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elliott fliés foster

Set against the backdrop of a northern pine forest over the course of one week in November, The Wounded
follows the life of Corey Fischer with flashbacks to his childhood and an abusive father, Frank, as well as
to his powerless mother, Ginny. Frank’s sudden death sets in motion the unraveling of Corey’s strained
relationship with his spouse, Nick. Frank’s spiteful bequest in the will of two hunting guns unexpectedly
carries Nick and Corey back to the family hunting cabin for the annual deer opener, where the convergence
between memory of Frank’s homophobic cruelty and Nick’s current, corrosive behaviors leads to an
argument and life-changing choice deep in the woods. Corey’s relationships with his mother and best friend
Billy, both past and present, weave additional layers of complexity into Corey’s character.

Together, the tense and fast-paced story shows one man’s moral choices, amidst competing
examples of masculinity in his quest to become whole.

July, 2012

“Nick, call me right away.” It was the fifth message he had left on his partner’s phone.

Corey was half-way back to Minneapolis by eight o’clock that night. He had tried his best friend
in California and Nick in Miami, both to no avail. He needed to talk to someone about the gravity
of what his father had said. 

Don’t come back.’ 

As he replayed that scene in his head, Corey became more distraught. This felt like one of those watershed
moments that you can’t take back, you can’t do-over. He would never return to the house where he grew
up, well at least not until his father was dead. And he was unlikely to see his mother again either. She was
not one to drive all the way from Jackson alone. That loss might be too great for him to bear.

Arriving home, he tried again to reach Billy and Nick. Neither answered the phone. He dropped his
overnight bag on the floor and fell backwards onto the bed, rubbing his temples and breathing through
his nose. He considered taking a Xanax, but the doctor’s orders were clear: never more than one per day.
He had swallowed that one five minutes after leaving his parents’ house an hour and a half before.

He sat up and looked around the room searching for answers to an unclear question, resigned to the
knowledge that he wouldn’t find it. At least not here. Being home was definitely a comfort, though less so
without Nick, who was a thousand miles away and inexplicably inattentive to his phone.

He looked toward the bureau. He could barely see the set of framed photos atop the dresser, halting at the
sight of two up front. The first took him by surprise, though he had walked past it innumerable times
before. It was taken in 1991 at his first communion inside St. Bridget’s. He stood proudly between his
beaming parents, their only child now entitled to receive the body and blood of Christ. Or, as childhood
friend Billy called them, ‘crouton o’christ and the holy shiz.’

A different celebration was captured in the picture adjacent the first. It was taken in Thunder Bay in the
Spring of 2009. Corey and Nick in the center, in dark blue suits, flanked by Julian, who obtained an on-line
ordination from the Universal Life Church and officiated the impulsive nuptials.

Julian. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? Nick and Julian worked together at the bank. If the
conference were as important as Nick suggested, Julian must be there too. He pulled the cell phone
from his pocket, scrolled down to find the number and pushed ‘send call.’ Rising from the bed, he began
pacing back and forth.


“Julian, it’s Corey. Have you seen Nick? I really need to talk with him.”

“Sorry, buddy. I’m out to dinner for our anniversary. I haven’t seen Nick since this morning. Maybe he’s
out with the guys late after work?”

“But aren’t you at the conference?”

“What conference?”

“The one in Miami.”

“That doesn’t start until Tuesday. I’m flying out on Monday night. I think Nick’s on the same flight.” 

Corey paused before protesting, “But I dropped him off at the airport this morning. He said there were
sessions taking place over the weekend.”

Silence from the other end of the line.

“Julian, are you there?”

“Oh, I forgot. There were some events ahead of the main conference, but I’m not part of them.
It makes sense that Nick flew down today.”

Corey felt his device buzz and held it away from his ear to see who was phoning. Nick’s cell number
flashed across the screen. He dropped Julian’s call without saying goodbye.

“Nick, where are you?”
“Um, Miami. You took me to the airport this morning, remember?”

“But Julian’s not there, so why are you?”

“How do you know Julian’s not here? And why do I have so many missed calls from you?
Everything okay there in Jackson?”

“No, everything is not okay. And I’m not in Jackson. I’m back at the condo.”

