Dennis Norris II

Daddy's Boy

By Dennis Norris II


Open your mouth. Sing, boy. Rise up from your pew and praise Him. Take your hands off your hips. Don’t dance, don’t smile, just clap. Firm up those wrists and sing. Your mouth is His. 

Those lips? That voice?

Speaking of voice: make yours deep. No one likes a boy who sounds like a girl. Don’t linger on the s’s when you speak. The air whistles through the space between your teeth. It angers Him when you whistle like that, and when you place your hand against your chest and curl your fingers at the collarbone as if you are wearing a pearl necklace. You exist to do his bidding.   

Boy, I see the way you prance around the house with that old baby’s blanket hanging from your head, all the way down your back. I see the way you toss it with your neck, wishing your hair was long and blonde and pretty. I see how you swish around the house when you’re feeling good, feeling proud, hips swaying side-to-side, prancing on your tip-toes. The other day, after you came home from school, I watched you pick pebbles from the garden beside the driveway along the edge of the house. You searched methodically, examining each one you chose, bringing them close. Selecting some, returning others. You took your time. When you had collected enough, you brought them inside and asked for the crazy glue and a pair of dress socks. I would’ve stopped it then, but it never occurred to me what you were up to until I heard you clomping around the basement. 

You reveled in the rhythm of your homemade heels—that clicking across a hardwood floor that boys don’t get to make.   

Open your mouth. Rise up from your pew and praise Him. Sing for Jesus as His flock watches me drag you by the wrist to the front of the sanctuary. It’s all right. I’m doing His work. Sing with us as I pull your pants down in front of everyone. Your cheeks are drums, my hands the beat. Cry as loud as you want. Your voice is His. We are making music, son, you and I, as I train you up in the way you should go!

I do this because I love you. 

Because He tells me to. 

Open your mouth. Sing, boy!


At night—when we’re on our knees in bed, his large hand between my legs—his ambitious thumb searches for a way in. His other arm wraps around my waist, pressing his chest to mine. My lips brush his neck. My teeth graze his ear. When he lays me down, his heart entering mine, the words climb from inside me, a whispered sacrament: cover me in you.

I love him in a different way. He is better than those who came before him. 

You always said my life depended on Him. I think you were mistaken on the him in question. 

It’s important you know this: I let him do all kinds of things to me. He likes to hold me down flat on my stomach. He takes one of my wrists in each of his hands, spreads my arms wide, and presses them to the bed so my body forms a cross. With his tongue, he moves downward. He wakens my blood, wets every hair on my body so they stick to my skin. When he flips me over, he works his way back up to my ear, marking me with his teeth, his hands.

When he enters me he says, “Who’s your daddy?”  

He says you’re the one who made me this way.   


This piece originally appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly.



By Dennis Norris II


A storm is coming and Luke’s made sure we have everything we’ll need: enough dry food to get through the week, a bathtub filled with tap water, flashlights, batteries, extra blankets. If it were up to me, it would be nothing but condoms and booze, but Wyoming Luke is serious about survival. He wants to board up the windows but I’ve asked him not to. I want to watch as third avenue becomes a small river, as coffee cups, plastic bags, and wayward umbrellas emerge from the canal and float like spirits down the street.

This isn’t the kind of affair where he tells me he loves me. He doesn’t buy me gifts, or promise to leave his wife. He doesn’t miss me when I’m not around, or pursue me when I don’t answer his texts. Wyoming Luke is with me because Hannah is visiting her sister in Arizona. He’s protecting us, but he wants to get back to her.    


I am Luke’s first man. The night we met, he bought me a drink at a jazz club. He led me to his apartment, his callused hand on my back, his lips breathing the singer’s tune into my neck. Once we were at his place, I was bold enough to pull his clothes from his body, to remove his wedding band before slipping his finger into my mouth, but then he pushed me to my knees. He covered my mouth, pulled my hair, gripped my neck. He made sure I knew who was boss. Afterward, he held me through the night, pulling my cheek to his chest, entangling his legs with mine, at random moments kissing my neck or nibbling my ear. 

In the morning, he told me not to call him. “My wife,” he said.  

When I came to New York, I wanted a scrappy town, a place where bad things could happen. I wanted to live in a place where you were never too far from destruction. The brownstone behind my apartment has a back porch. Mannequins clutter its’ roof. I look at them every day. Six moldy torsos. A trash can full of heads. But it’s the limbs that interest me most. Here, an upturned foot. There, a knee bent at ninety degrees—all frozen as though photographed alive, in motion.  

In some way, each mannequin manages to touch the one next to him. When I look at them, I think of vacation nights spent with my cousins as children—five of us crammed into one bed, determined not to fall asleep, though we eventually tired of each other and slept like death until the rancid smell of chitterlings woke us. We clambered from the bed, rubbing our eyes, covering our noses, running from Grandma’s house into the brightness of the Carolina sun.


I sit cross-legged in a chair and watch as Wyoming Luke plays solitaire by candlelight. His fingers expertly shuffle and pile the cards as he deals himself another hand.

“You wanna play?” he asks. Outside, the wind screams and the rain pounces. He doesn’t wait for me to answer before he starts playing again. I get up and go to the kitchen. I open a bottle of cabernet and pour one third of it into a freshly cleaned balloon glass. I hear Wyoming Luke in the living room every time he slaps the table as he places each card.  

Through the window I watch the neon sign for the auto body repair shop that hangs across the street. It moves more violently than I’ve ever seen. I wonder if it will fall to the ground and shatter, sparks shooting from it, dying in the water that amasses in the streets, or if it will continue as before, hanging, slow-swinging, its’ movement sparse.

A storm is coming and I have everything I’ll need. If Wyoming Luke stopped playing card games, rested his long arms against the back of the couch, spread his legs and nodded at me, I’d be immediately in front of him, on my knees. Instead I drink my wine, and he plays on, the sound of the cards landing against the coffee table relentless in my ear. 


This piece originally appeared in Bound Off.


Where Every Boy Is Known and Loved

By Dennis Norris II

The classroom had no windows and every day one of the boys would close the door. Another hit the lights. In the darkness, they surrounded me, wanting to become men. In their eyes, I was nothing but the closest thing they could get their hands on. 

My name dripped from their lips. 

The blonde boy broke the circle, moving to the front of the classroom where I sat. He turned to face me. He leaned against the wooden desk where the teacher always sat. He spread his legs. He slowly unbuttoned the white shirt he always wore. His pupils never left my body. Then he cupped one hand six inches in front of his crotch, moving his hips back and forth, as though holding my head where it should have been. From him my name came loudest. I hated the way he made it sound—as though I serviced him. As though I was only there for his pleasure. As though he had every right to do whatever he wanted with me. He thought my very existence gave him permission: my skin, my voice, my softness.

I also loved the way he said my name.

Other hands, as pale as his, crawled toward me. They climbed my legs and arms, petting me, poking me, stroking me—telling me I wanted it, telling me they owned me. There were only so many hands I could swat away; but they swarmed me, telling me to let it happen. I also loved the way their hands felt—good, and right. I liked the strength and power in the way they touched me, the skin at their fingertips, at times translucent, going pink when they pressed against me. I feared them knowing this. 

Sometimes they howled like wolves or barked like dogs. They dropped to the floor and humped the brown carpet until they tired themselves, gasping for me, growling and chanting my name. I froze, staring at them—victim to their power. Enamored of it. 

Some days, the teacher would sit with me during free periods at a table in the upper commons grading papers, silently by my side. I wondered what he knew, whom he felt obligated to protect. 

Because before class he would knock on the door, announcing his arrival, pausing, giving the boys time to scramble to their seats. They posed, waiting as though they’d been born like that, sitting in those seats, their eyes on the blackboard, pens poised for note-taking. Once we were silent, he entered the room. By then I was invisible, just another boy with eyes on the blackboard. The teacher waited, silent, in the dark. Then, with his right hand, he flipped the light switch. He walked to his desk and took his seat. He pulled a book from his briefcase. He licked his finger, opened the book, and said, “Alright, boys. Let’s begin.”

Originally appeared in paper nautilus.