home. Tell him it’s too late for you to be having guests over and you need to do your chores before going to bed. Just great, we’ll have to spray your room for bedbugs and lice now.”

When I returned and pushed the door to my bedroom open, Culi bashfully stood before me with his book bag already across his thin shoulders, smashing his wings.

“Mother says it’s too late for me to have guests over and that I have chores to do. Sorry.”

Culi said nothing, but shrugged his shoulders and descended the steps toward the front door. His small frame seemed even smaller, well, compared to a human. I suppose for a mosquito he would certainly be labeled with acromegaly, which causes gigantism. He was definitely the Andre The Giant of mosquitos. For a kid in the sixth grade, though, he was pretty puny. I was no giant and I stood nearly a foot taller than him.

“I’ll see you tomorrow in school,” I said.

Culi looked up and tried to smile. He waved his handless arm at me and turned toward the door. I watched him cumbersomely fiddle with the round door handle as he tried to grasp it with both arms. It was like watching someone try to open a doorknob with two baseball bats. His amber red body seemed to heat up with embarrassment when he couldn’t get the door open.

“Do you want me to get that?” I asked.

He shook his head side to side quickly as if to say, “No. I have this. Please, at least give me my dignity.”

Standing on his bottom two legs, Culi then placed his middle arms on the knob as well. He now had four points of contact on the silver knob, and his confidence lifted. He rotated his arms, then rotated his entire body before he fell off balance and struck the floor. His eye smashed hard into the hardwood.

“Are you okay? Can I get the door?”

Culi pushed himself up with all six legs and nodded that it was okay for me to get the door for him. He had been defeated by my mother and now by the door. As I jumped down the first two steps my mother whisper-shouted at me.

“Make sure you wipe down the handle and floor with Lysol after!”

• • •

I first met Culi during gym class while we were performing our state testing. The state mandated every kid be timed in a mile run, stationary jump (no running start), vertical jump, and a weird reach-for-your-toes stretch, where a box-looking thing was placed at your feet and you stretched your arms and fingertips out toward your toes. On the box was a measuring ruler that told you how far you reached. It all seemed pointless to me, but that didn’t stop me from trying my absolute damndest to win in every category. I didn’t win in any category. No, I placed in the 60th percentile, nationally, and below that within my own class. I’d always thought I was more athletic than 60th percentile. I thought I’d at least be more athletic than George Ventura, the skinny kid who looked like he hadn’t eaten in a year and had thick, Coke-bottle glasses. I wasn’t. Well, not according to the state tests, that is.

We were measuring our vertical jump when Ms. Nancy, our assistant principal, walked outside onto the track with Culi. He smiled and beamed as he stood there in his “Gold State College” T-shirt. His wings stuck out of two slits in the back of the shirt. When I looked down at his body, I saw his loose-fitting denim pants and wondered how they stayed up. His shirt wasn’t tucked in, so I couldn’t see if he was wearing a belt or not. His two bottom tarsi stuck out of the massive pant leg holes. They were chopsticks in an oil barrel. His middle arms stuck out of the side of his shirt with two little holes on each side, that made me wonder what he did in the winter. Do those holes get drafty? Certainly doesn’t seem efficient.

The sniggers of hushed laughter and pointing fingers began before he was even on the grass inside the track. It didn’t stop his head from being held high and the bounce in his step from having a musical rhythm to it. He bobbed up and down as he coolly, happily strutted toward the crowd of students. As he grew closer, his eyes reflected the outside world like a kaleidoscope and compartmentalized each section of the scene in individual sections. As he looked left and right, the sections were filled with the warped figures of new children staring back at themselves through his ruby red reflective lenses.

“This here’s Culi,” Ms. Nancy said. “He just transferred here from Cowley, on the other side of the state. Now, I want everyone to be super nice to Culi and say hi.”

Silence.

“Now, don’t be rude. You say hello to him this instant!”

“Hi,” the crowd said in unison.

“That’s better,” she said, then turned back to Culi. “That’s Mr. Dunbar, he’ll bring you up to speed here in a jiffy. Have fun.”

Ms. Nancy then turned and left. The moment she was out of earshot, Jake Nixon said, “I’m not holding the box for him.”

“Is it a he?” Another kid yelled, and the crowd erupted in laughter.

I stood there watching him. He was unfazed by the verbal assault, and he approached Mr. Dunbar.

“Whoa there, son. You can’t just come into a teacher’s personal space like that. You need to keep the proper student-to-teacher distance at all times. Five feet. At least five feet distance must be between all students and teachers at all times.”

Culi quickly stepped back and waited for orders.

“You know, my father says they carry diseases!” A girl shouted.

“Like malaria and dengue fever!” Yelled another.

“My dad told me the reason they can jump so high is because they have an extra tendon in their leg.”

I don’t know why I spoke up. I certainly wasn’t trying to be a white knight on my tall horse and save anyone. But I think I have always been a pragmatic person who follows science.

“Your dad’s wrong. He can jump so high because he can fly. He has wings.”

“What do you know, William? You’d better watch out, or he’ll suck your blood and make you itch all over!”

“He doesn’t suck blood. Only female mosquitos suck blood. And, actually, not all mosquitos even suck blood. There are a lot of species that just drink nectar and honey. Well, all males just drink nectar and honey. They’re vegetarians, so I doubt they’d like blood that much.”

“Mosquito lover! Hey, William, why don’t you go catch malaria from your mosquito lover?” Elizabeth Bratton yelled. The rest shortly followed suit and began a harmonious chant.

Throughout all the yells and laughing and teasing and smirks and crooked glances, though, Culi stayed positive. He kept his proboscis to the floor — well, to the bottom of his thorax, where it fell to, and kept on keeping on.

I watched him from across the track, from across the rooms, from across the cafeteria, from across the auditorium and gymnasium. I watched him from as far as I could watch him from. I wanted more than to just watch — I wanted to talk with him, to ask him things, to be his friend, but I also didn’t want the hassle brought on by any of those things. Most of all, though, I wanted to know how he stayed so positive. What did he know that I didn’t? He’d figured something out in life that led him to happiness, even if it was blissful naivety. Whatever it was, I wanted to know it.

I’d started to formulate a plan on how to approach Culi. I knew my friends would not allow it. My mother would not allow it. My father would not allow it and would most likely ship me off to a military academy in South Carolina, if I became his friend, so I had to be surreptitious. Not in a malicious way, but like a Navy SEAL, Special Forces going to go save the world and destroy the enemy kind of way.

As I walked between math and English class one Friday afternoon, I stopped in the bathroom. I ran straight for the back stall — the only one with a door on it, but it was shut. Damn! I’d have to sit on a toilet seat and try to do my business fast enough before someone came in and hit me in the face with a wet, urine-soaked paper-towel ball. I looked around the stall corner; the coast was as clear as it was going to get. Then I heard a muffled sound from the closed stall. It sounded like crying. I peered under the bottom of the wall and saw two fuzzy, thin, insect legs touching the bathroom floor.

I bent over and saw him with both his midleg and forelegs covering his large, compound eyes. His body lurched and quivered with each sob.

“Are you okay?” I asked, which startled him.

He looked around then bent over toward me, bringing his large eye mere inches from my own, much smaller eye.

“Are you okay?” I repeated.

His large proboscis latched onto his right eye, then his left eye, removing any residue that I construed as mosquito tears, though I wasn’t sure if mosquito tears were even possible.

His head shook half in affirmation, but also said he didn’t quite know if he was okay or not. Or, maybe, he really wanted to shake his head “no” but, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring himself to it.

“I’m William. I don’t think you carry diseases. I don’t think any of the stuff they say about you is true. Sorry everyone’s so mean. You probably think I’m mean, too, huh?”

He shook his head “no” and extended his fuzzy foreleg under the stall wall. I grasped it with my right hand and we shook, which I think made us friends.

When he came out of the stall, his left wing caught my attention. The paper-thin flying devise had been ravished, torn, tattered. All that was still attached to Culi’s back was not a wing at all, but a diaphanous memory of what was once possible.

