February 4, 2022

by Claudia Putnam


We always say God help you if you have a writer in your family, nothing is sacred, though a standup comedian is probably worse. Their wives might be fair game, but what about the children, laughed at by the whole country on TV?

One year I write about a son running away, attempting suicide.

My son writes about a stepfather tying a mother up and fucking her while the boy sleeps down the hall.

I write about a woman in her thirties whose husband, the father of her son, will not fuck her. In her thirties, and how she has to choose between giving up all hope of a good fucking, ever, or fucking up her marriage, her finances, and her son. It all seems silly to her later, looking back, after menopause, just as her older friends said it would, but you can’t think straight if you’re not fucked well as a woman in your thirties.

My son describes the fall of sunlight in the pre-divorce house. The thundering woodstove, its constancy in the bitter winter gales.

I write about depression, from the point of view of a boy, so he will know that I know. I write about a father, because of my unexamined need for him to know there was more to the divorce than just the mother needing to get fucked. I write about the stepfather, so the child will know how glad he was to find a woman who had a son, and how he always worries when the boy is in the house while he is fucking the mother, even at two in the morning. He worries even more than the mother does and goes down the hall to check if the boy is sleeping.

The boy is faking, my son writes. The boy feels guilty for liking the stepfather so much.

The stepfather, a psychotherapist, tells the mother in my story that the boy needs to know he’s not trying to be his father, that the stepfather knows the boy already has a father. The stepfather adds sadly, I wish I were his father. I wish you were, too, the mother tells him. There is no way out of this, though. If the stepfather were the father, the boy wouldn’t be the boy.

The boy also wishes the stepfather were his real father, my son writes.

The theater of war expands. He is speaking to his father, too, I see. I dread comparisons between the stepmother and the mother, but these never come, not even the skewering satires I know he is capable of. We all wish the stepfather could be the real dad, but the jury is out on the mothers.

The perfect solution, my son writes, is the boy and the stepfather ought to light out for the territories, once the stepfather is through fucking the mother.

I write about a young man living on the coast, raising children of his own, with the mother and the stepfather parking their RV nearby.

My son stops writing, takes up physics.



Claudia Putnam is a disabled writer living in Western Colorado. She has a limited craniosacral therapy practice. Her fiction has appeared in The Write Launch, phoebe, Sunspot Lit, Cimarron Review, Confrontation, and elsewhere. A long personal essay, Double Negative, won the Split/Lip Press CNF chapbook prize and is forthcoming in March 2022. Her debut collection, The Land of Stone and River, won the Moon City Press poetry prize and should be out in early 2022. She’s had a few residencies, including the Bennet Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy.