The age-progressed photo doesn’t show whether acne will bloom across your cheeks, if your eyebrows will bridge themselves; you are only worth finding if you are flawless.
I miss how the portraits on milk cartons stared at me as I shoveled spoon after spoon of cereal. Why couldn’t have this been you instead, their eyes asked. I didn’t like candy. I wouldn’t talk to strangers. My mother didn’t know where we were.
I show Neil the mailers when he isn’t on them. It encourages him to keep practicing when and how to say “no, thank you”.


J. Bradley’s is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.


Cover photo: AndreasS (https://www.flickr.com/photos/norue)