“Is that why you were crying?” I asked as I pointed to the torn wing.

He reached back and felt the gossamer edges of what was left of his wing and nodded.

“Um, do you think you could wait a minute before you go to class and watch out for anyone? I really have to go number two, but I don’t want to get hit with a pee ball.”

His confusion was palpable.

“Sometimes, when kids are in the stalls, Jimmy Roberts and Jeff Dennings wad up paper towels and pee on them, then throw them at people. I really don’t want that to happen, right now.”

He gave me an almost Black Panther-esque fist-to-chest-then-to-air salute and stood watch.

• • •

After I was done cleaning the floor and door handle, my mother came downstairs. She stood silently and looked at me long enough for me to squirm a bit. When she did speak, her voice was quiet and calm. She always got that way when she was very upset about something or when she thought the discussion deserved a serious conversational tone. I think she thought it made her sound more objective, more informed. Maybe more right. Like if she talked that way, how could she possible be saying anything that didn’t make perfect sense? I just thought she sounded infantile.

“I know tomorrow, while you’re in school, you’re going to want to talk with that … boy, but I want you to remember tonight. I want you to think about how your father would react if he knew he was over at our house. At our house, William. What got into that little pea-brain of yours to think that was acceptable?” Her voice broke, the calm façade cracking. She paused to regain her serious voice.

“I just — well, I just want you to know that we don’t wish them any harm or ill will, but there are differences. Some people think that there aren’t differences between us, and that’s for them to believe. But, your father and I, we do believe there are differences between us. Not necessarily bad differences, but enough that we shouldn’t be hanging around those types.”

I said nothing. I could say nothing. Nothing would change her thoughts on what was and what she thought was and what they all believed was or wasn’t.

• • •

The following weekend I told Mother and Father I was going camping at the local park with Tyrone and Jose. I knew if I mentioned Tyrone, there wouldn’t be a question asked. Mother regularly tried to imitate Tyrone’s mother’s skin tone. “Her caramel skin is something I’d kill for. I mean, I really think I’d kill someone if I had the chance to have that skin tone,” she’d always say when I mentioned Tyrone. Then there was the tanning and the weird shades of foundation she’d purchase to try to look darker. To me, she just looked like a carrot.

As I walked to the park, I felt the cool, fall breeze on my face and wondered how long until the first snow would fall. It seemed like it was coming earlier and earlier each and every year, which I always liked. The snow and the clouds and the cold of winter made me feel a little warmer inside, a little more wrapped up and safe and secure. Summer was always such an uncertain time of year.

I focused on my feet and put one foot in front of the other as if I was on a tightrope, but when I saw Sam Wilks and his friends on the other side of the street, I abandoned mental illusions and began to trot. My backpack fit tightly onto my shoulders and was stuffed with camping items: sleeping bag, granola bars, and three root beers. Using both hands, I carried my small, three-man tent. I got it from my father for Christmas one year. He said we were going to start camping regularly — to spend quality father-son time together — but that hadn’t really panned out, and we never went camping. He did help me put it together in the backyard a few times. On three different occasions I spent most of the night in the tent. I’d intended to stick it out until daylight, but camping solo isn’t much fun.

Shuffling into the park, I searched for an adequate place to pitch. There were still children on the playground and parents pretending to be excited about their kids.

“Mommy! I went down the slide all by myself!”

“That’s great, Susan,” one yelled, then dropped her snout back into a romance novel.

“Daddy! I’m swinging and I don’t even need a push!

“Oh, wow, Skylar. Keep it up,” a father said with his back turned, then he continued to flirt with the girl walking a golden retriever puppy.

I edged the grounds and put my supplies in a far corner of the park where the manicured grass, owned by the city, met the high grass and tree wall, leading into the woods. I plopped down on the freshly cut blades and cracked a root beer. The soda foamed and sprayed a bit, so I slurped it up, but my hands got sticky.

