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The Responsibility of Being an Only Child

by Kent Shaw
Illustration by David Shrigley

The Responsibility of Being an Only Child

Kent Shaw
19 Snaps

I used to own a red sweater vest. I’d bought it for going out on special occasions,
and because I look good in red.
I end up looking a little bit smarter, like in an issue of GQ.
That was in the sixth grade, when I was in the habit of attending special occasions,
and everyone there told me what a nice young man I was.

We had built a house back then. We built the house in that part of Missouri known for its rolling hills.
And grown men doing things.
Where you can see so much of the land you actually grow to love the state of Missouri.
That’s where I’m from.
That’s where the house was.
It was a place we lived in so deeply it felt like church bells were tolling.

One night in my long history the earth laid itself flat. It was the night I was born. It was raining.
And the rain had no idea where it should go.
Kent Shaw is a name that means flat. It means so few.
And, in the state of Missouri, when a Kent Shaw is born,
they use only the most vague prepositions to describe what just happened.
The walls in the house are painted one shade of white.
A single chair gets pushed into the kitchen. An end table left by the corner.

The hills of Missouri are a part of the heartland, the kind of land the people believe in.
I’ve made pictures of it.
My girlfriend and I have a part of our house dedicated just to thinking about that part of Missouri.
I know my responsibility. I’ll become a grown man.
One day, I’ll become a grown man.

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