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Variations on a Theme

By David Olimpio

In my backyard, Dan made a rat-tail out of his pool towel and whipped it in the air, like Indiana Jones. Dan was my best friend and he always knew how to do things like that.

     He knew how to turn a towel into a rat-tail whip. He knew how to turn a ten-foot fence into a balancing beam. He knew how to turn a tree growing beside my house into a ladder, the roof into a launching pad. He knew how to get his BMX bike to fly from makeshift wooden ramps and concrete ledges.

     Dan knew how to make the suburbs as dangerous as possible. I think we each had a sense that the most dangerous things in the suburbs sometimes took place behind our own closed doors. That the safe places weren’t necessarily safe places at all.

     We started off snapping our towels, just seeing who could make the loudest whipping noise. There beside the pool, we made up names for the different sounds we played: the Low, Hollow Pops and the Firecracker Snaps. Variations on a theme. They deserved a nomenclature and so we gave them one. 

     The first hit on skin was accidental. I was trying to get a certain kind of cracking sound—maybe it was Variation #3—and I got careless and whipped Dan on the arm.

     “Sorry!” I said.

     “No, that was awesome!” he said, and back-handed a brilliant, cracking whipsnap onto my bare stomach


About the Author

David Olimpio grew up in Texas, but currently lives and writes in Northern New Jersey. He believes that we create ourselves through the stories we tell, and that is what he aims to do every day. He is the author of This is Not a Confession (Awst Press, 2016) and the Editor-in-Chief of Atticus Review. Usually, you can find him driving his truck around the Garden State with his dogs. He has been published in Barrelhouse, The Nervous Breakdown, The Austin Review, Rappahannock Review, Crate, and others. You can find more about him at, including links to his writing and photography. He Tweets, Instagrams, and Tumbles as @notsolinear.

Originally published in an Awst Collection (Awst Press, 2015) then in This Is Not a Confession (Awst Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from the author.