The park was hollowing out; the sun was setting, but Culi still hadn’t arrived. I decided to go to the drinking fountain and rinse my hands off. When I stood up, I heard a buzzing. I looked around but saw nothing. The buzzing got closer. I still saw nothing. I kept looking around for a few more seconds as the decibels grew, sounding like a swarm of insects. When I heard the rustling in the grass and trees in the woods, I focused my attention. The grass swayed and the bushes jostled. Then I saw Culi’s antennae and large eyes peering over the foliage. When he was in full view, I saw his long denim pants that, clearly, did not fit well, and a T-shirt that read, “Swag, Swag, Swag.” The repeated words were large and stacked one on top of the other.

“What were you doing in there?” I asked.

I suppose I’d be more comfortable in there, too. Especially with the cloak of the bushes and trees and general thickness and inability to traverse the ground well as a bipedal human. Though I understood why he took that route, it saddened me that he did. It saddened me more knowing it was the better option for him, and for me. People were becoming more hostile toward him. Toward his family. When they first arrived, they were out and about regularly. At Grey’s Diner. The Cineplex. The Grand Market. Just like any and everyone else. People talked. They always talked. But back then, it was under their breath. Behind closed doors. Glances and the occasional finger point. Maybe someone nonchalantly crossed the street as to not be on the same sidewalk as them. Not anymore. Now it was yells from everywhere. It wasn’t uncommon for people to open their windows and doors to shout at Culi. They hated him. They feared him.

“Take your West Nile out of here!”

“We don’t want your Ebola, you half wit!”

“Don’t come around here looking to lay eggs and suck any blood, you creep!”

“Stay away from my house. If you come near my daughter — or son, I’ll swat you to death!”

“Keep walking or I’ll grab my bug spray. How’ll you like that?”

As we pulled the tent out of the bag, Culi’s eyes lit up. He’d been camping with his family a lot, but never in a tent. They always slept outside, and never had a campfire. In fact, they avoided them; the smoke hurt their eyes and lungs, plus, his father didn’t believe they needed any more shelter than the great outdoors provided on its own.

I connected my accordion tent-pole and slid it through the sleeves of the nylon. Culi grabbed it with his forelegs, but was having a hard time gripping. Opposable thumbs really do have their advantages.

“Want me to get it?” I asked.

“Okay, well, if you need me to help you, let me know.”

“Oh, I know you can do it, I didn’t mean—”

He grabbed the pole with his two chopsticks; it twisted out of his grasp, so he employed the services of his midlegs to aid his valiant attempt. Even with four tarsi aiding, Culi was still struggling, so he shimmied the pole into his armpit for a solid grip. It seemed to work. He wiggled and contorted in various ways that no creature should be able to accomplish with their bodies. He took a deep breath after the first pole was in. I wanted to give him a moment to regain his form before going on to pole number two; he had none of it. So, we erected the second, third, and fourth pole with zero breaks. In total, the ordeal must have taken nearly an hour, but when the finished product stood before us, ready to protect us from nature’s elements, Culi and I stood with our chins high, our pride inflated, and our chest and thorax swollen and puffed. We were not a human and a mosquito, but two equally impressive peacocks, strutting around.

• • •

The horizon had chased the sun around the bend and it was nowhere to be seen. The twinkling of the stars illuminated the park and sparkled as it hit the dew forming on each blade of grass. The air was moist, and the bugs began hovering in the air.

SLAP! Without thinking, I swatted at a tingling on my leg. Culi watched as I removed my hand and unveiled the unsuspecting perpetrator. I anticipated the horror of what I believed I was going to see, and it came true: a mosquito.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think — I didn’t know what it was—”

“It was your cousin?! Your cousin?!”

“I knew it! I’m just like everyone else! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” I yelled in near hysterics, as I began to panic and hyperventilate.

“You’re kidding? Seriously, you’re kidding? That wasn’t your cousin?”

“That is not funny! You scared me to death!”

He almost fell over while enjoying his fit of laughter. It took him nearly ten minutes to calm down. Almost fifteen ‘til he could look at me again without smirking and chuckling to himself.

“Okay, I’ll give you that one. It was pretty good.”