“What? Wait a minute. Slow down. What’s going on? You sound frantic.”

Corey explained the disastrous visit to see his parents as Nick listened without interruption.
Suddenly, he heard a voice call Nick’s name on the other end of the line.

“Who’s that?”

“Oh, I’ve got the news on here in my room.”

  “I don’t think the news knows your name. Who’s there with you?”

“No one’s here with me. I just told you, Corey. It’s the television.”

And then he had a flash of recognition. Evan, from the bank.  The guy he once saw leaving the hallway
of their condo. The guy Nick steered Corey away from at the company holiday party. The guy who left
an anonymous voice message on their home phone once, for Nick. It was Evan’s distinctive voice there
in the Miami hotel room. Corey knew it as surely as he knew himself.

He abruptly ended the call, and threw his phone out the door landing with a whack and skidding across
the tiled hallway floor. Glowering at the framed pictures atop the tallboy, he took the two at which he had
been staring and chucked them toward his damaged phone. Glass splintered everywhere. He walked
across them resolutely toward the bathroom, grabbed an orange bottle of pills from the hall closet
and headed for the liquor cabinet where he found a half-full bottle of vodka.

He thought of his father’s words, and took a drink.

He thought of Nick’s betrayal, and took a few more.

He remembered Evan’s deep sensual voice, and swallowed the very last drop.

Then he pictured his mother sobbing at the dinner table several hours earlier, and he wept. 

Corey went to open the small plastic container still gripped in his hand, spending almost a minute
fumbling to remove the childproof lid. He dumped the remaining pills onto the counter then picked
them up with one hand, dropping them into the open palm of the other. He paused upon seeing the ink
on his forearm, just below the wrist. He acquired it in the Summer of ’06 after completing the fifteen
hundred mile drive to LA with Billy who was following his girlfriend and future wife back home
to California. Drained after the three day ride and sweaty from the heavy summer heat, they parked
the car at Dockweiler State Beach then raced one another to be the first to touch the Pacific, both
of them diving boyishly into the sea. That night, after a few too many shots of tequila and several
bright Coronas, Corey asked the Latino tattoo artist to inscribe ‘friends for life’ on his arm. In a drunken,
ingratiating effort, he slipped into the language he mastered in college, Spanish.  It was Billy who
caught the irreversible mistake, halfway through the inking of ‘amigos de por vida.’   He looked at
Corey, then the artist and urged them to go ahead, to finish what had already been started.

“And when you’re done,” Billy added, “I’ll take the exact same thing.”

He also recalled Nick’s anger when he first saw the marking, within minutes of entering the condo after
arriving home. “How could you do this? It’s permanent , you know. Is that the type of lasting decision
you make without asking your spouse? Jesus, Corey, maybe I should have married someone who has
an ounce of respect.”

Corey moved the pills to his opposite hand then tossed them into his mouth, swallowing with his own saliva.

He walked back toward the hall and found his phone. Through the cracked screen, he could barely see
missed calls from Nick, and an unexpected one from the land-line at his parents’ home. He walked into
the bedroom and dialed Billy’s number then waited for a beep and left a minute-long message.
He lay down on the bed, placed headphones on his ears, hit shuffle on his device and took one long,
last look at the Kahlo replica hanging on the wall. ‘The Wounded Deer’ may have been her most
painful and revealing work.

He then lay back and closed his eyes, for what he had hoped would be the final time.


He awoke in the afternoon on the following day, lying on a bed in the psych ward at Hennepin County
Medical Center, slowly, oblivious to his situation or whereabouts. He felt the warm touch of a
person’s hand atop his own, a gentle caressing.

Someone was whispering his name.

“Corey,” he thought he could hear, the sound as if his name were being shouted under water.

“Corey,” he heard again, a bit more clearly.

A third utterance triggered him to open his eyes, still not certain of who he would see. The four most
important people in his life were each hundreds or even a thousand miles away. But he had the sense
that one of them was calling to him.

Billy squeezed Corey’s hand a bit tighter as soon as there was a glimpse of recognition, then gently
turned it over, laid his matching tattoo next to Corey’s arm, and brought himself in close.

 “Am I ever glad to see you, my friend for life.”