“I know. I almost had a heart attack.”

We spent the next few hours drinking sodas and eating granola bars, telling stories and playing charades. It was one of the first times I’d seen him relaxed and upbeat since I found him in the stall with his wing broken. He told me he’d never fly again. He was destined to walk for the remainder of his life, unless new medical technologies could repair the damage. But there wasn’t a lot of research underway in that field. Not enough money in it to warrant the expense, they said.

When we turned the flashlight off, I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep. I wondered what Culi would do as an adult. Would he have the same options as me? Would we even be friends in ten years? Maybe he would move across country and settle down on the shores of the ocean. Maybe he’d decide he had enough of the nonsense and ridicule small towns are ripe with. Maybe he needed to find a big city where he’d be anonymous. I had a lot of maybes. I always had a lot of maybes.

I heard the sound while I was still asleep. An ominous humming entered my dream. I found myself in my room with the blanket pulled up to my chin as my eyes scanned the room. The humming closed in. It was right next to my ear. Dammit! I thought, as I swung my hand at the noise. Silence. Moments later, the humming came again. I felt it land on my forehead.

“Hi, murderer. How’s it feel to kill your friend’s cousin?” It said in an obnoxious hum.

“You’re not his cousin,” I replied.

“Oh aren’t I?”

“Maybe he didn’t want to say anything because you’re his only friend and he didn’t want to scare you away too. Ever think of that, genius?”

He hummed louder and louder before he coughed, rubbed his hands together, and said, “Well, I’m thirsty. Mind if I have a sip?”

“Of what?”

“Of what? I’m a mosquito. What do you think? Just a little sip of your red stuff. Just a scoche. I swear, just enough to wet my belly. I’m parched.”

“No! I thought males didn’t even suck blood?”

“I’m not really one for rules. Know what I mean? Just one sip for a friend of Culi’s.”

“You mean, cousin?”

“That’s what I meant. Of course, cousin.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t like the fellow, but how much harm would it do me? Plus, if nothing else, it might get him to go away. He didn’t waste time and took my moment of silence as a go-ahead.

When he pulled back the labium of his proboscis and exposed his needle-sharp razor teeth, which shouldn’t have been there for a number of reasons, fear struck me.

“No. I don’t give you permission to do that,” I said.

“It’s okay, just a sip.”

“I said no. Now, leave me alone.”

“For a friend’s family, just a tad. Who knows, you may like it.”

“I said no!” I yelled, as I smacked my forehead.

I sat up in the tent. My sleeping bag was twisted and my head was spritzed with sweat, which immediately chilled in the night’s air. There was a constant humming coming from Culi as he snored, unbeknownst of my waking moment or my bizarre dream.

My night was restless. The ground was hard and lumpy and I forgot my pillow; I tried using my arm as support for my head, but my shoulder began to hurt, and it didn’t offer much useful padding, anyway. Too bony. The frigid cold was also surprising. The days were cooling, but I hadn’t fathomed the notion of a forty-six degree low. When I’d look to the other side of the tent, I’d see Culi shivering as well. His sleeping bag looked more than adequate, but his thin skin and lack of body fat must have made it hard for him to maintain a decent body temperature.

I’d doze in and out of half-awake, half-asleep dreams and visions, wondering if I was thinking or dreaming. When I heard the muffled sounds and noise coming from outside of the tent, uncertainty entered my brain. Is that real? The sound got louder, so I opened my eyes, and, to my delight, the sun had returned.

My delight dissipated with the shouting.

“William, you come out here, right now, son! Don’t you worry, he can’t hurt you with us around.”

Culi and I both sat up at the same time. The fear in my eyes was that of a lashing and a severe grounding. Culi’s fear was much more substantiated. Culi feared for his life. His blanket was pulled up his body with nothing but the base of his proboscis and his large ruby-red eyes showing. He shook violently with fear and uncertainty.

RUFFLE! SWOOSH! Someone hit the side of the tent with something. I crawled out from my bag and unzipped the tent. The air was shocking on my skin.

A group of men stood before me. I didn’t see any pitchforks or shovels, but Mr. Dunbar did have a fly swatter in his right hand. I suppose it was more symbolic than literal. The puny thing was meant for houseflies, not a four-foot tall anything, regardless of species.

“You tell that bug to come out here and I’m gonna give him a swatting!” Mr. Dunbar said.

Is he serious? Maybe he’s the one the town should be wondering about.

“When I got home your mother told me you were out camping in the park with Tyrone, but I was with his father last night, and he told me Tyrone’s at his grandmother’s house for the weekend,” my father said. “I started making some phone calls and woke the whole damn town at five o’clock in the damn morning looking for you.”

“So, you just got home? What were you doing ‘til five o’clock in the morning?” I asked.

My father shifted his stance and looked around. Apparently, he did not consider my line of questioning relevant. He walked over to the tent and looked inside.

“You better get your little ass out here, right now,” he said to Culi. “I don’t know what you were doing to my boy all night, but he’d better not be covered in bites.”

“He’s a boy. They don’t even suck blood. Only the females do that! Does anyone know anything about science?”

Culi coyly stepped out of the tent. His body immediately shook violently in a futile attempt to warm himself. He stood sideways to the mob. He kept his eyes as low as he could. Both mid-legs and forelegs were wrapped tightly around his thorax.

“I want you to stay away from my son,” Father said.

Culi nodded in affirmation, but didn’t make eye contact.

“I don’t know why your family chose our town to infest, but it was the wrong damn choice. We don’t want you here.”

“Nobody wants you here!” someone yelled.

“You know their IQ is way below ours, don’tcha?”

“I heard his mother bit someone and gave them AIDS!” came from another.

“AIDS?”

“Let’s grab that little parasite and get him outta here for good!” Mr. Dunbar yelled.

“They’re not even technically parasites!” I yelled back. “Not in the traditional sense, that is.”

“They live by feeding on others. Sounds like a parasite to me!”

“We live by feeding on others, too! Ever hear of hamburger and steak and chicken?” I replied.

“I’m done arguing with a boy,” Mr. Dunbar said. “Grab that bug and let’s squash him!”

Culi crouched down and braced for impact. I turned to him and reached my arms out to shield him, then darkness. The lights went out. When the lights flickered back on I couldn’t tell whose feet were whose. The muffled sounds of shouting and yelling barely made its way through my ears as if I were swimming under water. I was warm, though. For whatever reason, I felt so warm. An almost hot stream trickled from my temple down to my mouth. I could taste the salt and iron. I couldn’t see Culi.

• • •

Culi wasn’t hurt. They actually didn’t lay a hand or finger on him, or fly swatter for that matter. When someone threw a rock, aimed for Culi, and it hit my head, my father became livid with the poorly aimed bigot. The two of them started screaming at each other and everyone else joined in on the ruckus. By the time they remembered about Culi, all the parties agreed it was best to leave him unscathed. Jim Brown, the owner of the Snail Shell gas station, made a valid point about media attention. Nobody wanted the ACLU or National Association of Mosquitos to come into town and shine a light on a small community.

He was my friend. He was a good person. There was an unparalleled light within that shined bright onto everything around him before they stole that from him. He taught me about friendship and the need to be true to oneself and those you care about. His family moved out of town the next day. I never saw him again. But sometimes, when I hear the humming of a hungry house mosquito in the middle of the night, I wonder if it’s a distant cousin to Culi. Every once in a while I don’t even brush them away, but tell them, “just a little sip, now.”


Santino DeFranco is a former professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, who fought in the UFC, and appeared on the reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter. After a brain aneurysm and subsequent surgery, he retired from professional competition and has been writing ever since. Santino has been a regular contributor to Arizona Weekly Magazine and Fightland.com (a Vice.com site), along with numerous MMA websites as well as various literary journals. His memoir There are No Hospitals in Russia was a finalist for the “Books for Film” competition, and is currently being considered for publication. Santino holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona and he is married with two children. He teaches English at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona and trains professional MMA fighters.